While some companies struggle with agreeing on a customer experience definition, it's actually pretty simple. Actually delivering a great customer experience? That's the difficult part. Customer experience (CX) focuses on the relationship between a business and its customers—every interaction, no matter how brief and even if it doesn’t result in a purchase. Whether it’s a call to a contact center, a commercial played before a YouTube video, or even something as mundane as the payment of a bill, every interaction between customers and businesses builds (or damages) the relationship, impression, and expectation of the brand. Most important, it’s how customers view those experiences in aggregate that really matters.
At that heart of the customer experience lies a contract between the business and the end user—the latter demands quality products and an excellent service interactions, while the former promises to provide a professional, respectful experience from start to finish. That CX experience can start and end with a single purchase or cover a lifetime’s worth of service, but every time a business holds up its end of the bargain, by definition it builds an extraordinarily valuable resource: trust.
Yet nowadays customers have more ways to interact with businesses and experience them than ever before—from visiting traditional brick-and-mortar stores to email, Web/SMS chat, support forums, through creative endeavors from marketing, even via devices connected to the Internet of Things. The result? Exponential complexity in customer interactions as businesses attempt to implement a customer experience platform and directives that result in seamless customer support and consistent experiences across multiple channels.
In tackling the complexity of the customer experience, from interaction to interaction, and arriving at a definition of what the customer experience is, it can be helpful to break it down into its basic components.
Culture, strategy, and processes
Leadership must set the tone and drive its customer experience values throughout the organization, being willing to break down silos and develop strategies and processes, CX and beyond, that realize the company’s goals. When the International Data Corporation surveyed customer service organizations in 2016 about who led efforts to deliver superior customer experiences, 72.3 percent of respondents replied that the strategy was led by either the CEO or other senior executives. In other words, the people at the top need to use their influence and power to ensure that their companies focus on providing a consistent customer experience throughout their marketing, sales cycle, and especially in their customer service.
Products and services
These must meet the needs, demands, and the overall expectation of the customers; the companies with the best customer experience strategies use their knowledge and culture to anticipate CX needs before customers ask for help. An experience may not always be tangible but the elements that create it definitely are.
Customer service agents, partners, suppliers—all play essential roles in delivering a consistent customer experience. That means understanding the company’s strategy and having the training and morale to define and implement an impactful CX successfully.
This can be business-to-customer, employee-to-employee, and from partners-to-customers—content, data, and analysis. Knowledge management resources, both external and internal, play an important role in improving organizational efficiency and providing customers with self-service options. If customers can respond to your marketing collateral, be aware that's included as well.
Customer touch points
This includes all the touch points through which a customer experiences an organization—phone, email, text, chat, and more.
By definition, the modern customer experience environment relies on hardware and software to drive service, such as SaaS CRM software solutions, company-issued laptops for agents, and so on.
Why does CX matter?
Attracting and retaining customers in an ultra-competitive business environment is no small feat, and companies that ignore the importance of providing a seamless, effective customer experience can end up losing out to rivals who understand that it’s the customer who defines good service. At the same time, consumers have shown time and again that they will not hesitate to jump ship for the competition, and, even more damaging, share their negative experiences with other customers. Ultimately, when companies focus on providing a satisfying customer experience, they drive revenue while lowering operational costs.