Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Now more than ever, this sentiment rings true: It’s ultimately the customer who will decide the fate of a company, especially with expectations at an all-time high and tighter budgets forecasted over the next year.
In 2022, we saw one overarching theme from brands that excel at customer experience: to treat people as humans, not as targets. Successful companies did this through authentic and personalized content, real-time feedback through tech tools like CRM and an emphasis on employee engagement. If you didn’t prioritize the customer experience last year, you probably felt the effects, but it’s not too late to start.
Businesses should continue to implement critical customer experience tactics in the year ahead to ensure they are evolving with the needs of their customers. Here are a few you can expect to see in 2023.
Even more competition for your customers
Today’s consumers are savvy and expect excellence from companies where they spend their money. Your competition — especially up-and-comers in your industry — could potentially lure away your loyal customers by offering the same services but providing a better experience. One way to ensure this doesn’t happen? Making customer service your No.1 priority. This means getting it right every time, whether the interaction happens online, over the phone or in person.
Don’t restrict “customer service” to a certain department or team member. Instead, ensure the entire company is customer service-focused and able to help. Utilizing your tech stack and aligning teams within the same platforms is a great way to do this because it allows for real-time insight into each customer across all departments and, therefore, can eliminate tone-deaf responses and outreach. With so much competition in nearly every industry, you need to step it up with your customer service to showcase your value and retain customers.
Whether or not a full-fledged recession will come to fruition is up for debate, but many companies are already pulling back spending and tightening budgets. Expect that your customers will be cautious with their money this year; the days of paying for extraneous features are gone. Customers will expect highly efficient and cost-effective solutions, so be sure your products meet their expectations. One way to do this? Offer packaged deals and discounts to meet their needs — when budgets are tight, nothing is more appreciated than knowing you are getting a good deal. Not to mention, offering a discount while your competitors aren’t might be what moves the needle on turning a potential customer into a new one.
Companies will need to go beyond personalization with current and prospective customers this year; ensuring timely responses and providing instant access to an expert is a baseline expectation and is no longer enough. To hyper-personalize your customer’s experience, you need to leverage real-time data — website behavior, purchase history, most active times online and previous interactions to develop a deeper understanding of who they are, what their habits are and how your company can better serve them. Once you have this information, put it to good use to improve their experience based on their wants and needs.
Emphasis on post-sale loyalty
As more tech companies continue to offer subscription-based models, the days of one-off customer transactions continue to shrink. Now more than ever, what your business does post-sale is equally as important as the actual transaction itself in order to build loyalty. This brings us back to the point that personalization must go beyond the basics. A thank you email post-purchase, for example, is one of the easiest and simplest things you can do and may foster an ongoing dialogue. With so many communication technologies now available, doing nothing after a transaction is no longer an option.
AI is a must
It’s no secret that AI has a multitude of benefits and, up until now, has been a nice-to-have for businesses — but this will change in 2023. Between the release of ChatGPT and AI’s impact on the customer experience, implementing it is now a must-have to keep pace with your competitors. Things like chatbots versus waiting on the phone for customer service and automated callbacks can go a long way toward customer satisfaction. Good AI technology can make your customer feel as though the experience was crafted just for them, which is the ultimate goal.
The bottom line
Making changes and additions to your customer experience strategies can have a huge impact on maintaining loyalty and trust with your existing customers and grow a larger fan base that will stay with you for many years. If there were ever a time when a focus on the customer should be your priority, make it 2023.