Business leaders have been talking constantly about the importance of customer satisfaction over the past few years, with numerous customer experience trends taking center stage. And yet, customer experience is now at the lowest level in the U.S. that it’s been in 17 years, down to 73.2 out of 100. What gives? Since delivering a poor customer experience can be a death knell to brands, we all must strive to do better. Here are some ways to improve your customer experience – and keep your customers – come what may. 

Prevention is better than remedy. 

Once you’ve soured a customer relationship, it’s an uphill battle to keep the person buying from you. As such, remember the age-old philosophy that “prevention beats a cure.” So, how does that translate into customer service today when your company is likely facing economic uncertainty,  supply chain issues, personnel shortages, and more? 

First, ensure quality remains high. Whether you have a product or service, the higher the quality, the better the customer experience will be – and the less likely they’ll need to reach out to you with complaints or problems. Second, maintain integrity. Do what you say you’ll do and over-communicate when something happens outside of your control. 

For example, if you advertise to customers that they’ll get a $100 rebate for ordering your product, don’t make them jump through hoops or chase you down to get it. Follow through and uphold your word. This will keep your reputation high, your customers happy, and your phone lines free from angry or confused customers. 

Put customers’ time first. 

Time is one of the only truly finite resources, making it of supreme importance. In times of extreme stress, when people are trying to hold their finances, jobs, and health together (like right now), time becomes even more valuable. As a result, it’s the first thing you should prioritize at every touchpoint along your buyer journey. 

Ask yourself the following questions to zero in on how you’re performing on these pillars of customer experience:

  • How easy and quick is it for my customers to place an order? 
  • How quickly do I ship my products (or turn around my services)?
  • Do my customers get fast responses when they have a question or concern? 
  • If a customer calls into my company, do they have to wait on hold, or do I have a mechanism in place (e.g. a callback service that holds their place in line) to prevent them from wasting precious time?
  • How can my team and I become more efficient? 

Know when to take a loss. 

Now is a good time to reconsider your policies on refunds and exchanges, particularly if you have a product-based business. In normal times, you might have a strict policy in place about this for good reason. Such policies are often meant to ensure you don’t lose money and employee time on processing too many returns or get taken advantage of by customers who abuse the system. 

In rocky times like now, however, you may need to adjust your approach. Given customers’ stress levels and expectations, denying them a return or making an exchange complicated could be enough to turn them off from your brand for good. So, even though being flexible about refunds and exchanges might cut into your profit, taking a smaller loss in this area will almost certainly net out better than losing that customer altogether. You can always adjust your policies back once the economy stabilizes and your customer base begins growing again, but for now, consider ways to bend a little and give customers more of what they need today. 

Be mindful of customer & employee stress. 

Finally, remember to take stock of how your employees are faring. When they’re happy, they’ll treat your customers better, who will then be more satisfied and treat your employees better. It’s a positive cycle that benefits everyone involved. But, it can just as easily flip on its head and turn into a negative spiral instead. 

When so many people are facing scary circumstances they never have before, stress increases, and dissatisfaction is more likely. So, check in with your employees to see how you can support them right now. Maybe it’s giving them a bit more freedom with their work hours, so they’re able to juggle childcare more easily. Or, perhaps you can share information with them about discounted mental health services if you have access to something like that. The better you take care of your employees, the better they’ll care for your customers – and the better off all of you will be. 

It’s unfortunate that current customer experience trends indicate poor customer experience is quite common, but this doesn’t have to be the case in your business. You can take the steps outlined here to improve your customer experience and get through this difficult season intact, with a solid customer base behind you. Need help adjusting your marketing strategy to the current times? We’d love to hear from you.