How the customer experience (CX) is evolving in 2022

The customer experience is every interaction that a customer has with your business, from the very first time they find your website, shop, or social media pages, to every time they comment or like what you do, right up to making a purchase or working with you.

It’s something that continually evolves, and since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, it’s developed faster than every before. During the various lockdowns, we all had to adapt our businesses to cope with being more visible online…and customers have found that they like the services that businesses started to offer during this time and want it to continue.

For the rest of 2022 and into 2023, there are several things you can do to ensure that your business evolves to match those new customer experience trends.

The Digital Experience

These days people use technology more than ever to find what they want – most of us reach for our phones to look at things we want to buy. We can see what the best products are, compare prices and look at reviews to see which is the best to buy. If you’re a small business and not online in several places, you’re missing a trick.

The obvious one is to have a website. I know that many small businesses have online shops, such as Etsy, to sell their products, but at the end of the day, you don’t own that shop. You must pay high fees and the owners of Etsy could shut you down whenever they want.

Whereas, if you have your own website, you own it. No one can take it away from you and you can put so much more information about your business on it – you’re not just restricted to a shop. As well as being able to tell your backstory through your ‘About’ page, you can also set up an email subscription to communicate regularly with your customers and set up a blog to share information with them. It’s more personal.

Your social media accounts are also useful to gain a following and promote your products or services. You can also promote your website, blog, or email subscription, with links to your website.

Consumers expect you to be on these channels and they are the best way to engage and interact with your customers and potential customers.

Be personal

Another positive for the customer experience is personalisation. They like personalised experiences when they engage with a business. And not just greeting them by name in emails etc, or remembering birthdays, they want more than that. They expect to be able to contact businesses on their terms – using email, chat, voice calls, messaging etc. They want their enquiry answered in a timely way and don’t want to waste their time waiting or having to repeat themselves.

Customer expectations

As things have evolved to a more digital world, customer expectations have grown. And if you make any kind of promise to a customer, they will expect it to happen quickly.

How do you find out what their expectations are? Ask them! Put questions on your social media pages to find out what they like and don’t like.

You could send out a link to a survey…and offer a discount in exchange for completing it.

It also helps to look at your competition to see what they’re doing and how they interact with their customers. If you run the same, or a similar business to that of your competitors, your customers will have similar problems.

Identify customers’ pain points

To turn your customers into fans and advocates for your business, you must exceed expectations. Look at the pain points that your customers have and find out how you can address them with what you do.

Some common pain points include shipping, returns, sizing and being able to easily contact you. By looking at these and other pain points, you can exceed expectations and create very happy customers, who will recommend you.

Your customers put positive experiences above everything else, as you can see from some of the latest statistics below.

The Omnichannel experience

Omnichannel simply means lots of different channels – social media, website, email, chat etc.

To maximise this experience for your customers, ensure that you are consistent across all channels – that branding and the way you speak and interact is the same. And that your customer service is excellent and exceeds expectations on all channels.

Data Security and privacy

Another thing that customers are very aware of these days is data security and privacy. There is so much on the news and online about this that most people know they have certain rights.

The emphasis on data security and privacy is only going to increase over the coming months and years. As your customers share more personal data, businesses must adhere to the General Data Protection Regulations, (GDPR) relevant to the country you trade in, as well as the countries you sell to.

You should ensure that you have a privacy policy and clearly you’re your data practices in that policy. You need to ensure that you are clear about your purpose and processes for collecting and storing customer data.

You need to have your customers’ consent to email them – most email subscriptions include an opt-in, where customers willingly give their name and email address, so they are consenting to you sending emails.

Never share your customers’ data with third parties or sell lists of customers email addresses.

You can find out more about GDPR online for your country, but here are a couple of useful links.

GDPR UK

GDPR EU 

Top tips for a great customer experience

Businesses with great customer experiences have higher customer referral rates and higher rates of customer satisfaction. This means you’re more likely to keep those customers’ loyalty and they’re more likely to come back for more. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can have – your customers do the marketing for you, saving you time and money.

In today’s market, you not only need to compete on price, but you also need to compete on experiences, that is, your customers want to feel emotionally connected to you and your business.

Here are some of my top tips for creating that great customer experience:

  • Every business should have a mission statement and set goals. Make the customer experience part of your mission statement and have specific goals to enhance that experience.
  • Be friendly – whether you are talking to customers face to face, or via video call or phone, SMILE! Believe it or not, you can hear that friendly smile. If you’re face to face, make eye contact. And always use warm, friendly language and tone of voice.
  • Have empathy for your customers. Do your best to understand them and what they want. Make the experience they have with your business, the best!
  • Provide value – by this I don’t mean that your products should be cheaper than everyone else’s. I mean deliver the best value you can, at the right price for your customers. Make sure your prices are easy to find and are visible – people don’t have to go looking – they’ll just log out. Make the sales process as quick, efficient, and easy as you can.
    Make sure that your shop or website is easy to navigate and doesn’t take ages to load – or you will lose customers.
  • Be easy to contact. This speaks for itself. Make sure that your contact details are on every channel you use…be that your phone number, email address or chat box.
  • Be consistent with everything you do and never stop looking for ways to improve. Listen to your customers, take note of any feedback you get and act on it.
  • Finally, show your appreciation for your customers. Sometimes a simple ‘thank you’ is enough, whether that is face to face or via email.

I hope that this article has been helpful – if you have any further suggestions or have any questions, please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email me at cindymobey@outlook.com or contact me via my website.

The customer journey that wins customers

It doesn’t matter if you’re a big company, or a small business, we all must think about what our customers want and how we get them from that first stage, where they’ve just heard about your business, to the purchase and advocacy stage.

This is called the customer journey, and by making a journey map, you can plan your customers’ route, ensuring you meet their needs along the way. Does this sound complicated? Are you glazing over? It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Knowing what your customers want

The first stage starts before your customers even know you exist. This is the part where you do your research to find out what people want and need from a business like yours…and knowing your ideal customer.

Let’s take sports trainers as an example. You could say that your ideal market is everyone, but it’s important to niche down to a narrower market in order for you to be able to target them with your content. So, are you going to concentrate on comfort, or go for pure fashion? Are you going to target younger people or older people? What colours do you want to go for? What style? So, before you can look at the customer journey, you need to know exactly who your customers are. You can do this by looking at your current customers, look at the insights on your social media pages and the analytics from your website.

Build a few buyer personas, so you know what your customers like, what they want and what makes them buy.

Stages of the customer journey

Stage 1 – Awareness

This is where your customers first hear about your business or have their first experience of what you offer. They see this largely through your marketing. It might be they google a product of yours and it appears on a search engine like Google. Google could point them to your website or online shop, it might show them your business profile on Google, or show your social media pages.

They may see a physical flyer, pick up your business card at an event, see an advert in a local magazine, or it might be someone you get talking to, who asks what you do. They also may hear about you through word of mouth from their friends or relatives.

Where and how you market your business will depend on their age and lifestyle, so that’s why knowing your target market is so important. If you are marketing to an older audience, for example, some of your marketing would probably be through Facebook. But if your audience is much younger, you would use as many social media channels as you can, especially TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The younger generation spend most of their free time online, so that’s where you’re most likely to find them.

Typically, people must be exposed to your business at least eight times before they start to recognise it, so it’s not a quick process.

Stage 2 – Consideration

This is where your potential customers are looking at what you have to offer and are thinking about whether your products or services fit the bill for them. Do you solve a problem they have and are you the person to go with over others they’ve seen?

Basically, are you worth investing in?

Your customer reviews and testimonials are what makes a difference in this stage. They want to see social proof that you’re as good as they’ve heard you are.

This is also where blogs come into their own – articles that potential customers can read that give proof that you know your stuff. The same applies to email newsletters. They may even sign up to your newsletter months before they become a customer.

The other thing that influences potential buyers at this stage is what they can see. Good images of your products, with good descriptions, telling them the benefits of your products – how they help, what they do and how potential customers can’t live without it! How will your product or service make their lives better?

So, good images and video on your website, online shop and social media are crucial.

Stage 3 –   Purchase

They’ve liked what they’ve seen, are convinced you are the right person to buy from and they go to your website or online shop to buy.

At this stage, it’s vital that your website or shop is easy to navigate, that it’s easy to pay for what they want, and everything is crystal clear as to what they can expect from you.

If they ask questions at this stage, getting a timely answer is an absolute must. Customer service is also an important part of the customer experience and their journey and can make the difference between getting that actual purchase or them going away and never returning.

Stage 4 – Service

Service is about going that extra mile for your customers. That age-old adage that says the customer is always right must come into play here, whether you agree or not. If your customer service hits the mark, you won’t go far wrong.

Things like a quick and efficient delivery service, securely and nicely packaged. You can’t always control the postal service and delivery times, but so long as you get an order out quickly and stay connected with your customer, this will go a long way to enhancing their customer experience.

If something does go wrong, don’t try, and hide it – be up front with your customer and admit to any mistakes and take immediate steps to rectify it. This is where communication is key – replying to emails, replying to complaints quickly, trying to resolve any issues to keep things running smoothly.

Similarly, if you have customers who are happy and tell you they are happy with your service, reply to them too and thank them for their comments. Always reply to every comment on your social media posts, every email you receive and reply to any message you get on social media. If you come across as genuine and friendly, and as a business who really cares and values its customers, things will go well.

Stage 5 – Loyalty

Loyalty is as it suggests – encouraging customers to be loyal to your brand and business. It’s about encouraging them to come back for more.

Gaining new customers is something we all aspire to, but retaining your existing customers is also crucial to the success of your business. So how do you keep that loyalty?

Send thank you cards with their order and maybe offer a small discount for their next order or add in a little small gift.

Introduce a loyalty scheme, with a card, so each time they buy from you, they get points. When they reach a certain number of points or have bought from you a certain number of times, they get a free gift, or a voucher valued at a certain amount that they can spend on your products or services.

Don’t ignore your customers once they have the product they’ve ordered. Leave it a couple of weeks, then message them to ask how they’re getting on with your product and how it’s working for them. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review.

Quite naturally, we don’t always think to leave a review if we’re happy with something – people typically only think about reviews if they have a bad experience. Sometimes a little prompt is all they need to leave a review on your social media page or website.

Invite them to follow you on social media, read your blogs or sign up to your newsletter.

Stage 6 – Advocacy

Advocacy – where the customer becomes your fan and tells everyone about how wonderful your products and services are. They use their experience with you and your business to shape other potential customers’ opinions. They might comment on your posts or share posts on social media.

They might talk about this amazing product they’ve bought from you to their friends and family, or they might give great stories about how your service is one of the best they’ve come across.

How customers behave at this advocacy stage is dependent on how they were treated in the other stages. Often it’s down to the overall customer experience they had with you, your brand, and your business.

And there you have it – the customer journey in seven steps. If you’d like help with any of these stages, or want help with identifying your target market, so you are hitting the ground running, give me a call or email me. I’m always happy to help.

How to make customer feedback work for you

What do you do when you get a fabulous comment or review about your product or service? Do you just say thank you with lots of hearts, or tell them you’re over the moon that they love your products or services? I suspect that most of us do exactly that. But, if you then do nothing else…because you got a good review…you could be missing important information that could help you grow your business even more, with advocates who love what you do.

What is customer feedback?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably the owner of a small business. You give your all to your business…your time, your energy, and a big part of you personally goes into making your business a success. You do this to ultimately make money from your business, but you also want to have happy customers who believe in what you do and love your products or services.

Customer feedback is the information that your customers give telling you if they are happy with what you provide. It could also be about your customer service. It’s their opinion, a snapshot in time, of the experience they’ve had in their dealings with you or your business.

  • Does getting good customer feedback make you feel good?
  • Do you take it personally if you don’t get a 5-star rating?
  • Do you see positive feedback as confirmation that your products/services are great?

I’m betting that you answered ‘yes’ to these questions. Getting a fabulous review makes all of us feel good, and the positive feedback shows that you are doing something right with your products or services. And, let’s face it, we all hate getting negative feedback, and it’s easy to take it personally if you don’t get a 5-star rating every time, but it does happen. You shouldn’t see it as a reflection of you as a person, it’s just that a particular customer didn’t feel that a 5-star rating was right. Hold that thought!

Customer feedback

Why is customer feedback important?

If some of the big companies who receive 5-star reviews were happy with that and left it at that, they would never progress their company. But they don’t do that…

Customer opinion is a great resource and gives the perfect excuse to find ways to improve the customer experience. You can collect information in many ways, from surveys (which is prompted feedback), to reviews that your customers post online (unprompted feedback). Both are important in seeing the bigger picture on how your customers perceive your brand. Big companies consistently listen to their customers – they don’t just look at the opinions that their clients leave online, or publish on social media/websites, they are also proactive in asking for feedback, by asking specific questions. If you want to stay at the top and consistently be ahead of your competition, you should always take feedback as a gift – prompted or unprompted, positive, or negative.

So, what does customer feedback give you?

  • It helps you improve your products and services. Whenever you launch something new, its success will be decided by your customers, as they are the ones who will be using it. They are in the perfect place to let you know about the quality, usefulness, aesthetic etc. They can also advise of any improvements they’d make, or how it could better meet their needs.
  • It tells you a lot about customer satisfaction. Feedback tells you about how they feel about your business. If you ask for feedback, yes, you could be inviting some negativity, but that’s not a bad thing, as you can work to improve it. For example, if you are in a restaurant and you’re not happy with a particular meal, or part of a meal, the restaurant would want you to tell them. Why? So, they can improve. If you don’t say anything, but just never come back, they don’t have that chance to put it right and make it better for other diners in the future. That’s why a lot of restaurants ask for feedback on their websites.
    You don’t have to conduct massive surveys; you can simply take a random sample of your customers and speak to them on the phone.
  • Your customers will feel valued. Following on from the last point, if you ask your customers for feedback, they will feel like you care about what they think, and they’ll feel involved. If you show that you genuinely care and value their opinion, they are more likely to give good feedback and to recommend you to their family and friends. Even a customer who complains can be turned into a loyal advocate if you take the time to speak to them about their concerns and come up with a solution…sometimes they’re not even complaining, they just have a suggestion, which may actually help you. They will feel involved if you take their suggestion and implement it!
  • It helps you provide a better customer service. There are times when, through no fault of your own, things go wrong. For example, a delivery is late arriving, or maybe the orders have got a bit mixed up and they receive the wrong order. These things can happen, we’re all human!
    If you have something in place, whereby customers can easily contact you to discuss their problems, it’s more likely you’ll be able to resolve it. The quicker you respond to a complaint, no matter how small, the more likely you’ll be able to earn loyalty in the future. Don’t take it personally – this is a hard one, but I really can’t reiterate this enough. A customer has a right to tell you about their problem, and nine times out of ten it can be resolved easily. However, of course, there will be the odd time that something can’t be resolved, and if it can’t, it’s best to say so, offer a refund or an alternative, and move on. But this is extremely rare.
  • It helps you retain your existing customers. Caring, listening, showing you value opinions, and being genuine with your customers are all things that will encourage them to stay loyal to you. As they get to know you, your business, and your brand, they will understand what you stand for and what you believe in. They will be able to relate to you and will trust you – these are the things that will make a customer stay loyal to a brand.
  • Helps gain more customers. Someone who buys online will have looked at many other businesses before they decide to buy. None of us automatically buy from every business we come across, and we don’t tend to buy from businesses we have never heard of. 90% of online shoppers read online reviews before buying. This is where feedback is crucial. Word of mouth is also seriously underrated. People will buy from a business that has been recommended to them by a family member or from friends. If you don’t encourage reviews, you are shutting the door to new business, so make it easy for customers to leave a review. It’s important for new visitors to see what others have to say – and to see how you respond to your customers, so ALWAYS reply.
  • Helps you with your future strategies. If you know your customers, know what they like and dislike, you are in a much better position to make plans for the future of your business. Feedback helps you know where you can improve, what kind of products or services are popular, and what they might like to see from you in the future. This can only be a good thing.

Conclusion

Customer feedback is an important resource for all businesses, no matter how big or small. It measures the success of your products or services, and can help you develop new products or services, as well as helping you decide on new strategies for your future.

You can collect customer feedback via your online shop, your website, through social media, sending surveys, through a live chat or via messenger, or by simply picking up the phone and speaking to them – you could even do this via video chat.    

Don’t take things personally if you get a little negativity – see it as an opportunity to turn things around and make that customer your biggest fan.

Listen to your customers, make them feel that their opinions matter and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about your business. It can only help you improve, and ultimately will result in loyal customers who trust and believe in you, your business, and your brand.

Using surveys or polls for business

Using a survey or a poll is great way to understand what your customer wants. The answers you get can give you an insight into what your customers think of you and your business; what kind of service they want; and it gives them a chance to share their perspectives with you. If your survey or poll is engaging, then your customers are more likely to participate and spread the word about you.

The way I see it, surveys/polls have four main objectives…

  1. Getting feedback from existing customers about products or services that you have provided. Ask them if the product or service could be improved or if there was a way it would work better for them. You can use this to improve your services or extend your product line.
  2. You can use a survey to get testimonials from your customers. What worked well for them and why? You can then ask them if you can use their comment in your advertising or on your website/social media page.
  3. To find out what your customers want – is there an issue that needs solving…one that they’d be willing to pay for? If you know exactly what your customers want, you can develop products or services to fit their needs. This shows that not only do you listen to what they say, you act on it.
  4. They can help you find out what current buying trends are.  Online spending has been growing since lockdown, and an online survey or poll are two of the best ways to find out what your customers are thinking, how they spend and why they spend…and what they are spending their money on. If you ask the right questions,  you can gather this kind of information fairly easily.   

What questions do you ask?

There are many you could ask and I’ve listed some areas you might want to think about. When you are creating your questions, think about what you want to achieve…are you looking for ideas for new products or services? Are you wanting to know what needs to be improved? Here are some ideas and pointers that might help you… 

  • If you’re doing a poll, you might want to just stick to one question. You could do a series of polls over a number of weeks on a social media network.
  • If you are a blogger, you could ask your customers what subjects they might be interested in…for example if you are a beauty blogger, you might find that several of your customers have the same problem that you could address with a blog, such as ‘how to apply mascara properly’ or ‘what are the best products for sensitive skin?’ Answering questions helps set you up as an expert in your field.
  • Segmenting your customers will help you reach the right audience with the right message. A simple example…if you run a garden centre and you send out a regular newsletter, you could ask what plants your audience are interested in. Some may be interested in herbs and fruit – another in climbing plants – someone else in vegetables and flowers. You can then use this information to better target your marketing and communications.
  • Get feedback on your website…is it easy to navigate? Can your customers find what they’re looking for? Are there any areas that could be improved or any products/services they’d like to see you sell or offer?
  • Are you thinking of setting up an event? Events take up a huge amount of time and effort from planning to execution, so before you invest your time and money, you could create a poll or survey to find out what kind of event they’d like. Give several options and include an ‘other’ answer, as they may come up with something you hadn’t thought of.
  • Competitions – you can use a survey to host a competition. For example if you make cakes, you could put several pictures of cakes you have made and ask, ‘Which cake do you think deserves Cake of the Month’? This also serves to show potential customers what you can do and gives you the chance to show several different kinds of cakes you do. And for the competition aspect, you could offer a 10% discount to the winner. Which you draw at random from the participants.  
  • Finally – get a fun aspect in there! Polls in particular don’t have to be serious – if you just want to engage with your customers, ask a question. This could be something as simple as showing two of your products, labelling them A and B, and asking which one your customers like the best. Or you could ask, ‘What is your favourite ice cream flavour’, or ‘What is your favourite thing about travelling?’ Often, these kind of questions spark  interest and a conversation. I would advise not to ask anything controversial and avoid politics, current affairs or religion,!

Once you have your survey or poll, post it on your Facebook or Instagram account, or put it on your website. If you want specific information from your existing customers, you could include the survey or poll in your newsletter or on email.

If you do put your survey on your website, don’t do it so that it pops up the minute someone visits your site, as that can be irritating and can be seen as intrusive.

Final Hot Tip!

Everyone likes a reward, so offer some kind of incentive for your customers if they complete your survey. Give a free report or an e-book, or offer them a discount on the next purchase they make from you. Offer a further discount, or a free item, if they recommend five people who buy from you.

Good luck, and if you have done this with your business, let me know how you got on!

A peek into the mind of an online shopper

Online shopping has never been more popular, and not just amongst the younger generation. Lockdown was a contributing factor to more people starting to shop online and it seems that it is continuing. More online stores are opening, which will mean that competition to stand out is fierce…and online marketplaces help build trust with customers and give a more convenient way to buy from home, on your phone.

Why do people shop online? Here are a few reasons…

Wide variety of products

Online shoppers have access to absolutely anything they want to buy, whereas if they visit a store, they are limited to what that particular store sells and must visit several different stores to get everything they want. Online shopping puts every kind of store at your fingertips – it’s easy to browse and find what you want and easy to find the latest trends or fashions.

It’s convenient

You don’t have to go out, get stuck in traffic, find a parking space, or drag your children round the shops. You don’t have to worry about fitting it in around your job, rushing to catch the shops before they close. You can shop online 24/7 …and even shop in your PJs if you want to. It’s less stressful and often cheaper, as you can compare stores and prices much more easily.

Lower prices

It’s not just about loads of options when you shop online, but often you can find things you want at a much lower price than in stores. Online shops don’t have the overheads of a physical store.

You can also often find coupons or discounts online as this is a tactic used to rise above competitors. And several online stores operate within a cashback regime, so this is also attractive to buyers.

No sales pitch

When you visit a physical store, you are often pounced on by assistants, asking if you need help or trying to get you to buy something you didn’t want. If something isn’t available, you’ll often be tempted to try something else. Many a time, I’ve gone to a specific store to buy a particular dress, only to find it’s not in stock, or they don’t have the colour I want. But do I leave the store empty handed? Very rarely! I have bought things I don’t really want, have been persuaded that a different colour will really suit me by the assistant and know it’s not really for me, but often just get caught up in the moment and buy anyway.

Plain packaging

When you shop online, you don’t have to worry about what you buy – if you want to buy some really sexy underwear or something a bit more intimate for the bedroom, buying online means you can choose for it to be delivered in plain packaging. You don’t have to be embarrassed at the checkout. You can also browse everything you want to look at, read the descriptions and decide which item you want, without an assistant hovering. And you can take your time to choose.

No crowds and no queues

This is an obvious one – I absolutely hate crowded shopping centres, so online shopping suits me as I don’t have to queue to buy something, nor do I have to feel claustrophobic in crowds.

Baskets and checkout

The thing I really like about online shopping is the quick and easy checkout process. I just add what I want to my basket, and then checkout at my leisure. It’s usually quick and simple – you can also choose which delivery option you want and can often get next day delivery. There are also lots of local shops who do free delivery, which is an added bonus.

Customer reviews

I like to check out what other people think about a product before I buy it and online shopping makes this a cinch. Information and product descriptions are usually clear – you know if the product you are buying is environmentally friendly, and you can see what other buyers think of the product before you buy.

The stats

In 2021, it is estimated that 2.14 billion people worldwide will purchase goods online (Statista). And that global ecommerce sales are forecast at over four trillion dollars. As well as this, projections are that ecommerce sales globally are going to grow to 6.4 trillion by 2024.

According to Thinkwithgoogle, 2018, 63% of shopping occasions begin online. This means that, no matter whether a product is bought online or at a physical store, the customer journey began online, with a search. This just goes to show that if you have an online business, it makes sense to ensure that the customer experience is first class. Understanding how your target audience searches for products you sell can help you create a unique customer experience.

It goes without saying that the recent and ongoing pandemic has had a massive impact across the globe regarding online shopping. Strict lockdown has seen online shopping skyrocket – especially grocery shopping.

Conclusion

Online shopping is set to evolve further as time goes on. If businesses want to survive, they must get online to keep up with the latest trends.

A particular plus for me regarding online shopping is that I know that I’m buying something that hasn’t been picked up, tried on or handled by loads of different people. However, having said that, there is still something exciting about wandering around the shops and finding something you never knew you wanted! And, being a huge stationery fan, I love to browse a stationery aisle…and don’t get the same buzz online.

What are your thoughts on online shopping? Do you prefer it, or do you like to have a wander and a browse in a physical store?