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In challenging and uncertain times, startups and established corporations alike face painful decisions as they pivot to accommodate unexpected circumstances. Staffing requirements get evaluated, product roadmaps further prioritized, tools cut, and marketing spend trimmed.

However, there is one area that absolutely should not be compromised: the customer experience.

Because tough times for your company indicate tough times for your customers as well, it’s more important than ever for you to focus on customer retention and loyalty. The urgency to listen, respond, and care for your customers intensifies.

In this two-part post, we’ll walk through examples of ways to improve your customer experience to retain the customers you already have, even when resources are strained. We’re talking blocking and tackling: working on areas that are fundamental to your success and the happiness of your customers.

As companies worldwide turn their growth mindsets towards retention, now is the time to revamp outdated processes and documentation that have slipped by the wayside.

1. Ensure your support team is easy to contact and set up for success

At many companies, customer support is often the only team that consistently interacts with your audience. They understand intrinsically what customers hope to accomplish, help them solve problems, and preserve customer relationships as needs evolve.

They are the front line, and the processes and procedures they follow can mean a tarnished reputation or unvarnished success.

If business has slowed, focus on digging into any core process changes or necessary training sessions so that your team is equipped to provide the best experience possible for your customers. Consider what your customers need right now, as well as what they will appreciate down the line.

Check that the fundamentals are right, and that you make it easy for your customers to contact you. For example:

  • Make sure your contact information is easily accessible, e.g. in the header or footer of your website.
  • Consider activating live chat for your website so customers can reach out as they’re browsing your site. You can even send meeting invitations in case the customer would like to hop on a call right then and there or schedule one for later.
  • Make feedback collection a part of your post-fulfillment outreach.
  • Put processes in place for timely and appropriate follow-up on any current or future feedback.
  • Empower your success team with a churn mitigation strategy, so if a customer expresses a need to cancel your service, your support team knows how they can help customers through this difficult time.

Also share any historic, relevant feedback to the rest of the team, so the company can collaborate on reducing customer friction more effectively via the root cause.

Making these changes shows your customers that you’re here for them, and sets you and your support team up for long-term success. After all, acquiring a new customer can cost up to 25 times more than retaining an existing one.

Some quick points on collecting feedback during sensitive times

Be considerate in your outreach. Here are some highlights from this informative guide on how to handle your customer experience program during sensitive times.

Acknowledge the situation, and put your customers first. In your messaging, make it clear that the feedback you’re requesting from employees and customers is for their benefit. Show and act with empathy.

Take a break from metrics. Don’t be tempted to gather metrics for the sake of historic continuity, only to have to explain the variance during this time later on. Your energy is better spent on addressing what’s happening in the moment.

Listen, and respond. As you continue gathering feedback and communicating what your support team is seeing, stay nimble to react to situations as they evolve. Understanding is key, action is imperative.

How stepping up support impacts customer loyalty

Even if customers are happy with your main offering, the quality of support they receive affects their overall impression of your brand. Those who have negative experiences are very unlikely to stay a customer, let alone recommend you to others.

Here’s an example. A leader in the fintech space uses Delighted NPS surveys with additional questions to monitor their customer experience, and discovered that while their US customers were largely satisfied with their core product, they were unhappy with long support times for issues when they did arise.

Based on what surfaced in the feedback, they decided to increase their self-serve resources, added bandwidth for their US support team, and focused on decreasing first response and overall response times. They have now increased their NPS by ten points year over year from 28 to 38, indicating increased customer loyalty.

The easiest way to improve your support experience is to be proactive about asking for customer feedback. Templated 2-question surveys like NPSCSAT, and CES can provide a high-level metric and open-ended comments, where customers can share what’s top of mind.

To capture whether external factors or specific aspects of your experience are disproportionately impacting sentiment, customize these templates to go a step deeper with targeted follow-up questions for even more actionable insights.

Don’t assume that silent customers are happy customers. Get ahead of any issues by reaching out to customers, offering help, and asking for their input.

2. Fine-tune your self-serve help center documentation

Studies have shown that 67%, that’s two out of three customers, would rather solve problems themselves than contact customer support. 91% also said they would definitely use a knowledge base if it had what they needed.

Updating your frequently asked questions (FAQs) page or creating a knowledge base primarily costs time, and it’s unquestionably worthwhile. Creating digital resources is all the more timely if your support team is working remotely or on adjusted hours right now.

The benefit: you’ll reduce the number of tickets your support team has to handle, boosting case deflection rates, while providing customers with a preferable way to resolve issues.

Not sure how to identify the top questions your customers have? Here are some quick ways to find out:

  • Analyze the nature of your support tickets. Anything customers could fix themselves if you published a how-to?
  • Set up site search. Look through customer queries to identify what you can answer at scale with more easily discoverable documentation.
  • Take a look at customer feedback and reviews to see what issues customers have, but haven’t shared with you.

Self-serve documentation can be digital or physical

Based on common feedback patterns surfaced with Delighted post-purchase and post-shipment surveys, a global retail brand built out a self-serve FAQs page that shows up when someone indicates they’d like to contact customer support. By deploying FAQs on their website for top requests around their return policy and order tracking, they empowered customers to self-discover answers and deflected a substantial volume of requests from their support queue.

Documentation doesn’t all have to be digital or reactive, either. One of our other customers, a clothing startup, proactively provides care instructions with each order. The “fall-out” pamphlet can’t be missed, and walks customers through the dos and don’ts of washing the item to prolong longevity and satisfaction.

Once your documentation is up to date, set up CES web surveys to ask if your guides were easy to follow, or Thumbs up/down surveys to check if the article properly addressed their concerns. QR code surveys work great for printed materials.

3. Refine your fulfillment and onboarding processes

Retail companies like Zappos and Amazon raised the bar when they offered no-question returns and one-day shipping. Now, fast service, or at least clear expectations on fulfillment and onboarding timelines, are table stakes for B2B and B2C retail, software, and services.

As digital channels continue to gain popularity, especially in the current all-remote climate, customer communication throughout the purchase and onboarding process will only grow in importance. It can help with in-the-moment satisfaction and prime customers to realize value down the line.

When evaluating and testing these processes, use feedback surveys to monitor your customers’ response so you can pivot on a dime. If you’ve tried capturing feedback in the past but had trouble getting responses, you may need to consider trying a different distribution method, or switching up the timing of the survey.

Case in point, a renowned sports brand previously relied on post-checkout email-based surveys for feedback, with response rates hovering around 5%. Their response rates tripled when they started using Delighted NPS web surveys, capturing feedback immediately on the final page of the checkout experience.

Additionally, they included new touchpoints for post-delivery and post-return, completing the picture of customer sentiment they were painting throughout their purchase experience.

By capturing feedback through multiple channels at various touchpoints, you’ll gain the information necessary to inform high-impact changes. The right experience management software can calibrate plans to your needs, and help with analysis and reporting.

How companies improve fulfillment using customer feedback

Bonobos, a Delighted customer, experimented with their shipping process and measured the impact it had along the way. Continual feedback surveys let them know the change was not a hit.

“We were able to literally just watch the scores decline. That enabled us to have the confidence to roll back the change. I know that due to Delighted, we avoided disaster.”

— Andy Dunn, CEO & Founder of Bonobos

Delighted’s NPS tool continues to be their guiding star. They have also correlated NPS to lifetime value across each score, so they know the precise value of getting a customer to become a promoter.

Fulfillment goes beyond receipt of the product — you can also use digital or printed messaging to drive customer engagement, increase product stickiness, and create a community of promoters.

Spurred by feedback from Delighted, a smart home gym equipment startup revamped their unboxing experience, with a focus on downloading their app. By encouraging app downloads, they’ve created a community of users, including influencers who promote the brand on social media. Not only are they helping customers realize value, they’re also creating a memorable brand experience their customers are excited to share.

A real estate fintech company discovered their customers were experiencing a disconnect when being handed off between the selling agent and the closing agent through Delighted feedback. They reworked their onboarding flow so customers only have one point of contact rather than two. Smoothing that initial purchasing experience has led to a 2x increase in repeat investments over a 6-month period.

Start improving your customer experience

The improvements you put in place during this time will have lasting benefits to your business, and they don’t have to be costly initiatives. They take time and care to implement, and both your business and your customers will feel the benefit.

With a light-touch customer experience platform like Delighted in place (we offer a robust free plan as well), you’ll be able to surface issues that are low-cost to fix with high returns. Start collecting feedback with our experience management software — Delighted makes it easy.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll go over examples of how clarified messaging, incremental product enhancements, and staying aligned with customer needs can also improve your customer experience and help you retain customers.