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Customer Experience

What is CX

What is CX

Buzzwords and acronyms come and go in business. So if you’ve seen CX and not known what it means, you are not alone. CX means Customer Experience, and it’s not a trend. It’s a foundation of good business, because it impacts customer purchase decisions. Also, strong CX creates referrals and repeat business. Additionally, it builds revenue because studies show that customers are willing to pay more when they have a positive customer experience. Clearly, it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand what is CX and how to use it strategically.

Understanding CX

First, to explain what is CX. CX describes the overall perception and feelings a customer has when, well – being a customer. From the first interaction to completing a purchase, the customer journey includes many steps and stages. Understandably, this is different for every business. Because for a retail store, an attractive entrance and welcome greeting is the first impression. Meanwhile, for an e-commerce business, the ease of finding product information matters first. Therefore, it’s important that every business considers the journey their own customers experience.

Customer Journey Mapping

And what is customer journey mapping? It’s a visual of the stages, touchpoints, and emotions a customer experiences. It’s looking at your business from the viewpoint of your customer. From awareness to the decision process, then receiving the product or service, and on to the post-sales relationship. The goal is that every customer has a positive experience and is not only a loyal, repeat buyer, but an advocate. Meaning, that they give your business positive reviews online and refers you to family and friends.

What is CX - Customer Journey Map

CX for the Entrepreneur

Due to the importance of CX on purchase decisions and customer retention, it’s become a separate function for most large corporations. After all, it’s been measured that improving CX by 1 point can mean millions of dollars in revenue for many industries. So a CX department with trained professionals is a worthwhile investment. (Note: I completed the Professional Certificate in Customer Experience course at The CX Academy)

However, the reality is that most small businesses don’t have the resources to hire a dedicated CX professional. Like with many aspects of entrepreneurship, CX is a DIY activity. Rather than getting into a complicated framework of explaining and measuring CX, I’m going to explain the foundations of what is CX for small businesses. Quite simply, understanding customer experience are these 4 elements:

1. Deliver Promises

Be sure that the reality of what your customer experiences matches what is being presented with your brand messaging. If your company is putting itself out there as being professional and informed, then staff shouldn’t be in a torn uniform, or poorly trained. If a 30 minute sales call is booked for Monday at noon, show up and complete it in 30 minutes.

2. Clearly Communicate

Information gaps and errors loses consumer trust – fast. And people talk more about a bad experience than a good one. So clearly communicate – in emails, on the website, and in any customer facing documents. Don’t be vague, as in “respond soon”. Instead, say “respond before the end of the next business day.”

3. Be Consistent

Document processes and monitor KPIs so that standards of service are maintained at all times. Because every customer should have a quality experience, every time, Someone shouldn’t have great service on a Monday and terrible service on Friday.

4. Reduce Effort

Finally, a pillar of good CX is to reduce effort for your customers. Quite simply, make it easy for them to do business with you. This covers alot of ground. For example, automating processes to update their payment information or contact details. Or providing online options to reschedule appointments at their convenience. It may mean reducing the number of clicks required to place an order on your website. Implementing a 1-click checkout transformed Amazon into the ecommerce giant it is today. Essentially, view everything from the perspective of your customer, and brainstorm ways to make interactions easier and faster.

Examples of Good CX

Surprisingly, good CX is often because of what doesn’t happen. As in, there is no frustration, no wrong information, or no long wait. Alternatively, good CX is created from small acts of communication and appreciation that add up to just feeling good about buying from that business. Here are a few examples of good CX:

Clear Communication

  • A service call is booked for Tuesday at 2pm. An email on Monday morning reminds the customer, and provides a link to reschedule if they require it.
  • Emailed updates or tracking links so customers can monitor the processing of deliveries and returns.

Appreciation

  • Tucking a branded notecard with a handwritten thank you when packaging orders.
  • After renewing a snow removal service for another year, the customer receives an email thanking them for their loyalty. It includes a discount code for a local home decor store. This is a powerful collab! For more examples on how to use collaborations to grow your business, read this article..

Recognition

  • A customer calling to talk about their lawn cutting service doesn’t have to give their full name and address, because their customer profile pops up on screen by keying in the phone number they are calling from.
  • Arriving at a salon and being greeted by name, before offering your usual order of black coffee.

Examples of Bad CX

Unfortunately, there are many examples of bad CX. Primarily because companies have not done the work required for understanding customer experience. Remember, CX is as much about perception and emotion than fact. It may only be 5 minutes on hold, but if the customer was expecting to wait 1 minute, this will be a negative experience. Examples include:

What is CX Examples

Online

  • After reading the FAQ of a website and needing more help, you click on “Contact Us” which just leads back to a Help Section and the same FAQ page.
  • An item listed on sale for $19.99 gets added to the cart for $24.99.

In person

  • Changing rooms are locked and no staff person is around to unlock them.
  • Items are not tagged with the correct price. Or are missing tags and signage.

Communication Gaps

  • Sending in an enquiry or question and being informed that a representative will respond shortly. What is shortly? 1 hour? 1 day? Lack of clarity is bad CX.
  • The sales rep explains the service will take 3 hours and the technician will arrive at 9am. Then the technician arrives at noon and says the work requires 6 hours.

CX and your business

As shown above, CX can positively or negatively impact revenue. Strong CX contributes to customer retention, repeat business, and referrals. However, just one bad CX experience can cost you a customer forever, negative reviews, and word of mouth. Now that you have a solid understanding of what is CX and why it matters to your business, here are some ways to start making improvements. Look at your business from your client’s perspective, and consider:

  • How easy is it to find contact details?
  • How long is the wait to connect with a person?
  • Do customers ask questions that are not covered in the FAQ?
  • Are there gaps between what is being promised and what actually happens?
  • Are delays or changes clearly communicated?
Overall, make CX important when making decisions about customer communication, ordering, payment processing, and delivery. 

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What is a CRM

What is a CRM and why every service business needs one

If you are an entrepreneur running a service business without a CRM, you are missing out. Truly. A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management software. They can be fairly simple or very sophisticated. In all cases, it’s a powerful tool to manage customer communication and relationships. Read on to understand what is a CRM and why every service business needs one.

CRM explained

Essentially, CRM software is a database. It’s a hub to centralise all available information about customers. Though this includes basics like contact details, it also captures purchase history, preferences, and past communication.

Features of a CRM

Next, let’s look at the key features of a CRM. Understanding its functionality will make it clear the value of using it in a service business.

1. Analytics and Reporting

Because smart business decisions are based on data, tracking KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is very important. However, without software, this can be tedious and time consuming. Therefore, the reporting capabilities of a CRM is a valuable feature. Furthermore, these can be customised to fit each individual business. And this makes it easy to run reports on measurements that matter to your business.

2. Automating Communication

Since many CRMs have email marketing features, this allows for client communication to be automated. For example, setting up a happy birthday message to send on the right date means less administrative work. Also, this feature can be used to build loyalty and boost sales. See the next session for specific examples to implement in your business. Even if a CRM doesn’t have its own email marketing function, it can connect to MailChimp, FloDesk, or Klaviyo using Zapier.

3. Scheduling and Reminders

Use the scheduling feature of a CRM, and never forget a followup call again. This can be short term, like a post-service call for next Tuesday. Also, it can be long term, like setting a call for when a customer returns from vacation in a few months. Either way, it means centralising customer activity into one software. This is streamlining, which saves time and improves focus. Overall, it is smarter to use a CRM than crowd a calendar with tasks or search through a jumble of notes.

4. Customising and Centralising Data

CRMs offer many ways of tagging and categorising customers. Also, they usually allow for custom labels, so you can personalise for your business. By uploading files, photos, and documents, all information about a customer can be centralised. This cuts down on paper filing, as well as flipping through online folders and email boxes. Keeping all customer data in one place cuts down on administration time, and powers opportunities to build loyalty and drive sales. More importantly, it empowers all staff to have access to the same information.

5 Ways to use a CRM in a service business

5 Ways to use a CRM in a service business

Next, here are some real examples of how to use a CRM in a service business. Remember that when selling services to customers, the relationship they have with your company is critical for success. After all, when there are many options for landscaping, or dog walking, or house painting – then it’s their feelings and experience as your customer that determines whether they will buy from your business again. So here are 5 ideas you can use today:

1. Build Customer Relationships

For a service business, consumer relationships have a huge impact on the bottom line. Acquiring a new customer can be costly, so building a base of loyal, repeat customers provides stable revenue. When a business is starting out, it’s easy to keep track of customer details in a notepad online, or on paper. But as the client list grows, it’s impossible to remember it all. So use a CRM to record everything your customers care about. Did someone mention it’s their son’s birthday next week? Add that to their file in your CRM! Because a year from now, when you casually pass along Happy Birthday greetings in an email, their mind will be blown. This is a powerful way to build customer relationships. 

2. Build Customer Trust

Consumer trust is another factor that matters in a service business. Trust can be lost so quickly, which is why the data management function of a CRM has so much value. Every opportunity to demonstrate attention to detail builds consumer trust in your business.

Here is an example. In my last business, a customer once called in very upset because she’d been expecting services that day – but no one had shown up. She wasn’t even on the schedule! It looked like a screw up on our side, which would have hurt the relationship.

However, a quick scan of her file in the CRM showed that a month earlier, she had emailed in to cancel service for that day. Which she forgot about. After a gentle reminder of this, the situation immediately turned. Instead of being angry, she became apologetic. Using the CRM to record customer communication transformed the situation and prevented loss of trust.

3. Encourage Repeat Business

Use a CRM to leverage whatever seasonal cycles happen in your business, and craft a communication to encourage repeat business. If spring is a peak time for your window washing business, then use your CRM to filter everyone who booked that service last spring – and send them a message inviting them to book again. Reminder emails like this can be set up to go out at appropriate intervals. Alternatively, it can be automated to be sent a certain number of weeks or months after their last purchase.

4. Close More Leads

No business closes 100% of leads. Whatever the closing rate is, a CRM can be used strategically to increase it. Just connect the CRM with email follow ups to automate and streamline the sales process.

Personalise the messages using the data you have about the lead. For example, the email can be set up with fields for first names, address, service description, and the price quoted. When the potential customer receives that followup, they have all the information they need to make a decision and take action, without having to dig through their own records.

5. Upsell

For businesses offering multiple service lines, use the filtering capabilities of a CRM to upsell customers. For example, a landscaping business can send its lawn cutting customers emails inviting them to book leaf blowing. Or a hair salon sends information about colour treatments to customers who have never booked it. Knowing customers and what services they have used is an opportunity to promote the other services you offer, in a meaningful way.

CRM and Service Businesses

In summary, a CRM is a powerful tool to manage customer information. It centralises data, which streamlines processes and cuts down on administrative time. More importantly, it enables personalised communication which builds customer relationships and loyalty. And finally, it provides a way to generate reports that drive analysis and smart business decisions. For these reasons, every entrepreneur with a service business will benefit from having a CRM.

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5 Strategies for How to Handle Bad Reviews

5 Strategies for How to Handle Bad Reviews

As consumers, we know the importance of online reviews. As entrepreneurs, our relationship with them is, well, complicated. Because nothing feels better than getting positive feedback from a customer. And nothing can ruin our day quicker than a bad review. But the reality is that despite all your hard work and good intentions, bad reviews happen. Here are 5 strategies for how to handle bad reviews.

The influence of online reviews

As business owners, it’s impossible to ignore the influence of online reviews. Surveys show that 70% of people use ratings to filter out what local businesses they even consider. And over 92% of consumers rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions. A McKinsey study found that a small shift in rating makes a big difference. Just moving from 4.2 to 4.4 stars has the power to boost sales. So every review matters, and asking for feedback should be built into the customer experience journey.

The problem of fake reviews

At least 10% of online reviews are fake. The World Economic Forum estimates that fake reviews influence USD$152B of global online spending. From bots to review farms, it’s big business to create fake positive reviews to boost sales, and fake bad reviews to bring down competitors. Governments now recognize this problem, and in 2022 the UK announced reforms to protect consumers. More recently, the US Federal Trade Commission also proposed new rules. But legislation takes time to roll out, and enforcement can be challenging.

In the meantime, there are actions you can take to cope with the soul-crushing experience of negative reviews. Here are 5 strategies for how to handle bad reviews.

Strategy 1: Create a Boundary

The first thing to do is create a boundary to protect yourself from the impact of negative reviews. This means setting up the communication flow so that you don’t get dinged with the notification of a bad review just as you are about to head into an important meeting, or out for dinner with friends. 

This can be done using email settings, to send all review platform notifications to a special folder. Or, you can set up a new email, like “listen@company.com” or “reviews@company.com.” Use this email in all the places where your business is listed for reviews. Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, OpenTable -whatever makes sense for your sector, in your area. 

The point is to create a boundary between your usual activities, and review notifications. Then you don’t get your workflow destroyed by a 1 star review popping up and stealing all  your attention. Instead, you can build into your schedule time to check in on reviews, and deal with it in a methodical, controlled way. Or, if your company has a bigger team, monitoring reviews can be assigned to an operations manager, administrator, or marketing manager.

Strategy 2: Don’t Make it Personal

This one is tough. Because when it’s your business, it feels personal. But you are not your business. And sometimes, people leaving bad reviews are frustrated by more than whatever just happened as a customer of your business. They may have experienced a whole list of crappy things, and that small mistake set them off. People need to vent, and leaving a bad review online can release stress and annoyance. Accept that, and build up your own system to support you. Journaling is an excellent way to vent. Share with other entrepreneurs, who will certainly have their own stories of nightmare fake reviews and heartbreaking negative comments.

Strategy 3: Respond to Every Review

Yes, even the bad ones. How you respond to reviews is an opportunity to demonstrate the ethics of your company. Reasonable people know that things are not perfect 100% of the time. Therefore, how you handle problems and complaints can be a deciding factor in whether someone wants to buy from you. 

 

While it’s ok to have a standard line like “please reach out to our customer care team at care@email.com” don’t cut and paste the same response to every review. The point of the review is to show that your company is paying attention, and your team genuinely wants to do right by your customers. Using the same response for everyone looks like it’s automated and doesn’t come off as authentic.

 

For example, when I was running my household management franchise, a disgruntled former employee went on a binge with his young mates on a Friday night, leaving 3 1 star reviews within the space of an hour. In my response, I stated that we had no records of booking services for them, suggested they had left the review for the wrong company, and invited them to contact us to discuss. We actually landed a client out of this – she told us that the reviews seemed fake and that she respected the professionalism of our response.

bad reviews online

A real life example

Here is a story. When I was running my household management franchise, a disgruntled former employee went on a binge with his young mates on a Friday night, leaving 3 1 star reviews within the space of an hour.

In my response, I stated that we had no records of booking services for them, suggested they had left the review for the wrong company, and invited them to contact us to discuss.

Actually, we landed a client out of this! She shared that she felt the reviews were fake. And that she respected the professionalism of our response. The way we handled that bad online review built trust with our target audience and turned into sales.

Strategy 4: Research and Investigate

Sometimes, it is easy to spot the real reviews from the fake ones. Specific details may be clear that it was left by one of your customers. Be open to this opportunity to learn and improve. Research and investigate the circumstances. Even if it mentions a staff member that you think is a star. Because everyone can have a bad day. The review could indicate a chance to improve your processes, or training. And include this in your response, to show that you are taking steps to ensure the situation doesn’t happen again.

Strategy 5: Build Other WOM Tactics

As explained at the start of the article, online reviews are an important part of the customer decision process. But social proof and word of mouth (WOM) can come from other places. A referral program to encourage your customers to tell people about your business is effective for bringing in more revenue.

Also, be aware of positive feedback from your communication channels. If you deal with customers in person, on the phone, or over email, watch out for comments expressing satisfaction and happiness. Ask them if you can use their comment, and share it on your website, social media, and marketing materials. Finally, be proactive and create a customer feedback survey. Include this in after sales followup, or in newsletters. Statistics like “98% of our customers would recommend our company” can be pulled from survey data, and this is a powerful social proof for your audience.

The Bottom Line

To conclude, it is impossible to avoid bad reviews. It’s just a fact of doing business. So these 5 strategies for how to handle them are valuable.

First, protect yourself from the flow of reviews to your phone and desktop. That way, you can control when you sit down to look at them, and prevent the stress of a surprising 1 star review when your focus is needed elsewhere.

Secondly, understand that it isn’t personal, and build your own support system. Then, respond to every review. This demonstrates your professionalism and willingness to do the right thing for your customers. And this can also highlight the fake reviews.

Next, take a moment to investigate, to see opportunities to improve processes, systems, and training.

Finally, build your own sources of testimonials and feedback. Customer surveys and normal customer interaction can provide a wealth of data that can be used across different marketing channels. This gives authentic, positive information for consumers researching their purchase decisions.

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Rebecca Page-Chapman