The customer experience that you deliver in your business is becoming increasingly important across all industries. As customers have more options, many of them prefer to spend their hard-earned money with a business that will make the experience an enjoyable one. In fact, studies show that customers are willing to pay more for an experience that suits them better. Even with all the benefits of delivering remarkable customer experiences, many brands still struggle with the basics of it.

I just finished the first phase on a client project that included interviewing a number of its customers. What became clear about the industry is that there is a ton of frustration for stakeholders along various parts of the customer journey, due to a lack of communication, particularly around the process of how things work.

Over the past few weeks, I've been sending emails back and forth to the team at my lawyer's office, verifying they received documents I sent them, ensuring sure they have everything that they need, and inquiring about the process and next steps associated with a project they are working on for me.

Late last night, I received an email from the lawyer letting me know everything is in good shape, and they will file my paperwork today. She gave me a high-level overview of the next steps in the process before adding, "I notice that you haven't made any payments since your initial retainer in November. If you could please make another payment this week, I would greatly appreciate it."

My initial response was relief about knowing that the process is moving forward, but it was followed by frustration in what felt like an implication that I was late in making a payment. I'd never received a payment schedule, and the last time anyone mentioned anything to me about making a payment was for the retainer.

Again, ineffective communication is negatively impacting the customer experience. It happens all too often, but it doesn't have to. Here are three simple ways you can improve the customer experience your company delivers, by improving your communication.

1. Explain the process in advance.

Both within my client's industry and with the situation with my lawyer, the biggest source of friction along the customer journey was a lack of clarity around the process. As a result, a lot of extra emails were sent, and the waiting time between communications caused undue frustration and anxiety.

Avoid this by explaining the full process to your customers in advance. If the process is a long and complex one, don't feel like you have to overwhelm your customers with all the tiny details. But do give them enough information to have a fair idea of the roadmap ahead of them. As you approach each milestone along the way, consider giving them an even more in-depth look as to what the immediate next steps are.

2. Ensure customers are aware of what's required--from them and you.

Knowing the process in advance is always helpful. But when you map out what each of the parties involved in the journey are required to do and when, you help eliminate any surprises, delays, and, of course, further frustration.

Make a list of all the actions that need to be taken to get to a desired end result in a process along your customer journey. Then call out specifically who needs to do what, and when, to eliminate surprises, and keep the process moving in a timely manner.

Bonus points if you can provide resources for your customers that make it easy for them to access the information they need to complete those actions easily.

3. Communicate changes and provide status updates.

Even when you plan things out carefully, there will inevitably be times when things don't go according to plan. And even when they do, especially when the process is long, it is especially helpful for your customers to know what is going on and when. It ensures that everyone is on the same page at all times with how things are progressing.

For example, when I order food on one of my food-delivery apps, I love that I'm able to see where my order is in the process, and can even watch where my delivery person is as they bring the food to me. From the time I place my order until the time it arrives at my door, I'm never in the dark about what is happening with it. It gives me peace of mind and helps me plan my time accordingly.

No matter what industry your business focuses on, being transparent and clear in your communications with customers every step of the way will go a long way in keeping their business and earning more of it. 

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Published on: Feb 28, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.