What is customer experience?
In its simplest terms, the customer experience refers to how customers feel about their interactions with your company.
That’s customer experience (CX) in less than ten words, but let’s unpack that definition to reveal some important nuances:
Is every customer interaction part of the customer experience?
In a word – yes!
When many people hear the term “customer experience,” they think it’s synonymous with “customer service.” In truth, customer service is just one part of the whole customer experience.
When a customer explores one of your company’s offerings, be it on a website or in-person with a sales representative – that’s part of the customer experience.
When a customer actually purchases your products and services – that’s part of the customer experience.
When a customer has your product installed or configured, and then receives training on its operation – that’s part of the customer experience.
When a customer actually uses your product – that’s part of the customer experience.
When a customer calls your customer service team for assistance – that’s part of the customer experience.
These are but a few examples of the types of “episodes” that collectively make up the end-to-end customer experience.
But wait, there’s more! Each episode is comprised of touchpoints, which are like the fundamental building blocks of the experience.
For example, during the exploration and purchase episodes, touchpoints would include live interactions (a conversation with a sales representative), printed interactions (a “leave behind” piece of marketing material), and digital interactions (your company website or a recorded informational webinar).
While some touchpoints and episodes are more important than others, they all influence customer perceptions to some degree (even if subconsciously). Creating a great experience requires stringing together a series of touchpoints and episodes that, in totality, leave a highly positive impression on the customer.
The key point to remember is this: With every customer interaction, you have an opportunity to shape the customer experience – for better or for worse.
What about when customers don’t interact with us – is that part of the experience?
As strange as it might sound – yes!
How customers feel about your company, even when they haven’t had any recent interaction with you, is an important gauge of our customer experience quality.
The absence of interaction, in and of itself, could actually shape customer perceptions in potentially negative ways (if a customer, for example, feels uninformed or abandoned in some way).
Companies that are adept in managing their customer experience pay careful attention to “silent periods” in their customer lifecycle. Sometimes, they’ll choose to add entirely new interactions to their customer experience, in an effort to punctuate the silent periods and more proactively engage customers.
Why does the customer experience matter?
Happy, loyal customers are good for business. Would anybody disagree with that? Probably not, but it’s worth explaining why happy, loyal customers are so good for business:
- They help you grow revenue. Happy, loyal customers tend to stick around longer, so they end up spending more with the companies they love. They’re more inclined to consider offers from beloved companies for other types of products and services, which also helps boost revenue. And, of course, when you’re a raving fan for a company, you refer other people to the firm, driving revenue up even further with new business from new customers.
- They help you control expenses. Thanks to great word-of-mouth, beloved companies don’t have to spend as much on marketing and advertising to acquire new customers. Happy, loyal customers also tend to complain less, which puts reduced stress on a company’s operating infrastructure (e.g., fewer escalated issues), further controlling expenses. Indeed, happy, loyal, lifelong customers generally cost less to serve overall, because they’re familiar with the companies they love and don’t require as much handholding as an entirely new customer.
- They help you be more profitable. Happy, loyal customers help increase revenue and control expenses, which translates into better profitability. And, if yours is a public company, that’s good for your shareholders, because it means you’re generating a better return for the people who invest in your company.
But happy, loyal customers aren’t just good for business – they’re good for you!
Everyone’s job becomes a bit easier and a bit more fun when your customers are happy. Instead of just firefighting, you get to focus on proactively engaging your customers. Instead of just resolving problems, you get to focus on creating a truly distinctive customer experience.
Now that you have a clearer definition of what the customer experience is, it’s time to ask yourself: Who is your customer?