What is 'customer experience'? Let's take the traditional view and imagine we are visiting a physical, bricks and mortar store on the high street. The emotions we experience throughout the whole browsing and paying process, how easy it is to access the products we want, how in tune the business is to our needs and desires, how we are treated as customers - all of these factors contribute to our overall experience.
If the experience is good - for example, the staff are polite to us, the shop is well stocked, the identity of the brand matches our own outlook on life and on the world, and we are able to find both the product and the support we need - then we are likely to come back for more. If the experience is bad - rude staff, poor stock levels, dodgy or poorly defined brand identity, lack of support - then we will probably finalise our purchase today (if the organisation is lucky) and do business elsewhere in future.
The shelf life of customer experience
This is customer experience in a nutshell but there are also other factors to consider. One factor is product diversity; if a shop is selling something which we need every week or every month, then our potential for loyalty is far greater than if the product is something we need only every couple of years. The business's product may be wonderful but we simply don't need to make repeated trips to connect with its benefits.
Another factor is decay. We may walk away from the shop feeling great about our experience. We may even tell our friends. But this goodwill is going to fade over time, as will our loyalty.
You might think that these two factors are beyond our control as business owners. After all, the business has its own market niche, and not every niche is suitable for repeat purchases or for that level of customer loyalty. Also, human nature is human nature, and goodwill towards a business will decay over time - it is only natural.
However, these assumptions are wrong. There are things we can do, such as expanding our product range to encourage more business from our already satisfied customers. We can also reach out to our customers, keeping them close and keeping that goodwill alive.
This last point is the very essence of customer experience in the digital age. With unprecedented levels of choice now afforded to the modern consumer, and with a world of different purchase options at his or her fingertips, it is more difficult for today's businesses to retain their consumers. Reaching out, and actively cultivating that goodwill through an ongoing relationship and experience, becomes critical on this new market battleground.
Customer experience best practices
So, now that we understand exactly what customer experience entails, we need to recognise what we can do to secure the best quality of experience for our own consumers. The science of customer experience is nothing new and has been around since our ancestors first recognised the concepts of value and commerce, but the rules have changed in recent years.
Here, we take a look at some of the best practices achieving excellent customer experiences.
Emotions are key
We mentioned emotions right at the beginning of this piece, and this is because emotions are at the core of what it means to give great customer experience. What do your customers care about? What is driving them? Make sure that what you are offering connects with these points of emotional connection.
Get out there, be visible
Decay occurs when customers lose interest in your business. Connect with them directly, offering further products and - more importantly - support, and show that you still have their interests at heart. You have probably already increased your visibility among leads, but don't forget about existing customers.
Your business pulls together many different aspects and operates in several distinct markets, offering a diverse array of products to consumers. This is enough, right? No - it's time to consider the experience rather than just what is being offered. Your consumer needs to be able to access everything that you offer via one portal and via one account to ensure high levels of experience.
Refocusing the brand
There are increasing calls for businesses to make customer experience not only part of their brand, but to make customer experience the brand itself. Just in the way that customer service was 'king' a few years ago, modern businesses need to build CX into the very core of their identity.
Experience, not service
Which brings us neatly onto our next practice - considering the benefits of customer experience, not customer service. Customer service - as experts have pointed out - is what happens when we try to remedy the effects of a bad customer experience. Great CX works quietly and achieves its benefits almost unnoticed.
Measure and Understand
Data is a common element in modern business, and customer experience is no exception. Collect as much data as you can on the experience your customers have when they connect with your business. Then, use this data to develop and enhance this experience moving forward.
If you need to change, change
Perhaps the key piece of advice when it comes to getting customer experience right is to recognise, identify, and accept, areas of change. This means, if you discover that your business's customers are not achieving the best possible experience - or if their experience is, in fact, a negative one - it is up to you to do what is necessary to improve this experience.
In some cases, this might mean remodelling the way you do business and the way you connect with customers. Remember, it is better to take time to remodel your CX for the long-term rather than quickly paper over the cracks for a short-term fix.
Customer experience is not something which happens overnight, but, by fostering it, the advantages you bring to your organisation are immense.