A customer’s experience with your business has a far-reaching effect on not only their likelihood to return or spend more money with you, but their intention to spread positive or negative word-of-mouth about your business. Harvard Business Review published an article reporting that 81 percent of customers who had a hard time solving their problems were more likely to say something negative about the business.[1]

But how do you create a frictionless experience for your customers? Are you lucky enough to be doing that already? Here are 7 questions to ask:

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  1. Does my business have a website (or directory listing, etc.)?  97 percent of customers use online media when researching products or services in their local area including search engines, internet directories, and vertical sites.[2] If you can’t be found, then it’s really hard to start a relationship with a customer.
  2. Is your site mobile-friendly? One out of every three smartphone users searches specifically for a business’s contact information on their phones.[3]  Your site doesn’t necessarily need to look amazing on a phone, but it needs to render. Flash, for instance, might have been ‘cool’ back in the day, but it doesn’t render well on mobile phones. Make sure to take a look at how your site was created and what it looks like on your phone. At a minimum, if you can make your phone number, address, and other contact information front-and-center, then you’re still making it easier.
  3. Is the information accurate and the same across the web? Being out there and having directory listings, yelp reviews, Facebook pages, and everything else might be step one, but it means very little if your information isn’t standard across all of the available sites and systems. If you move locations, change your hours, or get a new phone number, you need to “google yourself” and check every place. There is nothing worse for a customer than attempting to call, and getting a disconnected line.
  4. Are you available? Now that we’ve discussed access and accuracy of the information, it’s important to make sure that you are available when you said you would be. Do you have standard and clear office hours for your customers? Are they frequent and during times that your clients are likely to need you or have questions? Being available can make a huge difference in the effort it takes to work with you and your company and can go a long way towards customer satisfaction.
  5. Are you flexible and efficient? Will you or a representative be there to answer the phones, or can you forward the calls to your cell phone? Do you promptly respond to voicemails, emails, or Facebook posts – or set clear expectations for when someone should hear from you? Are your employees empowered to help customers if you’re not available? According to an American Express Service Report, being shuffled from person to person, waiting too long for a resolution, and having to continue following up are 3 of the top 5 reasons a customer would switch companies.”[4]
  6. Do you make it easy to pay? Or is it a hassle to remit payment? Have customers asked to submit payment in a way that your business doesn’t support? Consider a platform that can automatically email invoices, or accept a variety of payment forms (including ACH or credit cards), online or over the phone.  Better yet, if you can automatically bill on a recurring payment schedule, you can go a big step towards making the process more seamless for your customers.
  7. Will you provide the right advice? If you can be a resource for your customers – an advisor to them about how they can best find success with your product, or service, or in life — you will not only be easy to do business with, but you’ll capture more business from them and from referrals. By becoming an ‘expert’ (either officially through certifications or training), or unofficially through experience, you can impart that knowledge in such a way that your customers will return to you for more.

What this all boils down to is, most importantly, your level of focus on your customer’s experience. If you are geared towards helping your clients, members, and customers the way they expect to be helped, it can go a long way in how they look at your business and what they say to others. By asking these questions and answering them completely, you can create a sustainable and fulfilling relationship for your customers for years to come.

Image Credit: Day 2 – Easy Button  by kilonad on Flickr

[1] http://www.scribd.com/doc/136194842/Customer-Effort-Help-or-Hype

[2] http://www.biakelsey.com/company/press-releases/100310-nearly-all-consumers-now-use-online-media-to-shop-locally.asp

[3] http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2265547/46-of-Searchers-Now-Use-Mobile-Exclusively-to-Research-Study

[4] http://about.americanexpress.com/news/docs/2012x/axp_2012gcsb_us.pdf