The Online Customer Experience: Complete Q&A
Too many business owners are focused on the wrong things when it comes to creating an online customer experience strategy. I mean, let’s think about this for a minute. Have you ever considered how much planning goes into setting up a retail store? Designers and analysts spend countless hours creating a layout that maximizes time and money spent in the store. Regardless of if you sell things online or not, how your customer interacts with your brand online needs to be given just as much thought as our retail example above (if not more).
In this blog, I’m tackling some of the biggest questions regarding the online customer experience. We’ll start off with the more simple questions by defining exactly what an online customer experience is and why it’s important. Then, I’ll be diving into the more in-depth tips and tricks to help you stay on top of your online experience. Finally, I’ll be providing a suite of tools we use at TrafficCrafters to monitor our online customer experience and make data-based improvements. Make sure to stick around to the end because I’ll also showcase some mind-blowing digital customer experience stats.
Online Customer Experience Questions
1. What defines customer experience?
2. What makes a great customer experience?
3. What is the perfect customer experience?
4. How do you deliver great customer experience?
5. What is customer experience strategy?
6. Is customer experience the same as customer service?
7. How would you create a memorable experience for a customer?
8. How do you improve online customer experience?
What defines customer experience?
If you look anywhere on the internet, customer experience (CX) is defined as the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship.
Instead of thinking about it in the format of the above definition, I want you to start thinking of customer experience as what the customer is feeling, thinking, and doing as a result of those feelings. Put the customer experience in the lens of emotion and how/why your customers feel the way they do.
What is digital customer experience?
Much like the definition above, online customer experience is defined as the product of all digital interactions between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship.
I’d define online customer experience as what your customers are feeling, thinking, and doing as a result of those feelings across all digital interactions.
Note how the definition reads “all digital interactions”. This can be any interaction across the entire internet. Social media, your website, emails, ads, etc..
Is customer experience the same as customer service?
No. Customer experience is not the same as customer service. The are, however, related. Customer service is part of any customer experience. If the customer has a question and sends a chat through your chat box and has a poor experience, that affects your online customer experience.
Remember, online customer experience is all about what your customers are feeling, thinking, and doing as a result of those feelings. This includes every digital touchpoint along the way. Including customer service.
What is the perfect customer experience?
This is by far the largest question to answer in this list. I also received a few variations of this question:
What makes a great customer experience?
How do you deliver great customer experience?
Okay, now that we covered that, let’s dive in. Many web businesses focus solely on technology and design when building their websites and forget about two of the most important elements. They add some content, they launch the website satisfied and feel poised to sell their product or service. Unfortunately, their customers aren’t satisfied.
To really make an impact and influence customers, businesses must move beyond a seller’s perspective to achieve high-performance (seeing things from a BUYER’S perspective). Generating business value happens by creating a customer experience strategy driven from the buyer’s perspective.
With all that being said, here are the four must-haves for any online customer experience.
Usability guides the placement and direction of content within the design and technology. It focuses on creating convenience for the visitor’s interaction. Powerful usability enables a frictionless online customer experience where intuition versus thinking drives the visitor’s movements.
Usability creates a well-designed website with intuitive and instructive navigation, clear call-to-actions, articulate value propositions, credibility-building communications, convenient order process – all elements that create fluidity in the visitor’s movements towards their goal achievement. It takes about 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website. Don’t let usability slip through the cracks of your online customer experience.
Influence is where seller guides buyer down a deliberate sales process. A usable website generates average sales; an influential and usable website can skyrocket sales. An influential website is like a consultative sales person providing information, helping to evaluate alternatives, adding reassurances, feeding the emotional appeal, and skillfully pulling the visitor towards the purchase not always “now” but assuredly at a point in the future.
Personalization, suggestive selling, relevancy, trust, assurance, sincerity, helpfulness – are the objectives of influence.
Influence is not manipulation. It is not the stereotypical used car salesperson tactics of cheap talk and deceptive ploys. Powerful influence is about intimately understanding the visitor’s needs to provide them the right information at the right time. It moves them clearly and easily through their buying process.
Usability and influence are buyer-driven because what is usable and what influences a purchasing decision is entirely controlled by the buyer. And just like you can’t manage what you don’t measure; you also can’t influence what you don’t understand – the visitor’s intent.
Design is the façade around the technology. It adds curb appeal to the website and directs the visitor’s eye towards a desired experience path. Great design directs a visitor’s actions through the effective use of colors, graphics and lines.
The design is initially recognized by the visitor in forming their first impressions about our web business. Design is like a person’s clothes or dress style; it doesn’t provide substance but it forms our willingness to interact, to commit time, and to frame the possibility of fulfillment.
And like people’s clothing style, we naturally associate stereotypes to a design to speed our decision process.
Whether fairly perceived or not, design plays a crucial role in setting expectations. A study found that 94% of negative website feedback was design related. With the average visitor spending 10 seconds or less determining our website’s relevancy with their goals, our designs either connect or expel them.
Ultimately design plays a supporting role to usability. Great design drives great usability.
Technology is a website’s foundation that must work seamlessly supporting the customer experience. Visitors shouldn’t notice the technology and typically only do when it is broken.
Technology is like a car’s engine; most drivers don’t know or care how it works, it’s just a vehicle to get them from point A. to point B. But it quickly grows frustrating when it slows down, breaks down or falls apart.
What is customer experience strategy?
Now that we’ve covered what makes a perfect online customer experience, we can dive into the strategy of it all. I believe we all know the “what” to a customer experience strategy: it’s simply the strategy to creating a perfect digital experience. Now that we’ve covered the basics, I’m going to twist this question and answer what makes a great customer experience strategy instead.
Remember, we want to craft our customer experience framework based on the buyer’s drive. If you recall from our answer to what consists of the perfect customer experience, there are two layers to your website that drive the buyer forward through your sales process: influencing and usability. As you create your strategy make sure these two things are always top of mind.
Tips for making a great online customer experience strategy
- Make sure you have customer-focused values that be communicated throughout your company. Having a purpose or set of values specifically for the customer experience will help you stay on track as you build out your strategy.
- Understand your customer. Who are they? What problems are the seeking to solve? Why would they hire you for the job they’re looking to fill?
- Always try to establish an emotional connection with your customers. Gone are the days of robotic sounding rhetoric. Users expect personalization and authenticity. Not focusing on the emotional motivation of your customers will simply result in lost dollars.
- Answer this question: what’s currently wrong with your online customer experience? What have your customers told you about that they dislike? On the contrary, what about your online experience is helpful to the customer? What do they like?
- Test. Optimize. Repeat. The most important part of any customer experience strategy is to be continuously improving. Take in employee feedback, survey your customers, use tools to track customer interactions, and test new ideas. Work to always be improving. The harsh reality of any customer experience strategy is that it must be a living entity. It’s not a one and done project. Your customer’s needs and wants are always changing so it’s important to always be monitoring it.
How would you create a memorable experience for a customer?
A recent study by PWC noted that 73% of consumers report that customer experience is the single most important factor in forming a purchasing decision. Nothing else was more important than customer experience. The proof is in the pudding. So how can we make our customer experience memorable?
I’ve been working with clients as a freelancer and as an agency owner for quite some time now. Every time I bring on a new customer, I showcase my transparency, empathy, and vulnerability. I promote feedback during the onboarding process, account management process, and through our digital experience efforts. By collecting all of these insights, I’m able to learn what matters most to my customers. Again, the proof is in the pudding.
In order to make a memorable customer experience, it’s imperative to connect with your customers personally. Innovator and Keynote Speaker, Simon T. Bailey, once said “relationships are the currency of the future”. He couldn’t be more accurate.
Find ways to connect with your customers that evokes emotion. Provide solutions no one else is providing, and go the extra mile to great the best experience possible. It won’t be easy but trust me, it’s definitely worth it.
How do you improve online customer experience?
Instead of going over ideas to improve the online customer experience, I’m going to give you a method to collecting data about your customers. I’m a firm believer that you need to drive with data and not assumption or what everyone else is saying. Your experience is like no other and your audience is specific to you. Collecting both quantitative and qualitative data about your customers will provide all the insights you need to come up with innovative ideas to improve your online customer experience.
Use HotJar (or tools like it)
This isn’t a sponsored post or even an affiliate link for the tool. If you’re starting out with monitoring your online customer experience, HotJar is the perfect tool for you. You can record live sessions of users using your site, create heatmaps and clickmaps, and run logic-based surveys and polls to collect data directly from your users.
Don’t Be a Stranger to Google Analytics
Whether you want to believe it or not, good ole’ analytics can tell you a ton about your users. You can learn about how much time their spending on certain pages, where they’re coming from (how they found you), which pages they’re leaving the soonest, I could go on for about another 8000 words. Spend time getting familiar with Google Analytics and the information you can pull from it. There’s plenty of free training provided by Google and even a solutions gallery for custom dashboards, reports, and segments.
Always Be A/B Testing
A/B testing is one of my favorite ways to optimize our online customer experience. Using this method, you create two versions of the same pages, emails, pop-ups, or whatever you’re creating and use the duplicate copy to change one thing you think will affect the conversion rate or usage of the site. For example, I have several email opt-ins on the site that pop up depending on certain actions taken. If I want to improve the conversion rate of my email sign ups for my blog readers, I’ll test two different variations of the opt-in until I have a “winner”. I’ll then implement that opt-in as the primary and start another A/B to improve it again.
Think for A/B testing as cyclical. Test. Optimize. Repeat.
Tools for A/B testing
Google Optimize (free)
Visual Web Optimizer (paid)
Take Employee and Customer Feedback Seriously
If you’re not on the front lines everyday, it can be extremely hard to know what your customers are experiencing. Set the expectation that your team should be open with you about pain points in the customer experience. This applies to both online and offline digital efforts. If you’re hearing the same problem over and over again, it’s a good indicator that something isn’t working right. I also recommend encouraging your team to be transparent and open with your customers about communicating any pain points they have along the way. You can’t rely on 100% of your customer complaints to be communicated. Some people have frustration and would have never told you had you not asked them to communicate with you.
In order to really focus on improving your online customer experience, you’ll have to think creatively. Like I said earlier, your process, experience, and audience is unique to you and only you. Some of my best efforts in customer experience optimization have been with creative, out-of-the-box thinking. By using the above four methods, you’ll have a really solid understanding of your customer experience. Use these insights to come up with creative solutions to the problems your customers are facing. No tool can beat the power of human creativity and innovation so don’t be afraid to use it.
Mind-Blowing Online Customer Experience Stats
Infographic by- Invesp