What does it mean to deliver an exceptional customer experience? That question is extremely nuanced, which is why this is part one of a four-part blog series dedicated to best practices for enhancing your customer relationships. It’s important for companies to realize that every customer interaction in marketing, sales, or service is a chance to increase customer satisfaction and retention. Unfortunately, customer service is a critical, but often an underwhelming aspect of the customer’s journey.

Today’s competition is all about customer experience

The Internet and mobile technology have evolved to where customers can instantly access comparative information about your products. For example, I use a mobile app to scan the barcode of products while shopping to see if I can find them cheaper nearby or online. With nearly ubiquitous comparative information at almost every customer’s fingertips, companies have a hard time building loyalty on attributes such as price, product, and features.

So how does a business create loyal customers? Gartner found that the number one attribute customers use to make decisions about products is the customer experience. In fact, Forrester discovered that customers will pay a premium for an exceptional customer experience. What this really means is your products and your brand are only as good as the service you provide.

Customers expect to find answers online

Customer expectations have changed in terms of how companies should deliver service and support. They don’t want to pick up the phone to call you every time they have a question. They’re tired of long hold times, long-winded answers from service agents, and calling multiple times to resolve their issues. Today, customers expect to find answers online. In fact, research shows more than 70% of customers prefer to get answers to their questions from the company’s website.

Help customers help themselves and each other

A portal where customers can search your knowledge base is a start, but to truly improve customer satisfaction, your company should launch an engaging, self-service community. Ping Identity, a leader in single sign-on solutions, unlocked the secret to self-service success by focusing on customer engagement. “A big goal of migrating to a community was to allow customers and partners to help other customers—to get people outside of our support organization answering questions,” said Patricia Rose, Ping Identity’s community manager. Working with system integrator Grazitti Interactive, Ping Identity customized feeds to allow non-authenticated users to view feeds, enticing casual browsers to become active participants and help each other to solve issues.

Providing the right technology is the first step. Enticing customers to become active participants in the community is the next. To further boost engagement, Ping Identity plans to build on its current gamification strategy with the introduction of an MVP program. “The biggest thing we’ll do going forward is to rely more heavily on rewards and recognition,” said Rose. From badges on customers’ profile pages to T-shirts and free flights to user conferences, the program will offer members a number of incentives to increase participation. “We’d like to get 10 or so super-active customers in there who will, in turn, bring in more activity organically,” said Rose.

Creating super-active customers is key to helping customers help themselves. The answers that these customers provide in the feed can be used by service agents to expand the knowledge base in the community to help customers find answers fast. But what happens when a question goes unanswered in the community? Join us next week to learn how to elevate your customers’ experience by connecting your community to your service desk and CRM system—a key differentiator in providing an exceptional customer experience.

If you would like to learn more now, please check out the Salesforce eBook, Customer Community 101.