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Companies live or die based on the experiences of their target customers. The customer experience and word-of-mouth advertising can amplify or nullify marketing and branding strategies, making it a critical component of long-term success. Innovative companies, especially those with business models focused on customer service, understand the value of putting great ways to measure the customer experience in place throughout their operations, and of soliciting customer feedback wherever possible.
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Surveys are an effective method of soliciting customer feedback on a range of experiences, including customer service and product satisfaction. Soliciting customer feedback through surveys can allow business owners to capture the extreme experiences; extremely happy or unhappy customers tend to favor surveys, while those with unexceptional experiences are less likely to participate. Surveys can be administered in person, via mail, over the phone or online, making them a versatile tool.
Linking a contest or giveaway to a survey program can increase participation. Placing a customer feedback box in a prominent location on company websites can also help to capture customer experiences.
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Secret shoppers remain one of the most effective ways to measure customer experience and judge the performance of your customer service and sales departments. Secret shoppers patronize specific businesses at the request of management, taking notes on all positive and negative aspects of the experience. These professional spies know exactly what to look for in a service operation, and they can test your staff's response to difficult customers.
Business owners can contract with professional secret shoppers who can provide a wide range of highly-specific feedback, or they can ask a family member or trusted friend to patronize the business to gain a more down-to-earth perspective. Professionals may go so in-depth that they neglect to consider basic emotional responses and uninformed first impressions.
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The Internet provides consumers with an unparalleled level of opportunity to share their experiences in the marketplace with others. Product- and service-review websites, online forums, blogs and other outlets allow customers to voice and pool their opinions on virtually any business.
Savvy businesses systematically monitor reviews and mentions of their company and brands on the Internet, responding when necessary to protect the company from false claims, and taking notes to help improve the company's service overall. Making Internet monitoring a major part of someone's job, rather than just doing it from time to time, can help to keep tabs on the customer experience and respond to complaints early.
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Establishing a strong social media presence can help companies to contain online reviews and feedback by providing customers a company-sponsored forum in which to voice their opinions. The power of social media comes from the fact that companies can communicate directly with consumers almost in real time, allowing them to gain specific, personal feedback on a regular basis from customers around the world.
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Take Home Points
Measuring the customer experience used to be an innovative and powerful way to get ahead of the game. These days, it is almost a necessity to ensuring long-term business success. Entrepreneurs that measure customer experience early stand a better chance of truly connecting with their target customers.
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Cascio, Elaine. "Measuring the Customer Experience", http://www.tmcnet.com/voip/1008/measuring-the-customer-experience.htm
Photo Credit: lockstockb, sxc.hu