Customer Experience

Whether B2C (business to consumer), B2B (business to business) or even B4B (business for business), Customer Experience aka “CX” has become the cultivator and main driver of customer loyalty, re-purchase and customer retention. A 2013 study by Walker consulting, entitled “Customers 2020”, predicted that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. They also found that the explosion of digital, the empowered customer, and the acceleration of innovation have a profound impact on customer expectations (note: paraphrasing from www.theguardian.com). Another important forecast Walker made is that 86% of buyers will be willing to pay for a better customer experience by 2020. This study created a buzz in many industries after it was published. Everyone wanted to get Customer Experience into their businesses… but what exactly is “Customer Experience” and how can businesses get it?

Video and Web Resources

Back in 2014, I remember a being in an all-day meeting with over 100 business leaders and executives for a large, Fortune 15 company. The company paid big dollars for travel, meals and a very nice ballroom for the all-day meeting. There were team building activities and brainstorming for new ways to serve the customer base and to build more value into the interactions with the product. The walls were filled with many ideas and everyone walked by and added notes and voted on which ones would add the most value. We all re-grouped at the end of the day and some of the ideas were highlighted to the entire group. At the end of the day, the president of the business unit delivered closing thoughts at the and dismissed everyone by saying something like “We need to improve customer experience, so everyone go out there and make it happen.” The topic of customer experience was never really discussed or presented. Many of us left scratching our heads wondering where to start and what to do. Most left with their own idea of what customer experience is. As a result, some leaders focused on better escalation management. Some focused on better installation methods for their teams while others focused on their own group’s product defects. None of us left with a clear idea of the problem(s) to solve or how we need to work across many siloes to solve the problem. The day was an utter waste of time and money. And I am sorry to say there was never any follow-up on all the ideas that were brainstormed that day.

Back in 2014, I remember a being in an all-day meeting with over 100 business leaders and executives for a large, Fortune 15 company. The company paid big dollars for travel, meals and a very nice ballroom for the all-day meeting. There were team building activities and brainstorming for new ways to serve the customer base and to build more value into the interactions with the product. The walls were filled with many ideas and everyone walked by and added notes and voted on which ones would add the most value. We all re-grouped at the end of the day and some of the ideas were highlighted to the entire group. At the end of the day, the president of the business unit delivered closing thoughts at the and dismissed everyone by saying something like “We need to improve customer experience, so everyone go out there and make it happen.” The topic of customer experience was never really discussed or presented. Many of us left scratching our heads wondering where to start and what to do. Most left with their own idea of what customer experience is. As a result, some leaders focused on better escalation management. Some focused on better installation methods for their teams while others focused on their own group’s product defects. None of us left with a clear idea of the problem(s) to solve or how we need to work across many siloes to solve the problem. The day was an utter waste of time and money. And I am sorry to say there was never any follow-up on all the ideas that were brainstormed that day.

What exactly is Customer Experience? Depending on who you ask and when, the definition of customer experience is multi-faceted and ever-changing and evolving. At the highest level, customer experience is “the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy. It can also be used to mean an individual experience over one transaction”. With the advent of digital experiences and as many different industries begin to adopt customer experience into their brand strategies, the definition of Customer Experience is being refined continually to address the complex business problems of today’s ever-changing world.

When considering the Customer Experience definition above, it’s important to understand that Customer Experience is more than the service and support experience. It’s more than the product and user experience. It’s more than the purchase, contracting and installation experience. Customer Experience actually begins before the sale of a product or service.

Perhaps an example will help describe it better: Think about when you want to purchase a product or service – how is easy is it for you research that product or service online? Does it show up as a hit in your favorite search engine? Did you find any consumer reviews? When you visit the website, can you find the information you want to know? How easy or difficult is it to navigate and search? How appealing was the presentation to your eyes and intellect? When you clicked the link for “chat” or “contact by email” did you receive a prompt response? When you received the response did it meet your needs and was it a pleasant experience? Instead of the world-wide web perhaps you prefer to use the telephone, or maybe even just walk into the store and ask questions. How easy and courteous is that experience? Regardless of your technology of choice, if your experience becomes difficult, slow or unappealing, there is a high probability you will go somewhere else to make your purchase and you will probably never go back again.

Perhaps an example will help describe it better: Think about when you want to purchase a product or service – how is easy is it for you research that product or service online? Does it show up as a hit in your favorite search engine? Did you find any consumer reviews? When you visit the website, can you find the information you want to know? How easy or difficult is it to navigate and search? How appealing was the presentation to your eyes and intellect? When you clicked the link for “chat” or “contact by email” did you receive a prompt response? When you received the response did it meet your needs and was it a pleasant experience? Instead of the world-wide web perhaps you prefer to use the telephone, or maybe even just walk into the store and ask questions. How easy and courteous is that experience? Regardless of your technology of choice, if your experience becomes difficult, slow or unappealing, there is a high probability you will go somewhere else to make your purchase and you will probably never go back again.

Remember the old adage, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”? This is one of those tried and true axioms that we all remind ourselves of when we prepare for a job interview, meet a new customer or family member, or even when get ready for a first date! Now that consumers are using multiple technologies to research, shop and compare, it is crucial that businesses selling products and services provide a pre-sales experience which is welcoming, infuses confidence, is well thought out and values the customer, their time and their preferences. And they must execute it consistently over the web, the phone and in the store front, or the current sale is lost and future sales are at risk. Phones must be answered promptly. Voice mail and email messages must be addressed within 24 hours. Every interaction should add value to the customer. This is where designing the experience is critical. Understanding and accounting for all the touchpoints, emotions and desired outcomes is where a differentiated customer experience comes into play. The difference must be designed with purpose and intent.

Another example to consider is “Location, location, location”. The phrase usually pertains to real estate value and the premium price that a real estate sale can demand, but location can be critical to customer experience as well. Can you see the building from the road? Which side of the road is the business located? Does the location flow well with traffic patterns? Is parking convenient to the entrance? Is the front door easy to identify and access? All of these things we often take for granted, but they are a critical part of the design of the experience. I’ve often thought that if I ever opened a dry-cleaning service, I would have a location on both sides of the road so that customers could easily drop-off or pick-up depending on whether they were going to work or coming home. The intent here is to make it easy for customers to do business with me by not forcing them to make left turns to enter or leave my business.

Another example to consider is “Location, location, location”. The phrase usually pertains to real estate value and the premium price that a real estate sale can demand, but location can be critical to customer experience as well. Can you see the building from the road? Which side of the road is the business located? Does the location flow well with traffic patterns? Is parking convenient to the entrance? Is the front door easy to identify and access? All of these things we often take for granted, but they are a critical part of the design of the experience. I’ve often thought that if I ever opened a dry-cleaning service, I would have a location on both sides of the road so that customers could easily drop-off or pick-up depending on whether they were going to work or coming home. The intent here is to make it easy for customers to do business with me by not forcing them to make left turns to enter or leave my business.

When customers begin to purchase your products and/or services, they begin to interact with your staff and business processes. The experience your staff delivers must match the ease, beauty, the functionality of location, building, product or website. Here is where the design of the purchase, product, service and account management experiences can make or break a business or organization. Purposefully designing everything from how the customer is addressed in the store, on the phone or on email, to how the business resolves problems and the frequency follow-up are just as important as software and product design. Great customer experiences don’t just happen… they are designed. 

Get in Touch

I am eager to share knowledge and learn from other CX professionals. Feel free to connect with me through email, the social media links below, commenting on my blogs or by phone.

OFFICE

Alpharetta, GA

FOLLOW US