Customer Experience. What is it really?

Customer experience is of critical importance to the sustained growth of a business. Customer experience (also known as CX) is defined by interactions between a customer and an organization throughout their business relationship. An interaction can include awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, purchases and service. In other words, customer experience can be referred to as the perception and the perspective the customer has of your brand.

For many, customer service and customer experience are seemingly interchangeable. However, there are some differences between these two widely used terms in the commercial world. Customer service is a part of the whole gamut of customer experience. Customer service can be defined as the support provided by a company to customers who have faced issues while purchasing or using its products or services. On the other hand, customer experience is the overall perception of a brand as a result of comprehensive interactions throughout the buyer’s journey. Put differently, all of the events experienced by customers before and after a purchase are part of the customer experience with the organisation.

Customer experience has emerged as a vital strategy for all retail businesses that are facing competition. In fact, a study by Oracle found that 74% of senior executives believe that customer experience impacts the willingness of a customer to be a loyal advocate.

A study found that 80% of organizations believe that they are delivering a superior experience, however, only 8% of customers believe they are receiving a great customer experience.

The challenge here is that even though customer experience is of a crucial and high priority, many companies fail in providing a customer experience of an expected level. This has given rise to the question “how can businesses improve the customer experience they provide?”.

Essentially to make a great customer experience, you need to: build a customer journey map and buyer personas so you can effectively understand and solve their challenges. You also need to build a positive and emotional connection with your customers, ask for and act on feedback from customers and employees on how to improve.

Building customer journey maps and buyer personas would help your organisation and staff to get a better understanding of your customers’ needs and wants. This enables them to connect and empathize with various situations that your customers may face. Start by giving each persona a name and personality. For example, Sara is 26 years old; she likes new technology and is tech savvy enough to follow a video tutorial on her own, whereas John (46 years old) needs to be able to follow clear instructions on a web page. By creating personas, your customer support team can better identify your customers and understand them better. It’s also an important step in becoming truly customer centric.

Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it”?   Well, the best customer experiences are achieved when a member of your team creates an emotional connection with a customer. A research by the Journal of Consumer Research has found that more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion as emotions shape the attitudes that drive decisions. Customers become loyal because they are emotionally attached and they remember how they feel when they use a product or service. Researchers have found that businesses that optimize for an emotional connection outperforms competitors by up to 85% in sales growth. It is worth recalling the quote which states “People may forget what you have told them, but they would never forget how you made them feel.”

And, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions“, emotionally engaged customers are:

  • At least three times more likely to recommend your product or service
  • Three times more likely to re-purchase
  • Less likely to shop around (44% said they rarely or never shop around)
  • Much less price sensitive (33% said they would need a discount of over 20% before they would defect).

At last the major step in order to provide an exceptional customer service is to listen and act on the feedback you receive from your employees and your customers in order to identify the training needs for each individual member of your customer support team and staff. Many organizations assess the quality of phone and email communication. However, a quality framework which uses omni-channel techniques to assess the quality of the customer experience, would take this assessment one step further by scheduling and tracking your team’s development through coaching, learning and group training. This has proven to be one of the best and most realistic ways for companies to improve the customer experience they provide to their customers.

To conclude we should bear in mind that customer expectations have reached a higher level than ever and word of mouth travels rapidly! Moreover, as the customer becomes even more empowered, it increases the importance of the customer experience.

Customer experience is an area that needs constant nurturing and care and, with a greater focus on customer experience strategy, companies will experience a positive impact on customer loyalty, higher retention and increased revenue growth.