Creating and Measuring Customer Experience

By Betty Uribe, Ed.D.

March/April 2013

In the “new normal,” customer experience must replace customer satisfaction. It’s not unusual for business owners to think good customer service will yield sustainable profits; the key is to understand what TYPE of EXPERIENCE will yield customer loyalty, (for example, a loyal raving fan who will tell others about your company), and sustainable profits. But in today's ultra-competitive market, it’s unwise to leave this important component of success to chance. According to the U.S. Consumer Affairs Department, it costs five times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. So when customers are unhappy, excellent customer care can make the difference in retaining their business and loyalty. Here are three tips for creating and measuring customer loyalty:

1. Craft a Powerful Customer Experience Plan

A good service initiative can minimize stress for customers and staff, increasing morale and satisfaction on both sides. These guidelines will help structure your service strategy:

  • Establish a starting point. Conduct a company assessment to evaluate existing policies. Have you established a customer-centric culture?
  • Collect data. Review customer feedback and establish clear objectives – customer focus groups are a great way to get candid feedback.
  • Evaluate data. All information is not equally helpful so consider what is timely, affects long-term performance trends and addresses the issues most important to your clients.
  • Create a vision and establish policies. Your vision for customer care should be concise in order to unite staff around a single goal. Your policies should be clear, simple and straightforward and should align with your vision.
  • Train your staff. Be sure your employees understand how important customer experience and loyalty is to the company's success and longevity.
  • Create a customer-centric culture. Consistent follow-up is important. A customer experience plan should incorporate ongoing data collection for continuous evaluation.
  • Reward good performance. Recognize and praise employees who have delivered excellent and sustainable customer experience.

2. Let Your Objectives Drive Methodology

  • Set clear objectives. Early in the process, decide what you want to measure and learn from your customers.
  • Choose the right measurement tool. There are several effective ways to collect data. Customer questionnaires and surveys work well for obtaining a statistically valid customer experience measurement. Focus groups can be used to explore more complex customer experience issues.
  • Conducting a survey. Decide how, when and where you'd like to implement the survey. For instance, at your place of business as clients are leaving, through email or by direct mail?
  • Analyzing results. Decide how you want the results analyzed and reported. Depending on the survey size, this process might require spreadsheets or special software. It might also be helpful to analyze the data in terms of demographics or by department.

3. Build an Effective Survey

Surveys are the most popular method for measuring customer experience. A few rules apply when developing an effective survey:

  • Decide who takes the survey. Which segment of your customers do you want to hear from?
  • Start with several potential topics and edit the list to include only those areas most applicable to current corporate needs and resources.
  • Consider using a Likert scale or ranking method to determine customer priorities. For example, questions could be answered with "very dissatisfied, dissatisfied, indifferent, satisfied or very satisfied."
  • Avoid open-ended questions.
  • Include a brief introduction to explain the purpose.
  • Edit and test the survey before sending it out.

After analyzing feedback, determine the best changes to make. Are there adjustments that could have significant impact on customer experience? Do others require little time or resources? Be sure to share your findings with staff and, when appropriate, with your customers. Today's consumers may be demanding, but business owners who know how to make them happy are far more likely to develop a loyal following.

Betty Uribe is an Executive Vice President of California Bank & Trust, which recently launched a new financing initiative aimed at minority and women-owned businesses in California called TEAM (Tools, Education, Access and Mentoring).  For more information, please visit