How many of your customers would you consider loyal? How many customers would continue shopping with you, even if your direct competitor opened up next door and began offering the same product(s) at a cheaper price? In this three-part series, I will teach you how to build an army of loyal customers to help you sleep better at night when your competitors try to pull your customers to the dark side. Focusing on getting new customers is great, but focusing on turning current customers into loyal customers is even better. Loyal customers are what keep companies open for decades. They create recurring revenue for your business and become one of the best marketing employees for getting referrals and spreading positive word-of-mouth. The difference between a loyal customer and a non-loyal customer (for a lack of a better term) is three simple but effective strategies: \tUnderstand and Always Be Optimizing Your Customer Experience \tWelcome Upset Customers With Excitement \tBuild An Army Of Loyal Customers In this first post, I am going to be focusing on the first strategy of understanding and always be optimizing your customer experience. In future posts, I will be focusing on welcoming upset customer with excitement and building an army of loyal customers. The customer experience could also be referred to the customer's journey because like any journey it has a beginning, a middle, and an end—think of it like your favorite book or movie. If you don’t know the customer's journey, this process is going to be just as frustrating like watching a movie with your dad who won’t stop asking you questions when you keep having customers turn away from your business. The Customer Experience Map Whether you planned it or not, your customer experience has a map (See image below for a simple example of an e-commerce store customer experience “map”) filled with all sorts of paths that your customers can choose to take or not take. Each path should have an end goal or objective if a path doesn’t have an objective it’s a possibility that it’s an exit point for your customer. Keep in mind that each path’s end goal should serve a purpose to your main goal(s) as a company. If you can’t properly map out your customer experience here are 3 ways you can begin to understand your customer experience: \tGo through the experience yourself \tTalk to customers about their experience \tHire mystery shoppers Optimizing Your Customer Experience In order to start the optimization process you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions when going through or reviewing your customer experience: \tIs there anything that takes too long to complete? \tIs there anything that is too complicated? \tCan anything be simplified? \tCan anything be taken out without disrupting the integrity of the experience? \tWhat variables can I test to see if I can make it better? \tWould I be frustrated if I was a customer? \tWhere can the process be improved? If your store is online, the easiest way to optimize your customer experience is to create A/B tests for pages. Create two copies of the same page, but change one variable in the second copy. Make sure you send half your customers to page A and the other after to page B then track how many customers complete the goal on page A vs page B. When you find the winning page, make a copy of that and test another variable. You could always be testing something, whether it’s a color, image, message, placement of a button or call-to-action, etc. If you your store is brick-and-mortar, it can be a little more difficult to do A/B tests. But, you can test different variables like the layout of the store, how you greet your customers, what type of attention grabbers you have outside your store, etc. You can validate these tests by talking to the customers to see if the variable you changed affected their experience for a positive or negative way. No Customer Experience Is Perfect Even if you develop the “perfect customer experience” you’re still not going to make everyone happy, whether it be because of your product, service, and/or some other external or internal variable. So it’s important to not neglect those upset customers and just call them a loss, which I will go over in the next post: welcome upset customers with excitement.