Throughout my journey as a salesperson, entrepreneur, marketer, and product manager, there is nothing that I place in higher regard than Customer Experience (CX). CX has emerged as the key component and differentiator that can make or break a company. Gone are the days when opening a business because of location, satisfying demand, and/or filling market gaps were the only things that you needed to survive and thrive. Even if your business idea is ingenious or the first of its kind, there will soon be competitors in the market that will be hunting for your customers. An idea as revolutionary as Uber is an excellent example of how not maintaining good CX can leave the door to the market open for your competitors. Even though Uber was the first of its kind, it has been gradually losing ground to competitors such as Bolt, Yookoo Rides, and others because of price, availability, and most importantly, the experience of its clients.
Your business is no different to any other in terms of the threat that inferior CX poses. So, to ensure your business is meeting and exceeding customer expectations, conducting regular CX audits has become an indispensable practice.
So you may be asking “How do I conduct a CX audit?”, or “What’s so important about CX?” Well, let’s find out!
1. Understanding Customer Expectations:
The first step towards conducting a thorough and useful CX audit is to gather data on what exactly your customers expect. Analysing this data is the only real way to begin understanding where your strengths and weaknesses are.
Conducting customer experience audits helps businesses gain valuable insights into customer expectations. By analysing customer feedback, businesses can identify patterns and trends, allowing them to align their products and services with what customers truly desire.
Here’s a great example: A retail company discovers through a customer survey that its target audience values fast and convenient online shopping experiences. Armed with this information, the company can optimise its website, streamline the checkout process, and enhance overall digital accessibility. Likewise, for stores with physical locations, is the layout of the store easy to navigate? Are your staff friendly and helpful? Are your PoS systems working efficiently to minimise queueing time? All these factors need to be considered.
2. Building Customer Loyalty:
Loyal customers are the lifeblood of any successful business. It’s 10x more expensive to obtain a new client than it is to retain an existing one and one bad experience travels further by word of mouth than five good ones. CX audits enable organisations to pinpoint areas where they can enhance customer satisfaction, leading to increased brand loyalty and repeat business.
Example: An airline company conducts a comprehensive customer experience audit, identifying that passengers value personalised services and seamless travel experiences. By implementing changes based on this feedback, such as tailored in-flight services and efficient check-in processes, the airline strengthens its customer loyalty.
One South African airline that has (in my opinion) hit the nail on the head is FlySafair. Their implementation of an easy-to-use app, consistent punctuality, and general good service is not typical of low-cost airlines, which is why they continue to dominate the local market and scoop up a host of awards and accolades including The National Company of the Year award, and Best Airline Award (which was voted for by the public i.e. their customers and potentially even those of their competitors)
Again, customer feedback and trend data were imperative for their innovations and ultimate success.
3. Identifying Pain Points:
Customer experience audits help businesses identify pain points in the customer journey. By recognising and addressing these pain points, companies can prevent customer dissatisfaction and potential loss of business.
Example: An e-commerce platform discovers through user feedback that customers are frustrated with a complex returns process. The company responds by simplifying the return procedure, reducing friction, and ultimately improving the overall customer experience.
This is a tricky one, no company enjoys having to give refunds, but it’s part and parcel of any business. The difference (again, in my opinion) is that companies who are not afraid to give a refund or accept a return without putting up a fuss or making the process so complicated and drawn out that the customer eventually gives up will reap the rewards of consistent return business. This is not to say that you should be handing out refunds left, right, and centre, but when a refund or return request is valid, make sure that the client is satisfied by the end of that process and watch them come back again and again.
4. Staying Competitive:
In a constantly evolving market, staying ahead of the competition is crucial. Regular customer experience audits allow businesses to stay informed about industry trends and ensure they are offering a superior experience compared to their competitors.
Example: A tech company monitors customer reviews and feedback in the competitive smartphone market. Recognising a demand for longer battery life and improved user interfaces, the company invests in research and development to launch a new product that addresses these specific customer needs.
This goes without saying, and a great real-world example of this battle would be the ongoing war for market share between Apple and Android (together with Android smartphone manufacturers, most notably Samsung). When one comes up with an innovative idea, the other is hot on their heels to take that concept and improve it, resulting in better quality devices with better features, more processing power, and for some the most important part – cameras!
5. Enhancing Employee Engagement:
A positive customer experience is often linked to engaged and motivated employees. Customer experience audits can highlight areas where employee training or support is needed, fostering a customer-centric culture within the organisation.
Example: A hospitality chain identifies through customer feedback that staff communication is a key factor influencing guest satisfaction. The company invests in communication training for its employees, resulting in improved customer interactions and overall guest experiences.
This is not only applicable to the hospitality industry but is a cornerstone of any industry. If your employees are happy, motivated, well-paid, and incentivised, your customers will be happier, and your business will see the benefit.
So how do we conduct a CX audit?
Well for most of you, you will have already seen that I’ve set out the steps. The one question that remains is how do I get started and successfully implement this audit? The answer is data, data, and more data! Online reviews, customer surveys, customer attrition vs retention rates, compliments and concerns, and any other data source that you have at your disposal are all immensely valuable.
The last step, and one that most managers, executives and business owners seem to overlook is “putting yourself in the customer’s shoes”. Go through your online checkout process, visit your stores, listen to recordings of clients who have phoned in, and try to return an item that you have purchased from your company. This is probably the most valuable data source that you have at your disposal. If you have gone through the same process that your customers have gone through and found it to be frustrating or negative, you now have a first-hand experience of where the fault lines are, and have a better grasp of how to make the necessary changes.
At the end of it all, conducting customer experience audits is a strategic imperative for businesses looking to thrive in the modern marketplace. By understanding customer expectations, building loyalty, addressing pain points, staying competitive, and enhancing employee engagement, businesses can unlock the full potential of CX as a driver of success. Regular audits ensure that companies remain agile and responsive to the ever-changing landscape of customer preferences, leading to sustained growth and customer satisfaction.