We live in an age of great technological advancement, what are you doing to optimize the online customer experience? Too often we think of customer experience as personal conversation with customers or a pleasant looking store or polite employees. We, too often, place too little concern on popular, preferred medium of business of today, the Internet, which leads to a poor digital online experience. Is your Web site contributing to your customers’ experience?

One of the common problems with online marketing and advertising is that businesses can spend vast amounts of money on online advertising, search engine optimization, and marketing campaigns to attract customers, but these online marketing campaigns do little to contribute to the actual customer experience.

My Zappos Great Digital Customer Experience:

Zappos Customer Experience

I recently had my first shopping experience with Zappos. I’ve studied Zappos for several years now, but just recently shopped with them. The entire experience was a breath of fresh air.

Zappos clearly has clean, useful, purposeful customer-focused Web site that creates a positive online customer experience. The Web site is cleanly laid out, looks professional, is intuitive, and is laid out in a helpful way for customers to purchase online. Notice how easy it is to quickly find the type of items you would potentially be looking for with Zappos. Say you’re searching for kids clothing, specifically for a boy or a girl. How easy is it to find what items Zappos has available? How about Zappos’s policies on shipping or returns? No doubt about that, everything is clearly listed on every page.

A Digital Customer Experience with Some Work to Do:

Car Parts Customer Experience

I’ll be honest, I’ve never dealt with this Web site. I can’t speak for their service, product, or the company. All I can say is what I see when I visit their brand online. I notice that they clearly are a legitimate business, I see a picture of their trucks they use for their business. But if I were looking to shop for car parts from them, what would my experience be? How do I know that they have what I’m looking for? Say I were looking for mufflers, or brakes, or some other car part? How easily could I find what they have? Can I contact them? What is their shipping policy? How about returns or exchanges? It’s difficult to tell because the Web site needs to be optimized for the online customer experience.

Your Website is a Real Component in the Customer Experience

When I say that a Web site is part of the customer experience, I’m not talking about adding movies, intro videos, flashing lights, sounds or things that pop out of the screen. Those are distractions, gimmicks from the early days of the Web. I’m not looking to watch a movie online (I have Netflix for that), I just want to buy something or contact your company, so don’t make me sit through your intro video and don’t make me dig through your site to contact you.

I’ve previously discussed that customers really only want 3 things when working with a business online:

  • Fast
  • Cheap (fair price/value)
  • Nice atmosphere with help, if needed.

But when the customer is taken to a Web site that is not optimized for the online customer experience, it defeats the purpose of all of the advertising you’ve done, all of the work to build your brand into something memorable, and you miss the opportunity to make a positive, lasting connection with your customer.

If the advertising or marketing campaign out shines the image of your website then you’ve already lost the battle in getting customers and creating future, loyal customers. After all, they are left feeling disappointed with the final result and may feel mislead.

$$$$$ for Marketing
$ for Customer Experience

In reality, it’s not even a matter of making customer experience spending equal to marketing spending, I don’t think that’s realistic, or necessary. But, an optimized experience has to be part of the plan. There has to be real consideration to the online process and how you will create a seamless delivery from the pre-sales, to the sales-process, through post-sales and product or service support. Customers need to feel like it’s all part of one unified business plan.

With that, I want to focus on 4 tips to optimize this process for digital experience of products and services.

4 Tips to Optimize the Online Customer Experience

1. Your customer experience doesn’t have to be like Apple, just beat your competitors.

Hopefully your competition isn’t Apple, that would destroy my point here. But when focusing on the overall customer experience, one easy way to figure out where you are and where you need to improve first is to look at what your competitors are doing and work on becoming better.

Learn what customers in your industry are looking for, why do they choose them over you? What you can learn from the way your competitors do business and how can you make a difference to give you the advantage? You’ll be amazed at what you can actually learn from a competitor when you change your focus from reactive thinking to pro-active thinking.

2. Make your site an interactive customer experience.

A key point to an exceptional service experience is the feeling that the service is catered to the needs of the customer. The more interaction added to your Web site, blog, social media, etc., the more customers will feel that your organization is looking to meet their needs and craft the service around customer needs.

Inviting customers to a ‘generic website’ when customers want a catered experience, makes your brand ineffective and forgettable.

3. Customer experience is a feeling.

Stimulate feelings, not the senses. The use of videos, music, sounds and images in motion is becoming a far more common feature of websites, but don’t get sucked into that. The trap is to stimulate the senses and offer a completely different experience of a website than simply filling a website with endless amounts of text. But it’s not the senses we want to engage, it’s the feelings customer get when working with your brand.

Focus on making making it professional, useful, functional, straight forward, useful, clean-looking, functional, and useful (did I mention that already?). The easier, faster, more useful your Web site becomes for customers, the better the feelings you’ll develop within customers that will be associated with the product or service and your brand.

4. Customer experience is for the customer, not the staff.

You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve been involved in projects where management and developers cater more to their own personal preferences and what they think would be best, even when it’s directly opposed to what customers want. Unless employees are the primary users of your site, with all due respect, their opinion doesn’t count.

It shouldn’t matter that the boss likes it on the left or that developers want it blue. If customers prefer it on the right and red, it’s done. As the number of customers increases, we typically have a decrease in the level of care for customer opinion. It’s like we become desensitized to the fact that at the end of the day we depend on the customer.

Sweat the small stuff.

I think that we are too careless with the customer experience. We don’t realize how important the little things really are to the overall experience. We’ve all heard the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff”. It’s true for many things, but not for the customer experience. We go out of our way to carefully craft marketing language, create welcoming places of business, we train our people to be polite, professional, and helpful.

We typically go out of our way to please our customers. Sometimes, though, we get lost in our processes and forget some of the small things that can quickly add up to frustrate our customers. Take a minute and look over your Web site, ask a complete stranger to give you feedback, honest feedback. Take the time to optimize your Web site or system to maximize positive potential for an exceptional customer experience.