What is Customer Experience?

The most basic definition of customer experience is self explanatory: how a customer experiences your brand from marketing and sales, to onboarding and support, renewal or cancellation, and finally referral or 1-star review. Customer experience is simple: it’s everything. 🤔

In the last 5 to 30 years the term Customer Experience(CX) has become a major focus in many industries. This 1982 study talks about “the consumption experience as a phenomenon directed toward the pursuit of fantasies, feelings, and fun.” The basic premise is that as business has evolved and customer expectations have grown, companies need to think more holistically about how their customers experience the brand.

As customers gained more choices for television channels, shoes, computers, and potato chips, their options for changing brands also grew. With the advent of the Internet, customers could do even more research than ever before. Companies have to adapt or die. Adaptation means listening to the customer.

The Whole Company

Working across all departments of a company is also a critical component of the CX team. Since the goal of CX is to understand how a customer experiences the entire brand, it is important that all parts of the company are involved. This means showing each department how the CX team can provide useful insights into how customers actually experience a brand. Rather than only relying on intuition and anecdote, the CX team can give data and nuance to ensure the customer’s perspective is understood.

Understanding your customer’s experience is vital if your brand is having trouble, but it is also important if it is doing well. Just because things are going well now does not mean it will always do well. Understanding how and why customers enjoy your brand today can help you make adjustments later if customers start not enjoying your brand.

A lot of the time the customer experience department is thought of as the ‘survey people’. The most visible thing that CX departments do is collect customer surveys. This is where many metrics are measured, including the Net Promoter Score(NPS). With the NPS, a company gets an idea of how well their brand is doing from one question: “How likely are you to refer our brand to someone else?” There is a lot of debate about the importance of NPS.

The Survey People

While surveys are an important part of the CX process, it should not be all that is done to understand the customer. First of all, there is a lot of evidence that people are experiencing general survey fatigue especially due to the COVID pandemic. Second, a survey it only as good as the goals that it is set to answer.

Before any surveys can be seen as useful, the CX department needs to understand how customers experience the brand. What is the process for research, buying, using, and cancelling your brand? The result of this analysis creates what is referred to as the Customer Journey.

Employee Experience

One part of Customer Experience that may be overlooked is how your employees experience your brand. This is most evident for front line workers like support, billing, sales, and account management but it permeates the entire organization. If you have happy customers, it is more likely that you will have happy employees, and vise versa.

While examining your customer’s experience, be sure to keep your employee’s experience in mind as well. Your employees have immediate insight into how customers are experiencing your brand. Usually customers are contacting your front line employees because they are having a problem. Regardless of whose fault the problem is, your employees need to resolve it. Are they empowered to resolve problems?

Tip of the Iceberg

Customer Experience is a huge concept that requires strategy, buy-in, research, surveying, interviewing, analysis, and implementation. The temptation to boil the ocean is there since it is such a large concept. Starting with strategy and buy-in from the top down seems best. Get a vision written down and then get everyone to agree on it. From there you may need to get more technology involved, but that only comes after strategy and buy-in.

Understanding how customers experience your brand isn’t necessarily new. What is new is that your competition is probably thinking about it. The arms race to understanding your customer is already started, the question is will you be able to keep up?


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