If you’re a business that’s struggling to stand out or grow in a competitive market, you may be suffering from a customer experience problem. When many business owners think about customer experience, they think about the quality of their product, or perhaps the attitude and behavior of their staff toward customers. These are important aspects of offering a great experience, but they don’t address the heart of the matter.

Customer experience is about trust

A great customer experience is built around trust in your brand, and the repeated validation of that trust as customers interact with your business. By building that trust relationship, you don’t just create a better experience for your clients, you can gain long-term, true-believer brand advocates.

Make a great first impression

A customer’s first interaction with your brand is likely to be through your advertising or marketing efforts. That first impression sets their expectations for your business, and gives you the opportunity to showcase your values and to build trust in your brand. This phase of your relationship isn’t about closing, it’s about building awareness and generating leads. To do that well, your ads, website, newsletters, and other marketing content need to reflect the quality of your products, and your commitment to the success of your customers.

Ask yourself and your marketing team what customers are likely to take away from your marketing content. Will it just be the sense that you’re trying to sell something, or will it be that your business is a reliable solution to their problem?

Close on enthusiastic customers

Sales staff are notorious for aggressively trying to close on leads as quickly as possible. While some customers may be ready to buy right away, it’s dangerous to try to drag ambivalent leads through the door. Nobody enjoys being talked into a purchase, and it starts the client relationship on an uncomfortable note with an adversarial undertone that’s difficult to quell later on.

Instead, focus on educating customers and developing their interest in your brand. Close on leads only when they believe that they’ll honestly benefit from your product or service. If doing this is a real challenge, it may be time to revisit the efficacy of your product or your marketing materials.

Exceed expectations

Once a customer has made a buying decision, we arrive at the traditional focus of customer experience. Getting a client through the door isn’t much good if your products and services don’t stand up to the hype. In this respect, delivering a positive experience is about meeting and then exceeding a client’s expectations in terms of product quality and support.

For longer term service relationships, that means not only producing the advertised results, but also keeping the client informed and empowered to make decisions in regard to their project.

Of course, no business can deliver perfect results every single time. However, you can ensure that all your customers have a good experience by maintaining open and honest communication, and by working to address any issues to the best of your ability. Going to this much trouble is particularly important, because ensuring the satisfaction of all your customers is part of a larger strategy of turning your current and past clientele into a productive network.

Turn clients into partners

The customer experience doesn’t have to end after the transaction is made and the product or service is consumed. Ideally, you’ll extend that experience into a longer-term relationship. The way to do this is to leverage the trust you’ve built up to this point to maintain contact and to provide further assistance to them as you can by using your own network.

That might mean referring them to other businesses you’ve worked with, or introducing them to people and organisations they could benefit from. By continuing to offer your help, you’re going above and beyond and showing that you’re committed to ensuring their success. Going to this extra trouble can feel like a pointless effort, but it comes with big rewards. This transforms your relationship from a simple transactional one, into one that’s more based on mutual trust and support.

Brand advocacy

At this point, your customer knows and rightfully trusts that you’re a reliable and profitable partner. They’ve had and continue to have a great experience with your business. Because of this growing confidence and trust in you, you’ll come to represent a valuable asset in their own network. By referring you to their own partners, and advocating for your brand in general, they can offer value to their own associates and improve their own standing within their industry.

Offering an extraordinary customer experience, and building that trust is an essential part of developing the relationships you need to turn your clients into wholehearted brand advocates. Don’t hesitate to devote the time and resources you need to make your business one that sticks with clients long after they’ve walked out the door.