We are all well aware of the fact that providing a positive customer experience is essential for your business to succeed.

Happy customers come back, dissatisfied ones don’t – and worse, may voice their complaints publicly, harming your business’s reputation. In spite of this, many businesses still struggle with whose responsibility it is to ensure a good customer experience.

In today’s world of seemingly limitless options and downloadable mobile apps that promise to solve every problem, differentiating yourself with a personalised, positive customer experience is even more essential to success than ever. So how do you achieve this Holy Grail? First off, let’s look at what to avoid.

Online customers are turned off by slow loading, error-laden websites. They want a consistent experience whether they are speaking to someone in your call centre, accessing your site on a smartphone, or looking to make a purchase from their desktop in the office.

Customers have come to expect instant responses, so be sure you have someone monitoring your Twitter account as closely as your customer service phone line. All of this listening, consistency and availability is nigh on impossible to manage manually. You may just about be able to manage all of your customer requests, but measuring the success of customer outreach and transactions by predicting and tracking customer behaviour requires technology to succeed.

Or does it? I’ve been in this business for years and have heard all the claims – I may even have made some of them myself! This made me start to wonder if our industry had just created these problems to sell software, so I decided to look into what really happens if you get this all wrong? After researching and conducting my own informal surveys, I came across an anecdote from a user of IBM’s customer experience management software, Tealeaf, that really made me think. The product marketing user had to prove to his boss that the software was really worth the price they were paying for it.

His boss challenged him to demonstrate Tealeaf’s worth. So the marketer set up a control group of 1,000 users who had proceeded to the purchase page of their website, which was the final step in the transaction process. Using the standard analytics, he was able to discern that only 51% of these users actually purchased something, even when they had already proceeded to the purchase page.

The marketer then narrowed the field and using Tealeaf, was able to identify that an error message had appeared to a number of users on the website, directly reducing the number of completed transactions. He illustrated this with a study group made up of 42 people, all of whom saw the error message and none of whom (unsurprisingly) made a purchase. Under typical analytics, these 42 people would not even be a blip on a larger conversion metric as they represent just 0.23% of the circa 18,000 total users. If you apply the “normal” conversion of 51% from the standard analytics control group to those 42 people, however, 21 of those customers should have converted, which we know they didn’t, based on the smaller sample analysed using Tealeaf.

That small percentage compounded daily, weekly and even yearly, adds up to a loss of hundreds and thousands of pounds — all down to an error message the marketing team wasn’t aware of. That is the real cost of a poor customer experience.

This anecdote reaffirmed my belief in the importance of investing in technology to support your customer experience, at the same time clearing my conscience. Not only can you prevent the loass of revenue by spotting and solving problems like the one above more quickly, but you can avoid the negative reviews and comments online and amongst friends I mentioned earlier by ensuring that all of your customers have a positive experience no matter how they interact with your brand.

Errors will occur, but dealing with them quickly and professionally is what really matters to customers. Being able to instantly segment which customers received error messages and send each them a personalised letter, targeted ad, email (or even tweet) with an apology and a discounted offer on their next purchase can go a long way to winning them back.

That goodwill alone is probably worth the investment.