Having a great customer experience can mean something different for everyone. For some, it’s being able to pay in their preferred method. For others, it’s about a website's design and user experience.
But make no mistake—customer experience can make or break a customer’s relationship with your business.
That’s why customer experience improvement has seen a 19 percentage point increase in priority from 2019 to 2022, according to research from McKinsey & Company.
But given how vague “customer experience” can be, it’s difficult for some businesses to pin down—just over 55% of retail and wholesale organizations were only partially satisfied or dissatisfied with their CX capabilities in 2021.
Also, almost 40% of retail businesses consider customer experience a primary competitive differentiator.
This guide will help you understand the ins and outs of customer experience, including:
- What does customer experience mean?
- Why is customer experience important?
- 3 main components of customer experience
- What is a good customer experience?
- How to measure customer experience
- Best customer experience management tools
What does customer experience mean?
Customer experience is the sum perception of your brand, based on customer interactions throughout their journey.
In more practical terms, Filip Pejic, founder of Pearly, a DIY bubble tea business, says customer experience is about “making sure the customer feels heard at all steps in the buying process. Resolving any issues or pain points as easily as possible. Delivering a unique, seamless, and unexpectedly awesome experience.”
Why is customer experience important?
Every touchpoint your customers have with your brand is a chance to create a positive customer experience, or a negative one. This means having a clear understanding of how your business can build a CX strategy benefits you by:
- Improving customer retention and brand loyalty. Customer experience has a massive influence on retention and customer loyalty—research from eMarketer shows 94% of consumers would be more likely to purchase again after positive customer service experiences.
- Building brand awareness through word of mouth. The same research from eMarketer shows 84% of customers would recommend a company after excellent experiences.
- Making for happier employees. Perhaps this is a surprise, but almost 45% of organizations cite improved employee experience as an important benefit of good customer experience.
3 main components of customer experience
While many factors make up customer experience, three main components help form its foundations: personalized shopping experience, excellent customer service, and meeting shoppers where they are.
Personalized shopping experience
Brick-and-mortar stores have long been frontrunners in personalizing the shopping experience—interacting with the same employees, and offering demonstrations and relevant upsells or cross-sells in-store at the counter.
But in recent years, technology has enabled personalized experiences at a new level. Automated tools can help create a recommendation engine based on customers’ previous purchases. But it can also build complex virtual fitting rooms and tailor-made product customizations.
Apple is an example of a brand that sets the bar for customized shopping experiences. Within the Apple Store app, you can browse for tech and accessories based on devices you already own:
By doing this, Apple maximizes its opportunities to cross-sell and upsell products within its ecosystem, while providing a better customer experience.
Provide excellent customer service
Another top contributor to a good customer experience is excellent customer service. When ecommerce customer service is top notch, customers feel valued and are 60% more likely to become returning customers.
Great customer service can come in many forms. From being able to address customer needs and questions to quickly resolving a customer complaint or issue at first-time resolution. One brand that does this well is Protein Works.
In the above example, great customer service helped turn a bad experience, in which the customer’s delivery was stolen before they received it, into a great one.
Meet shoppers where they are
The final main component of customer experience is meeting shoppers where they are. This means allowing your customers to connect with your brand at multiple touchpoints—wherever they are.
For example, a customer might see an influencer promoting your brand and decide to check out your business’s social media accounts. From there they might head straight to your website or decide to call your contact center.
The key to these multi-channel encounters is managing customer expectations with consistent messaging and experiences throughout the customer journey.
An example of a brand doing this right is Le Prunier:
From the image, you can see how the brand style and palette are consistent across its social platform and website. You wouldn’t question whether it was the same brand or not.
What is a good customer experience?
Now that you’re aware of the main components that make up customer experience, it’s easy to see what makes a good (versus a bad) customer experience. Good customer experience means having customer-centric personalized journeys, receiving amazing customer service, and interacting with your brand wherever people are with the same level of experience.
So what can go wrong in these situations? A customer can feel like you’re trying to upsell or cross-sell irrelevant products for profit, or they can be frustrated with poor customer service. They can even go from a polished social media profile to a poorly designed website that makes them question your brand’s legitimacy.
So what are some practical ways to help ensure customers get a great experience with your brand?
Make every interaction delightful
This tip is related to the third component above (meeting shopper’s where they are). When asked what makes for a good customer experience in ecommerce, Filip Pejic of Pearly said, “Delighting the customer: every interaction (even the seemingly little ones) with customers should be amazing.”
So in practice, what can you do? Some of the easiest customer touchpoints to tweak are your transactional emails. Instead of sending a generic “Your order has been shipped, thanks for your purchase!” email copy, try injecting your brand personality into it. Take Nuts for example:
These transactional emails feel much more personable than your default email copy.
Answer questions before customers ask
There are two kinds of people in this world; those who go to customer services first, and those who would rather try finding answers before contacting someone else about an issue or question.
The solution for catering to both types of customers is creating a self-service solution. For most online businesses, this comes in either a dedicated knowledge base or a collection of FAQ-style articles. In this manner, you’ll be able to answer customers' questions about your products or services before they ask them.
Here’s Manukora, a honey and botanical store, for example:
In creating a knowledge base, you’ll be able to avoid repetitive support tickets and gain happier customers, since they can fix small issues or answer questions on their own.
Use tech to enrich the human experience, not replace it
Humans are social creatures. This simple fact means that if everything in your business was technological and robotic, customers might have a harder time relating to your brand and suffer a bad customer experience for it.
Of course, there are exceptions, for example, a brand that’s purpose-built to be super high-tech and robotic. But most brands aren’t. Therefore, your business should balance human and automated elements when communicating with customers.
On this topic, Filip mentioned using automation tools to help send communication out, sparing you enough time to think more about the content. He says, "balanced humanity and automation: leveraging tools like Re:Amaze, Klaviyo, Zapier to help sort and tag queries, or send communication out so that you can spend more time being thoughtful about what communication goes out.”
How to measure customer experience
Thinking your business has a great customer experience differs from knowing it has. So how do you figure out if what you’re doing is working? You measure it. This section will cover some of the easiest and most reliable ways to measure your customer’s experiences.
Customer effort score (CES)
Customer effort score refers to how much effort your customers have to put in to interact with your business. Or to put it another way, how easy or difficult it was for them to resolve an issue with your customer support team.
You’ll want to track this metric to ensure your CS team is doing its best to make things right with your customers. Happy customers = a better experience.
You’ll find most CES surveys are based on a single main question:
How easy was it to deal with [insert your brand] today, from 1 (very difficult) to 5 (very easy)?
Here’s an example from Monzo Bank:
As you can see in the example, asking for customer feedback or additional comments is common, which can help your business figure out any specific pain points they experience.
Net Promoter Score® (NPS)
Net Promoter Score is the most popular (41%) metric businesses use to measure customer opinions. If you’ve ever interacted with a customer service representative before, you’ve probably come across the follow-up survey designed to generate an NPS.
It’s a favorite metric because, like the CES, it has only a single question:
How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?
You might see variations in the relationships (e.g., friend or family member), but the measurement of the question is still the same—a Likert scale from 1–5 or 1–10.
Here’s an example of an NPS survey from Squarespace:
NPS surveys are a great option to get quick feedback, and you can send them via email, SMS, or in-app prompts, if applicable.
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
Another common metric to measure customer experience is the customer satisfaction score. Simply put, it’s a score that measures your customers’ perception or overall happiness/satisfaction with your business.
It’s another survey you can send to your customers after their purchases, but it uses a few more open-ended questions than the other surveys. CSAT surveys are valuable because you can get more information about your customers’ experiences than a single scale.
Here’s an example from Just Eat:
You can use multiple-choice questions, free-text answer boxes, and sliding scales to help your customers express their opinions better and help you understand their overall customer experience.
Time to resolution (TTR)
The time-to-resolution metric is also important to track, but it’s not something you send to your customers. It’s a behind-the-scenes measurement of how long it takes your customer support team to resolve an issue a customer is having.
The longer your TTR, the more likely it is to be a bad experience for the customer. You can also use a metric alongside first-time resolution (FTR) to see the percentage of support tickets resolved in the first contact versus how many take more than a single interaction.
To measure either of these metrics, you’ll need a software provider that helps you track your support ticket completion rates, such as HelpScout.
Best customer experience management tools
Now you know what a good customer experience should be like and how to achieve it, we’ll look at some tools to help you get the best results.
Would you like to chat to your customers from Instagram, Facebook, and more with one handy chatbot, in real time? How about knowing what’s in your customer’s cart when they reach out to you? Shopify Inbox is a free messaging app that lets you turn chats into checkouts.
It can be frustrating for customers to have purchased a product from you and not know where it is. Wonderment Post-Purchase is a tool that helps you sort orders by fulfillment status, carrier, or region.
It helps you let customers know if their order is delayed before they raise a support ticket about it. You can optimize all of your post-purchase experiences in check with this app.
Already use HubSpot for your customer relationship management (CRM) or email marketing needs? With the official HubSpot x Shopify integration, you can manage your HubSpot automations with this app.
You can even sync the customer data you gather in your Shopify store to HubSpot and turn it into valuable marketing signals to use in your campaigns.
Build a superior customer experience journey for your customers
A great customer experience strategy is at the heart of any successful ecommerce store. It helps improve customer engagement and reduces potential customer churn. In sum, it’s crucial for your bottom line.
Using the tips and tools in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to building a customer experience you can be proud of—one that both new and loyal customers will appreciate every time they shop with you.
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Customer experience FAQ
What is meant by customer experience?
What are the 3 main components of customer experience?
- Personalized shopping experiences
- Excellent customer care
- Meeting customers expectations
How do you give great customer experience?
- Make customers experience delightful at every touchpoint.
- Answer questions before customers have them.
- Use technology to enhance each customer interaction.
What are the benefits of a good customer experience?
- Higher customer lifetime value
- More customer advocacy and word of mouth recommendations
- Increased customer loyalty
- Reduced customer churn