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Customer experience and relationship management: Best practices and case studies

05 Feb
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In today’s market–where customers can buy products from companies around the world with less effort than it takes to stop at the corner market–building customer loyalty is more important than ever.

Positive customer experiences help businesses create strong relationships with their customers so they’ll become repeat buyers and advocates for their brand. Because customers' needs and desires change frequently, the most successful businesses are those that adapt and turn change into opportunity.1

This post will examine best practices for customer experience and relationship management, including relevant case studies.

Understanding the customer experience

The customer experience is formed by every interaction a customer has with your brand, starting from when they first become aware of it. It includes the overall impression and feelings a customer has throughout the customer journey. It’s a comprehensive concept that includes many elements, but they all boil down to people and products.2

When people interact with your brand, they’re either connecting with a person, as in the case of customer service, sales, or support, or experiencing a product, such as your physical goods, website, advertising, or social media profile. All of these touchpoints combine to form the customer experience.2

Investing in improving customer experiences can provide a significant return for businesses. According to research by Zippia, 73% of people list the customer experience as their deciding factor when making a purchase.3

Building customer-centric cultures

Creating a positive customer experience starts with building a customer-centric culture. When a company fosters a customer-first culture, it prioritizes the customer’s experience over sales. This approach makes customers feel valued and heard. People who feel appreciated are more likely to remain loyal to a brand, leading to higher customer retention rates.4

Employees should be trained and encouraged to think from the customer's perspective. They should feel empowered to make decisions that enhance the customer experience, even if it means going beyond standard procedures.4

Businesses need to listen to their customers if they want to understand them. To accomplish this, encourage customer feedback through customer satisfaction surveys and emails. Also make sure your customers can contact you through multiple channels, including social media.4

Effective customer journey mapping

A customer journey map can help you understand your customers better and identify their pain points. It’s a visual representation of the process a customer goes through when interacting with your company, from initial contact to long-term engagement. It illustrates all touchpoints, such as awareness, consideration, purchase, and post-purchase support.5

By mapping out these interactions, you can identify opportunities for improvement, enhance the customer experience, and align your strategies across different departments to meet customers' expectations more effectively.5

For example, Starbucks–the powerhouse coffee shop–uses customer journey mapping to understand its customers and their needs. As part of its customer journey mapping, Starbucks identified pain points and opportunities. These insights have led to:6

  • Mobile orders and payments to reduce wait times
  • Personalized marketing through customer loyalty programs to increase engagement and loyalty
  • Tightened quality-control standards
  • Digital integration in stores through touchscreen menu boards and mobile payment options

The role of customer satisfaction in sustainable relationship management

Now let’s take a closer look at a key component related to customer experience, the customer journey, and customer-centric culture: customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is not just a metric; it's a critical component of successful relationship management.

Satisfied customers are more likely to remain loyal, engage in repeat business, and become advocates for your brand. To achieve and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction, businesses must prioritize understanding customer feedback, meeting customer expectations, and continuously enhancing the overall customer experience.

Utilizing key performance indicators (KPIs) related to customer satisfaction within CRM systems allows businesses to measure, track, and improve their efforts.

By focusing on customer satisfaction as a core element of customer relationship management, businesses can foster long-term relationships, driving sustainable growth and success.

Leveraging CRM software for effective customer relationship management

A CRM provides insights that can improve every aspect of the customer experience.7

Today, there are a dizzying number of customer relationship management (CRM) tools that help businesses manage and analyze interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle.

Customer relationship management software plays a pivotal role in enhancing the customer experience by providing businesses with the tools to manage and analyze interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle. This technology is extremely valuable because it allows companies to streamline processes, gain valuable insights, and ultimately foster stronger customer relationships that can improve the customer experience.

By implementing a robust CRM solution, businesses can also:

  • Optimize their customer relationship management strategies
  • Improve user engagement
  • Better understanding of customer behavior
  • Create targeted marketing campaigns based on accurate customer data
  • Tailored products
  • Streamlining of operations

In the end, the proper CRM software and utilization stands as a cornerstone for achieving business growth and meeting customer expectations.

How Airbnb is implementing its CRM system successfully

Airbnb uses a CRM system to enhance its customer experience and relationships by providing real-time support over multiple channels. This system records every customer contact, integrates with Airbnb's phone system and data warehouse, and enables swift responses to support calls, often in under a minute.8

Airbnb also leverages its CRM for insights that drive personalized support to improve the overall customer experience. These insights have helped the company develop new messaging apps that further facilitate efficient communication with customers.8

Unlocking the power of customer data for enhanced customer experiences

Successful CMS implementation requires accurate data; in the age of digital transformation, customer data has become a crucial asset for businesses aiming to provide personalized and impactful customer experiences. In a nutshell, understanding and effectively utilizing customer data can significantly contribute to customer satisfaction and relationship management.

The strategic use of customer data becomes a key driver in exceeding customer expectations and building lasting customer relationships.

Types of data to collect include:

Essential customer data

  • Demographics: Age, gender, location, and occupation to better understand your customer base
  • Contact information: Ensure accurate and up-to-date details for seamless communication

Behavioral insights

  • Purchase history: Track transactions to understand buying behavior and preferences
  • Website interaction: Monitor online activities to analyze engagement and preferences
  • Social media engagement: Capture interactions for sentiment analysis and brand engagement


  • Product preferences: Identify favored products for tailored recommendations
  • Communication preferences: Understand preferred communication channels

Feedback and surveys

  • Satisfaction surveys: Regular surveys gauge satisfaction and reveal areas for improvement
  • Feedback loops: Establish mechanisms for easy customer feedback

Predictive analytics

  • Anticipating needs: Use analytics to forecast preferences for proactive adjustments
  • Churn prediction: Identify potential churn indicators for preemptive measures

External data integration

  • Market trends: Integrate external data for industry trend awareness
  • Competitor analysis: Stay informed about competitors for strategic decision-making

Omnichannel customer engagement

Omnichannel customer engagement is a strategic approach to providing a seamless and consistent customer experience across multiple channels and touchpoints, including physical stores, online platforms, social media, mobile apps, and customer service centers.9

Modern customers often switch between channels during their journey. By providing coherence and connectivity across all channels, you can offer more personalized, efficient, and satisfying customer interactions.9

Disney’s Magic Band is a particularly innovative example of omnichannel customer engagement. It's a wearable device that acts as a hotel key, stores pictures, serves as a FastPass for rides, and facilitates food orders, creating a seamless Disney park experience. The band provides estimated wait times for rides, allowing guests to plan their visit efficiently. This personalized approach epitomizes omnichannel marketing, as it integrates various aspects of the Disney experience into one device, enhancing convenience and reducing wait times.10

Crisis management and service recovery

Regardless of how customer-centric your organization is, you’re bound to make a customer service mistake at some point. How you respond can turn an angry customer into a loyal supporter. This is known as the service recovery paradox.

People understand that everyone makes mistakes. If they feel that you listened to their complaint, understood their viewpoint, and corrected the issue, they may end up more satisfied than they would have been if no mistake had occurred at all.11

In today’s society, where everyone carries a camera and many conversations occur online, customer service errors can go viral and damage your reputation. Fortunately, a good response can also go viral, so smart brands turn flubs into opportunities. Some customer service best practices for service recovery include:12

  • Apologize to the customer
  • Empower employees to own the problem
  • Understand the full context of the problem
  • Solve the problem
  • Give the customer something extra to make up for the aggravation
  • Follow up to make sure the customer is satisfied

Take your business career to the next level with KU’s online MBA

With an online MBA from the University of Kansas, you’ll learn everything you need to know to foster exceptional customer experiences and relationships for your organization. KU’s top-ranked program can help advance your marketing career—on your schedule.13

Contact a KU School of Business admissions outreach advisor today to learn more.