I’m a big fan of the saying “a happy customer tells a friend, an unhappy customer tells the world.”
It reminds you that whether you’re looking to fight churn and eliminate the frictions in your business, or trying to adopt word-of-mouth as a marketing channel; you have to focus on satisfying the customers.
And since satisfaction is the result of the experience you have them go through, focusing on understanding customer experience way before trying to improve it is the path to success. In this article, I’ll answer any questions you might have related to customer experience.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer Experience is what you make your users feel during their interactions with you. It is everything they experience, and to go further, it is how they interpret anything they’ve experienced. At the end of the day, what the customers believe your brand to be is your actual CX is.
For example, you may build a brand that is known for quality, but if a customer receives a defective item or has a bad customer service interaction when trying to resolve his or her issue, then their perception of your brand as one of poor quality will, for them, be a reality.
Because of this, effectively managing customer perceptions is a key component of brand and company success. Everything you do will in one way or another influence how customers perceive you and your products or services, so you must carefully design and implement everything from your messaging, product design, and sales to after-sales service, internal operating processes, leadership cultivation, and high-quality engineering and production.
That being said, positive customer perceptions are highly valuable, and managing those perceptions should be a top priority for everyone in your organization.
The importance of maintaining customer experience as a key deliverable in everything you do is important because you may do well in one area but poorly in another area, leading to an overall poor experience for your customers.
Think of a tech company that produces high-end products of exceptional quality but hires poorly trained salespeople in their stores. Poor interactions between the salespeople and customers will lead to a common perception about the company that it does not care about its business. Compare this to a competitor that invests in salesperson training and delivers exceptional customer experiences in-store, leading to a positive perception not just about the brand but about its products as well.
Other factors that can affect customer experience include the intuitive ease with which customers can navigate your website, the upkeep of your physical stores and your attention to the after-sales needs of buyers. Customer perceptions take a long time to build but trust can be lost with a single negative interaction, so maintaining a strong and positive customer experience is of critical importance.
Breaking down CX
We can break customer experiences into two broad categories: direct contact and indirect contact experiences.
- Direct contact experiences typically occur during the purchase or use of a good or service. These interactions are usually initiated by the customer.
- On the other hand, indirect contact experiences usually involve unplanned interactions with a company’s products or services via recommendations, complaints, ads, media reports, customer reviews, and so on. They can even take the form of social exchanges between customers or email forwards from friends regarding sales or promotions.
There are so many aspects to customer experience – and its impact on your success is so significant – that it is worth diving into the concept of customer success a little deeper, and we outline in the sections below what you need to know to enjoy positive customer experiences regardless of your industry or vertical.
Why Is Customer Experience Important?
Consumers today have more choices than ever before.
They also enjoy more variety and choice in terms of where they can buy things. In this environment of low switching costs, wide availability of substitutes, and the importance of social proof and brand perception, building a simple yet integrated solution is what will win your business and new customers.
Also, because markets today are increasingly global, it is a dangerous pitfall to think that certain offerings, messaging, or product features that work well in one market will do just as well in overseas markets, so customer experiences must be looked at regularly and not taken as a one-off initiative every few months.
Many companies have a lot of data on customer interactions, but a lack of data is not the issue.
The problem is knowing what to do with that data and how to promote positive customer interactions using that data, so let’s look at some examples:
Customer Experience Examples
Customer satisfaction is the end result of a series of customer experiences that are stacked one on top of the other.
To understand how to improve customer experiences and customer satisfaction levels with your brand or your offerings, you must break down the entire customer journey into distinct, single-step experiences.
Starting with C-suite executives, directors, and managers, all the way to floor-level supervisors, team leaders, and individual workers, everyone must be driven to delivering positive customer experiences in whatever capacity they affect customer perceptions.
Microsoft vs Apple: CX wins
To illustrate why it is so important that everyone is on the same page when it comes to customer experience, consider early releases of Microsoft Windows versus Apple Macintosh. Windows was feature-rich and was known to provide positive experiences – at least as assessed by corporate IT leaders. However, many private individuals preferred Macs even though it had fewer options and features. One explanation for this might be that the customer experience with the Mac started much earlier than the time the ultimate user turned on his or her device. Stickers, packaging, media messaging, and the ease with which users could download from the App store trumped the Windows experience, giving Apple the brand recognition and cult-like following that tech companies today try to emulate.
You should build your fundamental value proposition into everything you offer, and the quality of your service matters too.
For example, FedEx provides shipping services, but providing an ancillary service – shipment tracking – that is easy to use via the Internet or a mobile app is just as important.
READ: Here is a quick list of the best UXs and CXs around the world, by the most iconic companies.
The Difference Between Customer Experience and Customer Success
We can think of customer success as helping your customers get the most out of your products or services.
Customer experience, on the other hand, is the entire process of creating positive customer associations with your company or brand. It covers many things, but all of them share the goal of ensuring that all customers are satisfied every time they interact in any way with your company or your offerings. This includes in-store and online sales, after-sales services, marketing, messaging, discussion boards, word-of-mouth reviews, and every other touchpoint, even those you do not control.
Although they are both different, customer success is still an important part of the overall customer experience. Consider the following steps that you may take to improve customer success:
- Help your product and design teams build features that resolve customer pain points effectively.
- Properly train and onboard customers to use your products and services as intended – and in ways that will help them or their business.
- Proactively gather customer usage data to preempt problems before they occur.
- Maintain long-term customer relationships to improve the chances of service subscription renewals or repeat purchases.
All of these things can improve customer success, but there are many things you can do that are not directly related to customer success that can improve customer experiences as well. Consider the following examples:
- Offering personalized recommendations for services or products based on search or purchase history.
- Leverage emotional marketing to enhance sales scores.
- Invest in better training to improve customer service response times.
- Improving design, packaging, instructions, messaging, onboarding, and UI to improve ease-of-use.
When put together, these activities – customer success initiatives as well as customer experience initiatives – can propel better overall business outcomes, not just for you but for your users as well.
One way to think about it is as follows:
- Customer service is reactive, in that it addresses customer issues after something happens.
- Customer experience is interactive, in that it deals with real-time touchpoints between you and your customers.
- Finally, customer success is proactive, in that you must consistently ensure your customers get the most out of your products after they have purchased them.
The overall goals of all three efforts are similar, but they must be implemented differently if you are to effectively ensure that your initiatives in any one line of improvement are working.
The key differentiator between customer success and customer experience is the part of the customer journey that each focuses on. Customer experience begins with a customer’s initial contact, often before he or she is even a customer. As such, customer experience is involved with sales, marketing, and messaging.
As for customer success, it only applies once a purchase is made. Even then, it is important to remember that customer experience does not end after a sale, but the focus of the company is typically on improving customer success, and that can, in part, be done via a continued focus on positive customer experiences even when focusing on ensuring customer success.
Companies that deliver great customer experiences tend to have higher retention, referral rates, and overall customer satisfaction levels than those that do not.
This value can be built into your brand and will help promote sales with the family, friends, and social circles of your most passionate customers. This type of marketing and brand recognition can save time and money, and in today’s global marketplace, you need more than just low prices to compete.