Customer Experience has been a buzz word amongst C-Level executives for some time now and for good reason too. In fact, the term has extended its reach beyond the boardroom and is used just as frequently by tactical and operational teams alike, but what does it mean?
Customer-facing teams in sales and service-orientated environments embrace the concept. Marketing teams use it to get to know their customers, to personalise their brand reach and encourage brand loyalty. Finance teams do not particularly enjoy the first two to three years of most customer experience initiatives, but it is not too long before they are raving fans. Legal divisions have had to adapt their speech to be more understandable and much like the IT industry, consumer and data protection laws have completely disrupted their space. This list goes on.
Ask five different people what customer experience means to their brand and you would probably get twice as many correct, but different answers. The truth must be told. Customer experience means a plethora of different things to different people.
Customer experience is not the same as customer satisfaction or customer service and whilst there are some good guys doing some great work in the field of customer success, customer experience is quite different.
Customer satisfaction describes how happy customers are, after using a specific product or service. Satisfaction can then be broken down into perceived value – how customers expect to benefit from using that product or service versus what they actually experience, post-purchase.
Customer experience is most commonly misunderstood as customer service which refers to the types of assistance, advice, and levels of engagement customers endure before, during, and after a sales transaction. Customer service is managed by divisions within an organisation and results in inconsistencies in delivered experiences across the customer journey. For example, you may receive different levels of customer service from a contact centre service representative than you would from an in-store service representative at the same company. These inconsistencies in delivered experiences are the differences between customer service and customer experience.
Customer success is centred around making it easy for customers to achieve a specific goal such as purchasing a specific product or signing up for a new service. Leaders in this field have generally embarked on digitally transformative campaigns to allow for instant fulfilment such as internet-orientated and app-based self-help facilities.
Customer experience is all of these and so much more. From customer satisfaction, we have learned that customer expectations can be managed, met and exceeded. Customer service has taught us that there is much more to a ‘transaction’ and customer success inevitably reduces customer effort, making it easier for customers to transact.
Comprehensive customer experience ecosystems create customer memories that narrate specific brand stories. Underpinned by a rock-solid customer experience strategy, deliberate and differentiated customer experiences deliver business results by growing brand loyalty organically, by focusing on customer success, customer effort and customer emotion.
According to world-renowned expert in experience management and co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), Bruce Temkin defines customer experience as,
Let us unpack that a little.
We know that customers connect and interact with an organisation’s technologies, people, products, and processes across a variety of online platforms, through dedicated customer contact centres and at physical brick and mortar locations. Across this wide array of customer touchpoints, customers perceive a brand holistically and not the individual business units that make up the organisation.
Whilst these interactions are micro-moments in the end-to-end customer journey, customer perception may not be reality but is an undeniable belief system that belongs exclusively to its bearer. Perceptions will vary from customer to customer, based on their own unique experiences and are formed primarily on personal preferences and the human emotions customers experience when they interact with a specific brand.
It is no surprise that customers who enjoy dynamic and inspiring experiences often share the details of these exciting moments with their friends and family, on social media and by word of mouth. These brand ambassadors are willing to try, buy and recommend new products and services – often at a higher price for that heightened experience and are also far more likely to forgive you should something go wrong.
Premium or paid membership loyalty and rewards programs such as Discovery Health’s Vitality make a strong point here and according to a 2019 Customer Loyalty Report, 47% of South African’s conclude purchases that earn rewards or benefits at least several times a week.
On the back end of these loyalty programs, organisations have access to customer information that they harvest to deliver targeted products and services to a tailored audience. Whilst this may tick the personal preferences checkbox, we are not suggesting that a loyalty program will solve all your customer experience problems.
Customer experience ecosystems are complex and multifaceted with multiple moving mechanisms across many organisational silos – each with their own set of values, beliefs and key performance indicators. Customer experience synchronises and steers these cross-functional efforts towards a common goal – the customer.
Customer-centricity can be relatively difficult to achieve, particularly in larger organisations when non-customer-facing individuals are not entirely cognizant of their contributions within the end-to-end customer journey. Customer experience is disrupting this malpractice by breaking down internal barriers between front-line and back-office employees. Never before has so much emphasis been placed on external factors from inside an organisation and this outside-in approach can be great for your business too.
By unearthing the potential of customer intelligence, brands are now able to understand customer behaviour, predict customer wants and needs, and as a result, deliver personalised products and services to a completely tailored audience.
Frequently used customer experience metrics like net promoter score®* are deployed to measure delivered experiences and the combination of solicited and unsolicited customer feedback guides ongoing improvements in customer engagement.
Through human-centred experience design, product and service-related teams are able to eliminate common pain points in the customer journey and this coincidentally, has a tremendous knock-on effect on enabling customer-facing teams to operate more efficiently, be more productive and still deliver dynamic and inspiring customer experiences consistently.
The result, engaged employees understand their roles in the end-to-end customer journey and deliver empathy-rich customer experiences that are fluid, highly personalised, and intricately designed using the six core competencies of customer experience to exceed the growing expectations of all customer segments and grow brand loyalty, organically.
With this, Maya Angelou parted onto us what could possibly be one of the greatest pearls of customer experience wisdom.
At Being Human, we do not intend to redefine customer experience and whenever we are asked, we explain customer experience as, “The product of all your customer’s interactions with your brand are stored in their hearts and minds as memories, and the thumbnails of their experiences are the emojis of how you made them feel.”
We help organisations engineer extraordinary experiences through the application of human-centred experience design to create dynamic, inspiring and memorable moments of magic at every touchpoint of your customer’s journey with your brand.
Which emojis are your customers using to remember their experiences with your brand?
What are they telling their friends and family about you?
#BrandLoyalty #CustomerCentricity #CustomerEffort #CustomerEmotion #CustomerExperienceStrategy #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerService #CustomerSuccess #ExperienceDesign #NetPromoterScore
*The Net Promoter System®, Net Promoter Score® and NPS® are registered trademarks and service marks of Bain & Company Inc, Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems Inc.
This article is written by guest author, Chaman Maharaj.
Founder and Director