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Customer experience continues to grow as a priority for businesses in every industry and for companies both large and small. According to recent Digital Trends reports by Econsultancy: 

  • 91% of B2B brands are making customer experience a strategic priority in 2017 (2017 Digital Trends in B2B).
  • 54% of retailers say customer experience is their most important area of strategic focus (2017 Trends in Retail).
  • “Optimising the customer experience” was the the top response when marketers were asked what they believe to be the single most exciting opportunity for the year ahead (2017 Digital Trends).

Customer experience is proving to be an important and powerful part of a business strategy, but what is it? Is it really that important? And, how can businesses get in on this strategy?

What Is Customer Experience?

At its core, customer experience (or CX), is the way a customer perceives their interaction with a business or brand.

It is what the customer observes during an encounter with a business touch-point. It’s what they see, feel, and hear while engaged with a brand.

A customer experience can happen in all sorts of ways. It happens both in-person and online and through all phases of the buyer journey. Customer experience could happen while:

  • Visiting a website
  • Browsing products on display
  • Going through a check-out process
  • Hearing overhead music
  • Reading an email
  • Interacting with a company employee
  • Calling a business
  • Unpacking a shipped order

These are just a few examples. Customer experience happens in many ways, and each interaction shapes the overall perception that a person has about a business. It leaves people with a lasting impression and builds the foundation of their opinion about a brand.

Is Customer Experience the Same As Customer Service?

Many people mistakenly consider customer experience and customer service to be the same thing. But, they are slightly different.

Customer service is the interaction between a company and a person at the time of a sale and shortly thereafter. It is an element of customer experience and just one piece of the experience that a customer has while interacting with a brand.

Because customer service is a just a part of overall customer experience, a business can’t consider themselves to have a customer experience plan if they are only focusing on service.

Customer experience needs to be planned and managed in its own category.

Why Does Customer Experience Matter?

While it may seem like extra effort to focus solely on customer experience, it is worth it. The value of concentrating on customer experiences is high.

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review:

  • Customers who have great experiences spend more. Their study found that customers who had the best past experiences spent 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience.
  • Customers who have great experiences are more loyal. The study showed that when customers of a subscription-based business had a good experience, there was a 74% chance that they stayed a member for a year. There was only a 43% chance that they remained a member if they had a bad experience. A customer with a negative perception may leave in a year versus a customer who had a positive experience who may stay for up to six years.
  • Delivering great experiences reduces cost. While it may require additional upfront costs to improve customer experience, the extra investment is worth it. Customer churn and managing bad customers experiences are often more expensive than setting up a system for great experiences from the start. Sprint found that they reduced customer service costs by as much as 33% when they shifted their focus to customer experience.

Customers want experiences, and research shows that giving them what they want pays off for businesses. Creating positive and exceptional customer experiences requires more resources and attention, but the return is worth it.

How Do You Begin To Create Excellent Customer Experiences?

As you begin to focus on improving customer experience, start with the following steps.

Know your customers. You can’t know what experiences your customers want to have until you intimately know who your customers are. So start by defining your target audience and listing their wants, needs, and desires along with their demographics.

List each of your customer touchpoints. To improve your customer’s experience, you need to know everything they come in contact with during their buyer’s journey. Only once you know all of your customer touchpoints can you improve them. So create multiple buyer journey maps that outline all of the possible touch points that customers can come in contact with during their experience with your brand.

Consider customer senses and emotions. Once you know each customer touchpoint, you can begin to improve them. Reflect on each interaction a customer has with your brand and consider how you can uplight that experience by tapping into their five senses and emotions. Consider how you can improve what customers:

  • See
  • Hear
  • Taste
  • Smell
  • Physically feel
  • Emotionally feel

Provide more of what customers value. Consider the things that your customers value most. (Use this list of 30 customer values for help.) Then, find a way to change or update your touch points so they provide more of what your customers care about.

Ask for feedback. Finally, the only way you can truly know if you are meeting customer expectations is by asking them. Survey your customers to find out how they rate their experiences with your business, and use what you learn to make changes to improve.

This is a starting point for analyzing and improving customer experiences within your organization. Start here and continue to put a focus on these elements to further develop your customer experience strategy.

What’s Next?

Customer experience isn’t just a buzzword or hot marketing topic. It’s a tried-and-true method for improving perception about your brand and attracting and keeping more customers.

It’s a strategy that shouldn’t be a one-time focus or single initiative. You need to continuously focus on improving and uplifting customer experiences to keep up with competitors and continue to grow your business. So, don’t stop here.

Get more tips on what it takes to provide an exceptional experience for customers, and download our free ebook.

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