How to Improve the Customer Experience – With a Checklist


A picture of wooden blocks spelling out "CX"

We take you through an approach to assessing the effectiveness of your customer experience and finding out where you can improve.

The Checklist

There are two key elements to designing a customer experience. Firstly, it needs to be easy, so customers don’t have to expend a great deal of effort, and secondly, it needs to be memorable.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about customer journey mapping, which you will have likely done to try to remove moments of friction within the customer journey. This is a great starting point to reduce customer effort, but every other organization is doing this as well – what’s going to make your customer experience stand out?

The principle of making it easy is critical, but we must also consider the customer’s emotional journey if we want to make our customer experience memorable.

With this in mind, we have created the checklist that’s available in the yellow box below, which is divided into six key sections.

  1. Easy to Contact
  2. Easy to Talk to
  3. Easy to Change
  4. Easy to Save Time
  5. Easy to Get Close
  6. Memorable

Each section contains a set of yes-or-no questions to assess how you are performing in each area, helping you to identify where you can improve the customer experience.

We also provide guidance on how you might consider improving in each area. So, if you marked the “no” box for any question, find that question in the relevant section below and read our advice for how you can make positive changes.

Click here to view our checklist

1. Easy to Contact

Are Advisors Equipped to Handle Every Query Type?

If the customer has any sort of issue, they should be able to contact you and get it resolved. This sounds obvious, but I’m sure you will have called into a contact centre only to be told that you can only solve your problem online or via a different channel.

Rejecting the customer’s channel of choice and making them use an alternative method, which they may not be comfortable with, doesn’t provide them with an easy experience.

Rejecting the customer’s channel of choice and making them use an alternative method, which they may not be comfortable with, doesn’t provide them with an easy experience.

If the only possible way is online, can you train advisors to take the customer through the process on the phone? Or at least take the customer’s email and send across a link to where they need to go?

Don’t worry about creating more contacts for yourself by doing this. Instead, you’ll increase customer satisfaction and, over time, customers will learn the quickest way to get things done. So, if you do have good self-service systems, this isn’t an area to focus all of your energy on.

Have We Connected Our Channels?

In a rush to implement new channels such as live chat, social media and messaging apps, many contact centres now manage these channels in silos, which can cause many friction points in the customer’s journey.

A thumbnail photo of Gerry Brown

Gerry Brown

Giving an example, Gerry Brown, Chief Customer Rescue Officer at The Customer Lifeguard, says: “You may send something to an organization via email, or you may post on Facebook before phoning the contact centre, and those channels aren’t integrated. This means that the advisor handling the call doesn’t have access to the email, or Facebook, so the customer has to repeat what was in their original message.”

Then, there are other issues like channel duplication, where the customer contacts you via multiple channels in the hope of gaining an immediate answer. Without joining your channels together, you’ll end up responding multiple times to the customer, potentially giving them different answers. So, what we end up doing is creating a lot of effort all around, and confusion for the customer.

We therefore need to assess the effectiveness of our technology to see if we are making it as easy as possible for advisors to gain customer information, to simplify our conversations.

Is Our Website Adapted for Any Device?

Our website needs to be not only suitable for desktops, but mobile phones and tablets too, as it should be easy for customers to find answers to common queries and reach out for human support.

We need to design a mobile website that is easy to use and provides that instant comfort factor to entice customers from the get-go.

Mobile is especially important, as it’s now the most used device for customers to search your website. So, we need to design a mobile website that is easy to use and provides that instant comfort factor to entice customers from the get-go.

To improve ease of use, click-to-chat and click-to-call links are great to add into your mobile apps, because we can pass on useful information to the advisor to help improve the customer experience. This information includes the customer’s identity, geographical information and historical activity.

For more on retaining context across digital channels, read our article: How to Create an Effective Digital Customer Service Strategy

Have We Tested Our Contact Centre Opening Times to Ensure They’re Suitable?

We want to get on top of customer problems, to take the weight from their shoulders and create a more effortless experience. So, in an ideal world, we’d like to increase the opening hours of the contact centre.

To assess whether or not this is viable, take a look at what happens to your call volumes when you are closed and listen to customer feedback on the matter.

To assess whether or not this is viable, take a look at what happens to your call volumes when you are closed and listen to customer feedback on the matter.

At the very least, we should be managing the queue properly, which we can do by using in-queue messages to highlight self-service options and schedule callbacks for the next day when the contact centre is open.

Can We Solve Customer Queries in Every Location?

There will likely have been a time where you’ve gone into a store and the assistant has said “you need to go online to do it”. That scenario can be very frustrating for customers. They want help there and then.

Gerry adds: “The reverse can be true as well, where the customer goes to handle something over the phone, but they are then told that they need to go into the store. Stuff like this drives people crazy, and away from your business.”

We need to think about if we can handle customer problems in every location, and if not, why not?

So, we need to think about if we can handle customer problems in every location, and if not, why not? While one way might be the easiest way, we can always let customers know for the future and focus on solving their issue in the here and now.

Are We Training Advisors to Take Ownership of Customer Queries?

In an ideal world, every advisor should be able to deal with every query type, but that’s not always realistic. What is realistic is for the first person the customer gets through to be able to take control of the call.

What the advisor should be able to do is tell the customer to leave the issue with them and talk to the person in the relevant department on the customer’s behalf and call back.

Customer’s hate to hear things like: “You need to call the other department.” What the advisor should be able to do is tell the customer to leave the issue with them and then talk to the person in the relevant department on the customer’s behalf and call back.

By doing this, we are not leaving it down to the customer to call somebody else or be transferred, we are taking responsibility.

While we can also improve our IVR and/or call routing strategies to ensure the customer is immediately put through to the best available advisor, training advisors to take ownership is key.

2. Easy to Talk To

Can Customers Contact Us for Free?

Customers should be able to contact us without spending their money, yet there are still some organizations using 0845, 0870 and 0871 phone numbers and charging us to call them.

According to Gerry: “I’m still seeing organizations with 0871 numbers charging 13p for customer service, and not only is it fundamentally wrong, in 2014, Ofcom banned companies using these numbers for ‘post-contract’ calls and this kind of thing needs to stop.”

Fortunately, most mobile carriers have 0800 numbers so customers don’t get charged and, if you haven’t already, attaining an 0800 number is something that you need to urgently look into.

Do Advisors Get Easy Access to Customer Information?

When a customer calls us, we should immediately know who they are – unless we haven’t had any previous interaction with them.

If a customer uses their smartphone and logs into the app, that information will ideally be sent through to you, so the advisor can track their journey. That’s where you get faster, smoother and more personal interactions.

If a customer uses their smartphone and logs into the app, that information will ideally be sent through to you, so the advisor can track their journey.

At the very least, we should be screen popping calls by detecting the customer’s phone number and presenting their details and contact history on the advisor’s screen.

Are We Proactive in Anticipating Customer Needs?

The next level of being easy to talk to is in anticipating customer needs and providing a proactive answer, without advisor intervention, before the customer has asked the question.

If we carefully assess customer journeys, we can create rules on when is best to intervene and insert triggers for sending out helpful proactive notifications to customers.

We can also be proactive in other ways, as Gerry says: “There are solutions out there which can analyse customer data, understand their current relationship with you, and determine when is the best time to engage with the customer and via which channel. This allows you to target them with specific offers and be proactive in understanding what they want.”

For more on the topic of anticipating customer needs, read our article: 7 Ideas for Proactive Customer Service

Do We Finish Interactions by Making Customers Feel Happy to Have Called?

Have you ever had a customer service interaction where the rep has told you that they’re not really responsible, but they’ll try and help you? We can only imagine that they then proceeded to plod their way grudgingly through the rest of the process.

To stop this from happening, it is great to group listen with your customer service team to an incident just like this and show them how bad this sounds and warn them against it.

Even if it’s a simple process for you to complete online, it doesn’t mean that it’s simple for everybody.

We want to make the customer feel glad that they called. And just remember, even if it’s a simple process for you to complete online, it doesn’t mean that it’s simple for everybody.

Make customers feel welcome and glad that they have called you and that will make for a much easier and much more enjoyable experience.

3. Easy to Change

Is It Easy for Customers to Change Their Contact Details?

Customers frequently change their phone number, email and home address, meaning that we should be providing an easy way for them to update their details on our website. Having to call into the contact centre to update this information requires unnecessary hassle for most.

Customers frequently change their phone number, email and home address, meaning that we should be providing an easy way for them to update their details on our website.

It is relatively simple and affordable for most organizations to install the required technology for this, yet there any still many companies will only enable you to do these things via the contact centre.

It would be interesting for contact centres within these organizations to track how much time they spend handling these issues and to assess how that translates into costs.

In the long run, you will likely be spending a lot of money for something that only increases customer effort.

Is It Easy for Customers to Change an Order?

The better organizations will clearly present customers with a timeframe in which they can make changes to their order, so they are fully aware of these non-avoidable limitations.

Also, these organizations will clearly signpost the option to change the order on the customer’s confirmation email and on the company website – under an “order history” option or something similar.

Clearly signpost the option to change the order on the customer’s confirmation email and on the company website – under an “order history” option or something similar.

What most customers don’t want is to go through the contact centre for this type of stuff or, worse, have a nasty surprise when they realize they can’t make changes to their order, having not been made aware of the timeframe.

Just make it easy for customers to do these basic things and the customer will feel more secure in buying from you in the future, which will likely result in increased sales.

Do We Train Advisors to Give Positive Alternative Options?

Customers can be demanding and we can’t always give them what they want. But it’s not always about saying “yes”, but about how you say “no”, and how you provide alternative options makes a big difference to the customer’s overall experience.

Gerry advises: “Rather than saying right away what’s not available, look to find out more about the customer and what their main priorities are, before using this information to try and turn the call around with some options that are available.”

Say: “I can’t do that for you, but what I can do for you is…” and promote the alternative option, linking it back to the customer’s main priorities.

If we can provide the customer with a simple alternative right there and then, say: “I can’t do that for you, but what I can do for you is…” and promote the alternative option, linking it back to the customer’s main priorities.

Focus on being enthusiastic, and if the customer continues to ask for the unrealistic option, advisors should be prepared to explain why it is not possible, instead of saying: “It’s company policy,” which is one of the most hated phrases in customer service.

For more advice on dealing with challenging customers, read our article: How to Handle Contacts From Challenging Customers

Is It Easy for Customers to Return Products?

Product returns can be a big problem for organizations, and if a customer returns something, they are likely disappointed with it. The only chance we have of them coming back to us is if we make it really easy to return their purchase.

To do this, we can include a return delivery label, packaging and clear instructions as to how they can return the item, so there is minimum effort for the customer, which can help to turn the experience around.

Include a return delivery label, packaging and clear instructions as to how they can return the item, so there is minimum effort for the customer.

We can also include an optional feedback section in our return documents to capture information as to why the customer has returned the product. We can then look for trends in why people return certain items and assess what we can do to stop others from having the same negative experience.

4. Easy to Save Time

Do We Provide Intuitive (Easy) Self-Serve Options?

Organizations often fall into the trap of trying to make everything digital, only to then wonder why the customer experience remains the same or even gets worse. We need to map out the customer journey first and assess which contacts are best suited to self-service.

If the contact reason is well suited to self-service, i.e. resetting customer passwords, test it rigorously before going live with it, ensuring it is simple, useful and personalized. This includes removing all company jargon and using easy terminology.

We must be testing our self-service systems continuously, using a platform with tracking capabilities to pinpoint the moments in which customers are bouncing from self-service to the contact centre.

But don’t stop there. Businesses are constantly evolving, so we must be testing our self-service systems continuously, using a platform with tracking capabilities to pinpoint the moments in which customers are bouncing from self-service to the contact centre.

While we want to prevent this from happening by improving our self-service system, there should always be an easy escalation from self-service to other channels of support, to provide customers with all the support that they may need.

Do We Make Online Information Easy to Find?

Customers want more than a static list of FAQs, and many organizations have reacted to that by creating forums and using a knowledge base that grows and learns as people ask questions.

What we need to do is check to see if content appears in a logical order, highlight key features and use a familiar navigation layout.

Also, if you are using a knowledge base, make sure you apply the same knowledge management techniques as you would for an internal system, such as:

  • Creating a set style guide
  • Developing the most important content first
  • Using different customer/advisor viewer settings

Have We Made Moves to Reduce Personal Information Repetition?

One common source of customer effort is having to repeat the same customer information.

Maybe the customer logs into their online account and types in their account number. Then, they decide to phone the contact centre and give the advisor their account number. Then, the contact gets transferred so they have to pass on their account number again.  You can see how this can become frustrating.

If we do not retain the context when contacts are transferred to another advisor, the customer will have to repeat a lot more than their account number.

While we can use the old “it’s for data protection” excuse, what we want is an omnichannel strategy, in which we can retain the context of the call, throughout its journey.

If we do not retain the context when contacts are transferred to another advisor, the customer will have to repeat a lot more than their account number – leading to an experience that is far from “easy”.

Do We Actively Try to Eliminate Repeat Contacts?

If we want to make life easier for customers, we should be trying to reduce the number of times they have to make contact with us.

For this reason, First Contact Resolution (FCR) has become a popular contact centre metric, as it helps us to measure a problem from the customer’s perspective.

By splitting the measure (FCR) across different contact reasons, we can discover which contact reasons cause the most effort for customers.

By splitting the measure across different contact reasons, we can discover which contact reasons cause the most effort for customers.

Then, we can conduct root cause analysis to understand why, which will inform our strategy for how we can eliminate these repeat contacts and remove effort.

Do We Teach Customers to Do Things Better or Faster?

We should be able to handle the customer’s problem whatever their channel of choice. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t let them know if there is a better and faster way to do something.

Gerry adds: “If you’re offering the customer an easier and faster way to do something, they’ll likely be happy to do it. Just talk them through it first, remembering to stay calm and patient.”

“By doing this well, you’ll make the customer feel good and confident that they can do it by themselves next time – leaving them thinking ‘that was easier than I expected’.”

Just remember not to force customers to use certain channels, but to coach advisors to know which is the best/easiest way of doing something so they can relay that message to customers, who may take up that option next time.   

5. Easy to Get Close

Do We Coach Advisors to Build Rapport Authentically?

It’s easy to tell when an advisor wants to help us, but that enthusiasm is something that’s hard to maintain when sticking rigidly to a script and toggling between screens.

However, when we sense that an advisor really does want to help us, it feels like a much easier experience.

So, while we can pass on a number of tips to build rapport, we need to focus on motivating advisors to want to help customers and we need to have a strategy behind how we do that.

For our advice on how to do that, read our article: 7 Great Strategies to Increase Staff Motivation in the Contact Centre

Do We Coach Advisors to Show Customers They Care?

As a basic customer need, customers just want to feel understood. They just want you to show that you know who they are and to recognize some of their challenges.

The key is therefore in making it personal, showing empathy when required and not using a tone that somehow implies that it is in fact the customer who is at fault.

The key is therefore in making it personal, showing empathy when required and not using a tone that somehow implies that it is in fact the customer who is at fault.

This comes down to hiring people with the right values, treating them well and having supportive team leaders who have important conversations with customer service reps.

These quick conversations will ideally take place after every few contacts to remind advisors how important each contact is for each customer, helping them to avoid any feelings of complacency and monotony.

Do We Empower Advisors to Delight Customers?

When we talk about creating amazing customer experiences, we often refer to brands like John Lewis, Ritz Carlton and Zappos. This is because it’s easy to find lots of great stories of how they have done wonderful things for their customers.

The counter-argument is that you just have to make things easy for people and that you don’t have to delight people. But Gerry argues that sometimes you do.

If an advisor recognizes that the organization has made a mistake, shows the customer that they understand that and is prepared, empowered and engaged to do something about it, that will make all the difference in the world.

Gerry says: “If an advisor recognizes that the organization has made a mistake, shows the customer that they understand that and is prepared, empowered and engaged to do something about it, that will make all the difference in the world.”

A good place to start is by sharing, in group listening sessions, good examples with advisors of how other members of the team have helped to delight customers and encouraging them to do the same in similar situations.

6. Memorable

Have We Carefully Considered the Customer’s Emotional Journey?

Creating a memorable experience is how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors, who will also be focused on removing frictions from their customer journeys and making the experience as easy as possible.

Remember, customers have two basic needs: their functional and their emotional needs, so we need to ensure that our customer journeys cater for both. Embracing this is the first step towards creating a memorable customer experience.

Then, we need to come to terms with the structure of the customer’s emotional experience, which follows the “Peak-End” rule, as shown below.

If we can create two distinct peaks, one in the middle and one at the end, of positive emotion – this will help us to build a memorable experience for customers.

Have We Defined Which Emotions We Want to Evoke?

We’ve established that we want to create peaks in positive emotions, but we need to be more specific than that and think about which specific emotions drive the most value.

A thumbnail photo of Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw, Founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, explains how to do that by creating an “Emotional Signature” that’s specific to your brand in our article: 7 Steps to Evoke the Emotions You Want From Your Customers

When we know which emotions we want to drive, we can create a set of promises and commitments around each emotion, which we can then test at each touchpoint of the customer journey, to see if we are “hitting” them.

This will help to provide consistency throughout our journey, but we also want to create those two peaks in certain emotions, which we have now defined…

Have We Added Rewards to the Customer Journey in the Moments That Matter?

To provide the two peaks in positive emotion, we want to add rewards to stimulate our defined emotions and create memories that the customer will forever associate with our brand.

This doesn’t mean creating a reward scheme, but something that’s embedded into the journey that makes a customer’s life more fulfilled. This is not to be confused with easier; this is something else.

This doesn’t mean creating a reward scheme, but something that’s embedded into the journey that makes a customer’s life more fulfilled.

So, we need to think about our defined emotions and develop rewards ideas that will stimulate those emotions, while ensuring that they are “presented” to the customer somewhere in the middle and at the end of their journey.

Do We Measure the Emotions That Drive Value for Us?

Creating memorable customer experiences is a tough task, so we need to check whether or not our efforts have been successful, and measuring customer emotion is how you will likely choose to do that.

For this, we can use the metric “Net Emotion Value (NEV)”, but the best method is to use an analytics system in the contact centre to detect words that indicate certain emotions.

If every contact goes through this process, we can aggregate our findings to discover how good a job we are doing, tracking them to see how the customer journey unfolds.

For more on measuring emotion, read our article: How to Measure Customer Emotion

In Summary

A great customer experience is low effort and memorable, but these two things are hard to quantify and assess so we can gauge our overall performance.

With this in mind, we have created our checklist to see where you can improve, as well as to highlight areas in which you are already doing a good job.

We hope that you find this useful, and please do read through our tips carefully and search the Call Centre Helper website for even more advice if you honestly answered any question with a “no”.

For more on improving the customer experience, read our articles:

Published On: 2nd Oct 2019 - Last modified: 16th Oct 2019
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , , , , , ,


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