8 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Natalie Gagliordi | Content Strategist | April 23, 2024

More than just a marketing buzzword, customer experience is the sum of every interaction a person has with a company, whether it’s using a product or hearing about a brand from friends at a party. For a company, great customer experience involves a commitment to building lasting customer relationships that foster growth. Today's consumers have no shortage of places to purchase the services or products they want, so it’s the business’s job to deliver memorable, positive, and personalized experiences that will keep customers coming back.

But what exactly is customer experience and how can businesses improve at providing a pleasant one? These days, delivering a consistently great customer experience requires a multipronged approach that extends beyond the marketing and customer care teams. That means incorporating the latest technologies to support a data-driven understanding of customers and shape reliable and relevant digital experiences.

What Is Customer Experience?

Customer experience (CX) is an umbrella term that can include anything an organization does to support, engage with, and delight customers throughout their evaluation, purchasing, and post-purchase processes. A good or bad customer experience can be a key differentiator for businesses. Providing a positive customer experience means prioritizing customer needs in a way that keeps them engaged and happy with the business and ultimately inspires loyalty. Behind the scenes, customer experience efforts are supported by an array of software systems and technologies including customer relationship management software, cloud services, and chatbots powered by AI and machine learning.

Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

While very closely related, customer experience and customer service are separate functions within a business. Customer service generally refers to the ways a company assists the customer before or after they purchase a product or service, such as providing answers to general questions or resolving specific issues and complaints. Delivering helpful and responsive customer service is a key component in shaping a positive customer experience.

Customer service also plays an important part in developing brand loyalty, as the way a business responds to unhappy customers can affect consumer perceptions about the company overall. Customer experience, by contrast, is even larger in scope. It includes every interaction a customer has with a product or brand. In addition to the customer service aspect, it also covers other aspects of the customer relationship, such as when they use the product, see its advertising, or research it online.

How Important Is Customer Experience?

Customer experience is extremely important for any business and can have a major impact on a company’s growth and success. Extraordinary customer experiences not only pave the way for growth through cross-selling and upselling opportunities, but also foster customer advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing, thereby boosting sales and bringing new customers to the business at a low cost. Customer experience efforts can also create new avenues for customer feedback, providing valuable insights into how and where the business could improve its products, services, and the overall customer journey based on a greater understanding of what people want, need, and value. Conversely, bad customer experiences can drive away potential and existing customers while tarnishing a business’s reputation overall.

Why Should You Improve Customer Experiences?

The rationale for improving a customer experience strategy is very straightforward. When a business creates positive experiences for customers, it can improve customer retention and acquisition, increase sales, strengthen loyalty, and help differentiate itself from its competitors. Focusing only on closing a sale can mean missing the chance to establish the strong customer connections that are key to business longevity.

A key part of delivering this positive experience is the technology a business uses to power customer interactions. Outdated technology usually lacks the analytics, automation, and personalization capabilities needed to craft the unique and memorable customer experiences that can set a company apart. Older systems also may not integrate well with newer, cloud-based technologies or applications, resulting in disjointed and fragmented customer experiences, operational inefficiencies, and slow business responsiveness.

Say a company wants to add a chatbot capability to quickly answer simple customer questions online. This capability lets customer service reps focus on more complicated problems. It’s also often a preferred channel for customers to ask certain types of questions. Companies need a computing infrastructure that can either provide that chatbot capability or quickly integrate a third-party service. The kind of digital experiences customers expect today often require a combination of technological capabilities and data streams from multiple sources, which can exist in the cloud or in on on-premises data center. Businesses that can quickly leverage new technology and innovations within their customer experience strategy are better equipped to meet customer expectations and stay relevant in a competitive marketplace.

Impact of Bad Customer Experiences

Consumer choice has never been more abundant, with ever-increasing options on where, when, and how to purchase products and services. Loyalty is hard to come by, as consumers will abandon companies that don’t treat them the way they expect. In a study of consumer behavior and how CX is tied to brand loyalty, the CX software and services company Emplifi found that 86% of consumers will ditch brands they once liked after only two to three bad experiences. Negative customer experiences—whether from product or service issues or a poorly performing website—are a primary contributor to diminishing business growth.

Moreover, when customers come away with unfavorable perceptions of a business, a segment of those customers will voice their negative feedback on social media or via online review platforms. Such grievances have the potential to reach millions of people, with lasting effects for the business. If bad customer experiences are the result of technology problems or software shortcomings, other operational areas may also be suffering from a similar lack of innovation. Optimizing digital touchpoints and giving employees the data analytics and automation they need to offer personalized experiences can all contribute to the quality of customer interactions.

Measuring CX

Businesses employ various methods and metrics to measure CX, such as conducting customer feedback surveys, analyzing customer support interactions and tickets, and using website analytics to track user behavior. According to a study from PwC, nearly 80% of US consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the main contributors to a positive customer experience. Those findings can provide a starting point for companies to assess whether they have the means to measure their performance in those areas.

Whatever the approach or focus area, actively seeking and listening to customer feedback is crucial to understanding customer opinions, preferences, and concerns. It also helps businesses identify areas for improvement and adapt to changing customer needs. The exact method a company uses to measure its CX strengths and weaknesses depends on the nature of the business, its goals, and the specific aspects of the customer experience it aims to evaluate.

8 Steps to Improve Customer Experience

Whether internal or external, the expectations around customer experience are always changing. Successful businesses understand the need to continually assess and improve the customer experience, evaluating strategy, commitment, and technology to make sure that their CX program succeeds.

1. Understand customer pain points

Customer satisfaction surveys, Net Promoter Scores, and customer effort scores are common tools that businesses use to understand customer pain points. These assessments let customers provide targeted feedback, both good and bad, that a company can use to improve the overall customer experience. Usability testing on products or digital platforms, mystery shopping, and analysis of online reviews and ratings are also ways to recognize where the business is falling short and understand how and where to improve.

2. Personalize experiences

Personalization, which can involve targeted marketing, customized product recommendations, or tailored communication, leverages data to create a more relevant customer experience. Technologies such as data analytics and machine learning let companies customize product recommendations, content, and marketing messages to individual customer preferences, making interactions more relevant and effective. Providing this kind of custom fit can foster lasting emotional connections between customers and the brands they love.

3. Audit customer experience

A customer experience audit is a way for businesses to take stock of their entire CX strategy and pinpoint what products, services, or interactions need improvement. It involves doing a systematic evaluation of various touchpoints and processes to make sure they align with customer expectations. For example, a CX audit can look at how customers discovered a business, why they chose to buy from that business, the sales and delivery process, any customer service interactions, and all customer communications after the sale. If done correctly, a CX audit can boost customer insights and help reduce friction points in the customer journey.

4. Use customer journey mapping

A customer journey map is used to illustrate a customer’s interactions with a business from beginning to end. Customer journey mapping involves plotting out the entire customer lifecycle to understand touchpoints, interactions, and pain points, and to gain a realistic view of the customer experience. It helps businesses visualize how customers interact with the brand and identify areas for improvement, essentially charting out the best path for the ideal customer journey. Customer journey mapping also forces businesses to really consider the customer’s perspective and view the interactions customers are having with the business through that lens.

5. Improve customer service

The quality and effectiveness of the interactions that customers have with customer service representatives, online chat support, and self-service options can have a make or break the overall customer experience. Insufficient empathy or understanding of customer needs can leave customers feeling undervalued, while service representatives who aren’t adequately trained may struggle to address customer inquiries or concerns. Reducing the time it takes to resolve customer inquiries, harmonizing and delivering the data needed to solve problems, providing engaging self-service options, and ensuring close alignment across support channels are a few of the ways to improve customer service experiences.

6. Implement technology to elevate experiences

Mobile app glitches, slow website performance, or clunky user interfaces on digital platforms can frustrate customers and sink a company’s credibility, and these are only a few of the many ways underperforming technology can undermine a company’s CX efforts. Technologies such as scalable cloud infrastructure, multicloud computing environments, and cloud integration services help companies manage the mix of apps and data needed to effectively orchestrate a seamless digital experience for customers.

7. Innovate to stay ahead of customer expectations

Customers expect companies to keep pace with innovation, and they’re going to compare their online banking or B2B procurement experience to all their consumer app experiences, whether it’s a fast-food ordering app or a fitness app. That means companies need computing infrastructure that lets them add capabilities regularly so they don’t fall behind what’s expected. Personalization using data analytics, enhanced customer service with conversational AI chatbots and virtual assistants, optimized websites, and intuitive mobile applications all can contribute to better customer experiences.

8. Build an omnichannel strategy

Whether it’s through social media, emails, or online chats, consumer preferences are highly varied when it comes to how they interact with brands. Usually, they just pick whatever option they find most convenient in the moment. That means that businesses should be prepared to manage a range of omnichannel touchpoints at once and ensure that they’re getting customers the right information when they need it. Connecting these channels requires effective integration of data and applications to close communication gaps and help provide consistency and continuity throughout the customer journey.

Businesses use a combination of methods to understand and improve the customer experience. To make positive customer experiences more likely, businesses must first decide on the right strategy, and then find the right technology to help execute and continually enhance their customer interactions.

Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences with Oracle Cloud

From a technology standpoint, customer experience relies on a diverse mix of applications, data sources, and platforms. Cloud technology can reduce the operational complexity and IT overhead that often stalls CX innovation. The high performance, security, and reliability of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) allows businesses to run a wide range of workloads, from traditional enterprise applications to cloud native applications, and scale resources as customer demand moves up or down. OCI integration services enable the level of automation and contextually aware conversations between customers, employees, and systems required to improve customer experience. With OCI, businesses can synchronize applications, data, and partner ecosystems for event-based, multimodal, end-to-end process automation and continuous CX innovation.

Improving Customer Experience FAQs

What are the 5 Cs of customer experience?
The 5 Cs of customer experience are a framework that outlines the key aspects of creating a positive, memorable customer experience. These aspects include customer centricity, consistency, communication, customization, and culture.

How do you optimize customer experience?
Optimizing the customer experience can involve the use of customer segmentation and persona mapping to better understand customers, personalized interactions to suggest relevant products or services, and analytics to understand customer behavior and tailor experiences accordingly.

What are three points in achieving good customer experience?
Three fundamental pain points to overcome to achieve a good customer experience are understanding customer needs, communicating effectively, and providing consistent and reliable service.

Oracle has been named a Leader in the 2023 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Strategic Cloud Platform Services.