If you're not looking for new strategies to improve your customer experience, you probably should be, because it’s one of the keys to a thriving, successful business with longevity. A positive customer experience means a better reputation and a company that people want to do business with. Following are some ideas to help make that happen:

1. Have a vision, and see it through

If you have a clear vision for how the customer experience should operate, you’ll be better able to help it come to fruition. Many small businesses simply take the approach of putting out fires as they appear, often without even realizing it. Setting your business up to provide an excellent customer experience all the time can make a world of difference — as long as you and your employees take the necessary measures to execute it effectively.

"The first step in your customer experience strategy is to have a clear customer-focused vision that you can communicate with your organization," says Steven Macdonald at SuperOffice.1 "The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles." He points to Zappos as a prime example of a company that accomplishes that by embedding their core values into the fabric of their business and driving the company's behavior.2

2. Look for ways to reduce the likelihood of inconvenience

If there's one quality customers are looking for other than price, it's convenience. Every facet of your customer experience should be designed to make things as easy on the customer as possible. To see the value in this, just imagine any time you've had to wait in a long line – whether to buy something or to return something – or that you've had to navigate a series of recorded messages on a telephone line to get through to a person who then wasn’t even able to help you.

These things happen to everyone, and they're annoying every time. Put yourself in the customer's shoes in every touchpoint they may have while doing business with your company, and identify potential obstacles to convenience. Use “secret shoppers” or have employees try out all your systems to make sure they’re working smoothly. From there, figure out what you can do to make improvements.

3. Emphasize speed

Placing an emphasis on speed goes hand-in-hand with reducing inconvenience. There's nothing more convenient than completing a transaction as quickly as possible. This is one of the reasons Amazon has become the juggernaut it is. They make it incredibly simple to place an order and receive it quickly. In fact, if you're a small retailer, competition from Amazon is reason enough to up the speed and increase convenience factors. 

This doesn't merely apply to purchases, however. As serial entrepreneur Ajay Prasad says, "Listen and respond to customers immediately. Whether online or in private, you need to ensure that personal interaction is there. If you find out that they had a bad experience, give them a call. If you find out they had a great experience, let them know they are always welcome back. Also, respond online to ALL reviews: both positive and negative. Let customers know that their voice has been/will be heard."3

4. Get feedback, and use it

The concept of getting customer feedback is nothing new, but are you getting it in as many ways as possible so you can turn it into something that might improve your business? Make it as easy as possible for customers to give feedback. That means providing feedback opportunities through a variety of channels: verbal conversation, surveys, online chat, email, social media, etc.

You must remember that not everybody will interact with your business in the same way after the transaction is complete. Some will take to Facebook or Twitter. Others will leave a Yelp review. Others will simply come into the store and complain after telling people about their experience. The point is, you need to be paying attention to all these channels and doing something about the feedback you're getting.

Customer experience should be a priority for any business, and most no doubt consider it be. Putting it into practice, however, takes some thought and empathy for the customers.

1. https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-strategy/

2. http://about.zappos.com/our-unique-culture/zappos-core-values

3. https://www.ngdata.com/how-to-improve-customer-experience/

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC