You may not always know what defines a great customer experience until one happens to you, but once it has, you'll keep going back. Whether it's an easy return process, a great customer service representative or a website that makes buying easy, some companies just get it right.
Companies get customers by offering a great product or service. However, companies keep customers by offering something that other businesses in their category don't. LL Bean was one of the first companies to get a shopping website right. They offered easy ways to sort on their products by size, by style, by color, price or review rating. And they offer a service that all customers can appreciate, free shipping all the time. As their tag line states, no minimum order, no end date, just free.
For a company like Zappos.com, they understand that shopping on the Internet has its challenges, especially in the area of their core product, shoes. It's difficult to buy shoes and clothing without being able to see the quality of the workmanship, the color and of course the fit. So to encourage shoppers to buy, they allow an easy return process should the item not meet your expectations for whatever reason. They give you an easy interface to initiate your return, free shipping labels, and you can return your item up to 365 days past the purchase date.
Sometimes you don't want to return what you buy but want to exchange it instead. But no one wants to wait the time it takes to package and return an item and then after receipt get the replacement shipped back. Hearthsong.com recognizes that, and when my daughter's present broke a few days after she opened it, they shipped out a replacement immediately and only asked that we return the broken item after the new item arrived.
Other companies realize that having a customer service representative available to talk to or chat with around the clock is key to a great customer experience. Frequently, I shop online late at night after the kids have gone to sleep. If I need to ask questions about a product, or in one particular case, had to cancel an order for a shoe that I had mistakenly put in at the wrong size, not having to wait until 9 a.m. the next day to complete my purchase makes a huge difference in my shopping experience.
So, a great customer experience is not just about providing a great product. A great customer experience is about the whole company striving to maintain a positive image at every step of the buying process. These companies that have a strong, loyal customer base have one thing in mind, always striving to make the shopping experience with them easier, faster or more enjoyable so you keep coming back.