2015-12-January-Test.jpg
Businesses, and the people who power them, easily fall into routines. Once we find a process or program that works, we stick with it. Routines bring predictability and stability, but if they go unexamined or fail to incorporate feedback, they can get in the way of providing exceptional customer experiences.

Outdated routines fail to address the changing business landscape, and assume that what was true in the past remains true today. Customer experiences are rarely perfect. However, by injecting testing into our culture and processes, we get closer to understanding what today’s perfect customer experience may be.

Constantly testing our customer experience balances the obvious business value of routines with the power of constructive feedback. With it we can document the current status quo (the control) and benchmark it against the outcome of a single change or set of changes (the variation). How frequently or aggressively (to how many people) you test is up to you.

For most, especially those who are prone to routines, starting small is advisable. So here’s a few key experiences that any beginner should try testing:

Web Experience

The effectiveness of your web experience is the one of the most important things you and your company can test. Our website serves as a critical portal for customers to engage with us when researching and making purchases, opening up a valuable opportunity to test what our users prefer. While it’s possible to gather some qualitative information about our users’ experience, using surveys or interviews; there is a great amount of qualitative data we can use to gauge the effectiveness of our web experience. Web metrics like bounce rate, conversion rate and time on page can tell a lot about where your experience delivers and where it falls short.

There are many tools available to test versions of a page or even your entire website simultaneously (check out Optimizely, Maxymiser or Monetate to start). Should you not have the budget to invest in a third-party solution, you can opt to simply run different variations at alternating time periods, and compare each variation’s results. The only time you lose when it comes to testing, is when you aren’t doing it at all.

Email Subject Lines

First impressions matter, and email subject lines are one of the simplest first impressions a business can make. But too often they are ignored. Companies use a set of go-to subject lines that have proven to resonate well with their customers, or worse, “out-of-box” industry-standard subject lines. Since email subject lines are such limited real estate, it’s foolish to not take the time to test and find the best possible subject line phrasing for each kind of email sent.

Identify your company’s five most important email templates (they don’t need to be the most-sent email templates) and opt to A/B test them over the course of a few weeks, and see what you discover. The changes don’t have to be large -- it could be as simple as testing the difference between using the word welcome versus greetings. The potential difference in clicks and opens may surprise you, or you may find that the subject lines you’ve been using all along remain victorious!

Regardless of the outcome, testing can either provide you with comparable alternatives that you can cycle into your scheduled email sends or highlight that there's always room for improvement.

Customer Service Scripts

While some of the communications listed above help to convey our voice and personality, nothing is more personal than an actual conversation between a customer and an employee. There is much to be learned in these conversations: from the tone of someone's voice, to how long the conversation lasts, to the flow from one subject to another. However, some companies tend to ignore this feedback, and instead adopt very rigid and pre-formulated scripts that help their employees formulate these conversations.

Whether you choose to provide your customer service teams with formal scripts or general guidelines is up to you (it depends on how important consistency is to your business). However, by failing to regularly review your approach, you miss out on a critical part of listening to your customers. This is especially true for any calls/correspondence that resulted in negative customer feedback. Within each of those negative experiences lies an opportunity for improvement.

Use these documented negative experiences to identify a key area for improvement. This may be: reducing negative calls due to billing discrepancies. Form a brief hypothesis involving an improvement. For example: by always providing a “courtesy discount” for any company billing error, we can reduce negative feedback by 10 customers/week. Provide your customer service team with two different scripts/approaches (one that introduces your proposed solution), and monitor the effects over the course of a week or so. The scripts can vary as much as you choose, although starting small can help with consistency.  

Title image by BiblioArchives/Library Archives (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license