Customer Experience Essentials | Tory Burch Foundation

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Customer Experience Essentials

What makes customers want to spend with you?

Finding new customers is key to growing any business, but for small businesses in particular, hanging on to existing customers is even more important. Whether or not a customer becomes a regular or never comes back depends heavily on the experience they had with your brand. Happy returning customers not only spend more, they are more likely to recommend your brand to their network. Getting and keeping those customers is about taking a holistic approach to curating every interaction they have with your company, said customer experience (CX) consultant Tia Abercrombie-Dinolfo. 

By thoughtfully planning each interaction a customer has with your business, entrepreneurs can anticipate potential problems before they happen and build customer loyalty. Abercrombie-Dinolfo, who has helped direct-to-consumer customer brands deliver exceptional experiences for 20 years, joined our webinar series to discuss how small businesses can develop, execute and evaluate CX strategies that keep customers coming back.


Many people confuse customer experience with marketing, customer support or user experience, when in fact, CX contains those elements and more, Abercrombie-Dinolfo explained. Customer experience is the sum of every interaction a customer has with a brand. Often CX starts with marketing at the moment a potential customer becomes aware of the brand. It also includes the point of sale and continues after they’ve completed their purchase. 

Customer support is a unique function that contributes to a customer’s impression of your company. “When we talk about customer support, we’re talking about the event and process of your customers reaching out for help with your brand, your product or your service,” she clarified. 

Every touchpoint, from your social media ad to your shipping confirmation email, is an opportunity to leave a positive or negative impression. Negative impressions, even after multiple positive ones, can make a customer significantly less likely to return.


Put simply, marketing is the message that drives people to your business. Brand is the consistent, recognizable tone of voice used to communicate that message. Those elements should be in place before shifting focus to building a customer experience strategy or team. “Marketing and CX are a partnership. They strengthen each other,” Abercrombie-Dinolfo emphasized.

“The way I see it, is that CX is your brand voice come to life,” Abercrombie-Dinolfo went on. Understanding your brand helps you identify your true customer base. Most business owners have a clear understanding of who their target audience is when they start out. But in practice, the customer base that brands develop don’t always reflect their original plans. Knowing exactly who your customers are and how you want to speak to them are crucial for developing CX.

Abercrombie-Dinolfo shared a case study about her work with a client that sold vegan skincare and targeted women of all ages. Since the products use recipes that have been passed down in the owner’s family for generations, the owner wanted the brand’s voice to reflect a warm, familial tone. Accordingly, all of the company communication from social media to customer service responses started with her signature greeting “Hey, sis.”

However, after shadowing the company for a week, Abercrombie-Dinolfo realized the greeting led to corrections from customers in about 60% of responses. A significant share of sales were coming from men purchasing gifts for their women partners, and non-binary individuals, in addition to the women the company targeted. She recognized that her client risked alienating a broader set of customers.


Understanding the reasons your shoppers reach out to customer support is more important than just answering their question and sending them on their way. Abercrombie-Dinolfo encourages business owners to be curious about the reasons people send inbounds, or incoming messages with a particular issue. “Embracing the why” means that you or your customer support team will dig into clients’ motivations. “This simple objective shift encourages a team to embrace being curious and collect the information that makes experiences better. It also helps customers feel like they’re being listened to, which is important,” she explained. “We should be listening.” 

Because Abercrombie-Dinolf was able to see why so many people contacted her client’s customer support, she was able to make a simple but significant change. “In that moment, I just suggested we go from ‘Hey, sis,’ to ‘Hey, fam’ to be more inclusive of this new customer base, that [my client] didn’t even know that she had, but that we were discovering,” she said.Listening attentively to customer interactions can help businesses adapt to customer needs and reduce the customer service-related workload. By making that small change, the company was able to prevent future inbounds, which in turn saved them money, as each inbound has an associated cost. It also helped the company market more effectively to the customers they already had. Since customer bases and expectations constantly evolve, Abercrombie-Dinolfo suggests doing these kinds of evaluations one year after launching and then at least every 3 years afterwards.