No product or brand can fulfill the needs and expectations of every person every time. Companies that try to please the masses usually underwhelm their true target audience and gain little in the exchange. Even if you manage to create an incredible experience in red, there will always be people who prefer blue.

Great customer experience (CX) does not exist in a vacuum. To design an experience that keeps people coming back, focus less on wowing the crowd and more on creating a plan that consistently delivers satisfying results.

The Truth About Perfect CX

No single experience reigns supreme, but that doesn't mean companies should stop trying to up their CX game. Recent research found that 96 percent of B2B buyers base their decision on whether to buy again partly on the experience they receive. Even better, 83 percent of people who receive a good experience will refer you to a friend.

Customer experience is obviously important. However, that importance can lead marketers and business leaders to set unrealistic expectations for themselves.

Instead of chasing an unachievable, superlative experience, set realistic goals and implement customer engagement plans to achieve them. Strive for consistency over perfection. Sure, some people won't get the message--and that's fine. Your job is not to turn your funnel into a waterfall with a conversion rate of 100 percent.

Stats about how customers will leave over a single bad experience are misleading. Those customers might leave if they feel dissatisfied, but even happy customers will find a new provider if they see a better option. It's all about navigating expectations: The best way to make people stay is for a brand to make good on its promises.

Hard Truths About Good CX

To create sustainable loyalty, rethink the way you approach the customer experience. Stop pursuing unrealistic dreams. You can still provide conversion- and loyalty-boosting experiences outside of utopia. To do that, take these three hard CX truths to heart:

1. You will never reach perfection, but neither will they.

You know you can't deliver perfect CX every time. The good news is, your competitors can't either. Take advantage of the competition's fallibility by identifying opportunities to outshine them in the eyes of customers.

"You don't need to know everything, and your outcomes don't need to be flawless; but you need to understand why customers would choose you over others," says Jennifer Tomlinson, senior manager of channel marketing at Microsoft.

Unlearn your obsession with perfection by setting appropriate goals. What key performance indicators are important to your company? How quickly should you respond to customers? Could you improve that response time? Define internal metrics and work to improve those. You may never reach perfection, but through deliberate, incremental improvement, you can do much better than most.

2. You can't prioritize every customer.

People who tell you to go above and beyond for every customer are snowing you. You can't be above average in every encounter--it's mathematically impossible. As CX guru Paul Greenberg says, "You simply cannot delight your customers all the time."

Don't throw the proverbial kitchen sink at every customer in the hopes that the application of overwhelming resources will lead to bottom-line results. Instead, make sure you deliver on every promise you've made to every customer. Reserve the lavish appreciation for top customers who deserve it.

Own this hierarchical system throughout your organization. Teach reps and other teams to give special treatment to your best customers. Never leave regular people hanging (remember, fulfill every promise), but don't go crazy trying to meet an unsustainable standard of excellence for one-time buyers.

3. You won't get the full picture from data.

As much as everyone loves data these days, numbers never tell the whole story. Humans are feelings-forward beings who sometimes react irrationally to the situations in front of them. "Neuroscience tells us human beings are immensely irrational and emotional creatures, meaning each one of us is a puzzle that can't be totally solved," says Jeannie Walters, CX consultant.

Rather than take data as gospel, look for patterns in your data to help design the best experience for the most people. For instance, if you regularly get complaints about your shopping cart, look to the data for guidance. Is your bad shopping cart costing you a significant number of conversions? Have you designed an experience that works better for your back-end developers than for your buyers? Consider these factors as you decide when and why to respond to perceived needs.

Your customer experience may not be perfect, but thankfully it doesn't need to be. Customers don't want perfection--they want relevant, reasonable experiences that give them what they need when they need it. Embrace these truths and start setting more realistic goals that will boost your bottom line.

Published on: Mar 15, 2019
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