How to Implement an Effective Customer Experience Strategy

Introduction

Various managers and scholars have come up with the concept of customer experience as one of the strategies that companies may use to achieve competitive advantage. The concept is defined as the “quality of interaction between buyers and sellers at every meeting point. A good experience leads to customer satisfaction and improved relationship between the business and clienteles. Therefore, the idea of customer experience management (CEM) has been developed recently to help companies manage their interactions with customers to achieve superior customer experience and competitive advantage. CEM is defined as the process of managing customer experience with a product or service to establish a strong customer relationship and achieve buyer satisfaction. The concept entails developing specific measures and strategies to create unique customer experiences that are compelling, robust, engaging, and memorable (Nasution et al 255). Customer experience strategy indicates the specific steps taken by the company to provide good experience for customers at every stage of the purchase cycle, starting with the decision process through the purchase stage, use, and post-purchase phase (Grønholdt et al 2). At each stage, the company develops approaches to satisfy customers by enhancing good experience. This essay explains the importance and methods of developing a customer experience strategy to achieve customer loyalty and competitive advantage.

Justification for Developing a Customer Experience Strategy

A good customer experience strategy enables a business to create value for consumers, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. A business organisation can generate value for shoppers by providing quality services that satisfy customers, meet their needs, and give good return for their money. When the customer pays for a product, he or she expects to receive a certain value in terms of benefits and attributes. Therefore, a business can create value for the customer by providing good quality products and services to reflect the value paid by the customer. According to Lusch et al (2007), customer value is achieved through the services provided by the seller, the customer’s experience of the service, and the benefits received by the buyer relative to the price they pay. By improving their interaction with customers at every stage, organisations influence the customers’ interpretation of the company’s services positively, leading to value creation and customer satisfaction. Accordingly, the business establishes a strong customer base and sustainable relationship with buyers, leading to increased sales and profits for the business.

Customer experience strategy also helps a business to establish a memorable and sustainable relationship with customers, leading to customer retention, long term profitability and competitiveness of the business. Every business intends to operate for a long time to enjoy continuous operation and earnings. Without good interaction and engagement with customers, the company may not survive for a long time. A customer experience strategy appeals to the memorable emotional and rational expectations of the consumer which will influence his or her purchasing patterns in the future. Emotional aspects of consumers include the feelings and moods that influence their purchase decisions. For instance, a polite and respectful comment from a seller may create a lasting impression that will make the customer to return for the same services again in the future. The rational aspects that affect the customer’s buying decisions include the prices, functional quality, and delivery of the product. A good customer experience strategy enables a business to develop an effective interaction and involvement with the consumer at a rational and affective level, leading to lasting relationship with customers.

Customer experience also creates lasting relationships with customers due to the focus on consumers’ emotions. Grønholdt et al (4) suggests that the theory and practice of customer relationship management emphasizes significantly on the power of emotions. The quality of interaction and engagement between a business organisation and its customers affects the affective judgments of customers. The functional aspects that appeal to the rational decisions of customers such as price and quality always pose a challenge for customers to evaluate and make a purchase decisions because all companies in competitive markets provide homogenous products. Therefore, the emotional dimension of the marketing strategy plays a significant role in differentiating a company from competitors. According to Balakrishnan (222), 70 percent of a buying decision is always based on emotions while 30 percent relies on rationality.

From an emotional perspective, customer experience strategies influence the attitudes and interests of consumers and in turn affect their buying behaviours. Fatma (33) suggests that the attitudes of customers is affected by stimuli, context, and situations. Customers develop attitudes based on external stimuli which include information and sensory experiences. The stimuli that provide unique experiences are more likely to be recognised and appreciated by customers. The customers’ perceptions and expectations regarding a given product may also be influenced by the context of a specific stimuli. Hence, services that are provided in a more welcoming environment or context can influence the buying behaviour of customers positively, leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Furthermore, social and cultural situations may shape the customer experiences and perceptions of a certain product. A company can therefore improve the perceptions of customers about its products by providing products and services that appeal to the customers’ cultures and social norms, leading to improved brand image, customer satisfaction, loyalty, and differentiation.

The most important reason for developing a customer experience strategy is to achieve differentiation as a way of promoting competitive advantage. According to Grønholdt (2014), emotional and rational customer experiences are essential elements of a company’s differentiation strategy which requires commitment and involvement of the top management to differentiate the company’s products and services from those of competitors. Superior customer experience enhances differentiation by ensuring that the company delivers unique products and services at every level of interaction with customers. By focusing on improved interaction with customers, the business ensures that customers experience exceptional services that differentiates the enterprise from competitors, leading to competitive advantage.

Customer experience strategy also enhances improved business performance in terms of profits and growth. The market performance of a business in relation to growth, brand image, and customer loyalty can be achieved by producing superior customer experience. Grønholdt et al (4) postulates that there is a positive relationship between customer experience management and business performance, mediated by differentiation. An effective customer experience strategy enhances market and product differentiation which enables the business to achieve competitive advantage, which in turn leads to improved business performance. Strong brands often demonstrate effective differentiation strategies including customer experience tactics. Businesses with good customer experience strategies are able to develop strong relationships of trust and honest with customers. Accordingly, consumers buy products from the companies they can trust as opposed to those that do not create an environment of faith and expectation. Customer experience could also be achieved through innovation, which leads to new ways of developing products and delivering services to consumers. Innovation improves the experience of customers at the point of service delivery and product use, leading to increased customer satisfaction and enhanced financial performance for the company.

Effective Ways of Implementing Customer Experience Strategy

The best way to create an effective customer experience strategy for the business is to carry out management and operational activities to address the needs of customers and influence the perceptions, buying behaviours, and emotions of the buyer. The strategy follows the journey of a typical consumer from the pre-purchase to post-purchase stages of the buying cycle. The business starts to form the customer experience by focusing on the needs, values, interests, and wants of customers. The buyer experience strategy is also implemented by developing a good vision that incorporates the needs of customers into the organisational culture of the company. The company also improves customer experience by developing an emotional connection, interaction, involvement and communication with customers through various marketing channels. The business should use the digital media as well as traditional marketing approaches to interact with customers and influence the customers’ behaviour and create a lasting customer experience.

Creating a Clear Vision

The first element of an effective customer experience strategy is to develop a concise vision that reflects the customer needs. A vision is a short and clear statement that provides direction for the business, and should include the guiding principles that determine how the business will achieve the needs of customers. The vision is developed by the top management and marketing leaders to guide the entire organisation on how to address customers to improve their experience with the company at every point of their purchase cycle. The vision also includes key values that determine the behaviour of the business at the strategic and operational levels (Fatma 32). The management must communicate the customer experience vision to all employees and teams within the organisations. All managers, team leaders, and members must understand the vision and values of the business regarding customer interactions and service delivery. The business should also incorporate the guiding principles of the customer experience strategy into all training programs of the business to ensure that each member of the organisation understands how to address and service customers to reflect the culture of the company.

Understanding Customer needs and Wants

The second element of the company’s customer experience strategy is to create customer value by addressing the consumer wants and needs. Nasution et al (258) suggest that marketing strategies should make the customer the central focus of every action and decision of a business. Each customer has unique interests, needs, attitudes and wants. Therefore, the business must provide customised services and products at every stage of the purchase encounter. Each buyer also has personal attributes that influence their interpersonal relationships with the business. In this regard, the business must carry out a survey of all customers to understand the specific needs and wants of each buyer. Regular feedback and interactions with customers through various platforms will enable the business to understand the customers’ needs and values.

One of the best ways of collecting customer feedback in the modern era is through mobile and internet systems. For example, the business will register in various social media platforms and invite customers and members of the public. The social media has become a valuable interaction and collaboration platform because it enables businesses to access millions of users. The social media is becoming a favourite networking and social interaction channel, and businesses can take advantage of the opportunity to connect with millions of customers and collect their views, experiences, and feedback (Fatma 35). The company may also use instant messaging applications on mobile phones to collect information that captures personal characteristics and individual needs of the business. This approach allows the business to understand customer needs and develop appropriate products and needs that will meet those needs and achieve improved customer experience.

Experiential and Emotional Connection

The business will also promote exceptional customer service at the point of sale by creating lasting impression and affective experience with the buyers. The first step of achieving good experiential connection with customers is to recruit and train highly talented customer service staff and marketing personnel. This team of marketing professionals will be trained on how to create a memorable emotional and physical connection with customers. The business should also develop branding strategies that capture the needs of customers and evoke sensational feelings and behaviours towards the company (Verhoef 259). Therefore, the marketing and customer service staff should receive customers warmly at the company’s premises, and guide them comfortably through various products. The business can also train employees to respect the views of customers and be responsive to their feelings and interests. The company staff should also develop good values such as humility, trust, sincerity, and appreciation. These emotional appeals will enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Physical experience with customers may also be achieved using the extended elements of the marketing mix – product, place, price, people, promotion, process, and physical environment. The product, place, price, and promotion are commonly used to promote competitiveness in all organisations; but a company may achieve unique customer experience by focusing on people, processes, and the physical environment. The people are employees who make initial contact with customers (Balakrishnan 220). On the other hand, the physical environment includes the facilities and space involved in purchase. The business should provide good and attractive facilities as well as sufficient space to allow shoppers to achieve food shopping experience through comfort and emotional satisfaction. Furthermore, the business may develop technology based systems at the point of purchase to improve customer experience (Verhoef et al 35). For instance, self-service technologies may enable customers to pay for products automatically without the need of contacting a physical customer service staff. The company should also carry out a follow-up after purchase to create a feeling of connection in the customer towards the company, leading to repeat purchase.

Conclusion

In the fast-evolving business environment, the expectations and needs of customers keep changing drastically. Companies no longer depend on the traditional approaches of marketing and corporate strategies to compete effectively. Customer experience management has proven to be a good way of differentiating a firm from its competitors and achieving customer satisfaction and loyalty, leading to sustainable growth and profitability for the business. An effective customer experience strategy should include emotional and physical connection between the company through digital media and personal interaction. The company should hire and train skilled and experienced staff to promote good emotional connection between the business and customers, leading to effective customer experience.

 

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