Customer experience is the benchmark of business success today — above customer service, and above the value of the product. You read about this in expert articles. You hear about it through business reports and market research commentaries. But what is customer experience? This article in the Harvard Business Review sums it up nicely. Customer experience is your customer’s end-to-end journey with your company.
While each touchpoint in the journey is important – and we
should point out, touchpoints are good places to get customer feedback - the
overall experience is more important.
In addition, increased customer access to information online means the way your company interacts with customers must adapt to reflect their journey.
Because the overall experience defines the relationship between the customer and your company. Which is why you can’t leave the process of handling customer experience, or customer experience management, to chance.
Think about the last few times you had to call your cable company. Each call, each touchpoint, was probably unique. Some of those calls were probably painless. Some may have even been pleasant. But maybe one of those calls was awful. You were put on hold too long, you were transferred to five different departments, or the person you spoke to just couldn’t understand your problem.
Now add to that some of your other interactions with the cable company: the last time a technician had to come out to your house, or your exchanges over social media and chats with online help desk reps.
One of those calls may have colored your feelings about that cable company a little bit more than the others, but in the end, your relationship with the company is defined by all of these interactions. Collectively.
Customer experience is defined by this cumulative whole — the relationship your company has built with the customer. It’s both conscious and subconscious in nature, and it’s almost entirely emotional.
Two dramatic changes that have arisen in the business landscape in recent years significantly impact your ability to shape that customer relationship: ready access to information and more diverse interactions.
Customers Have Access to Information
Information is no longer solely in the hands of businesses. Thanks to the internet and an increasingly connected world, information is readily accessible.
In practice, this means that fewer customers call your company to ask questions about a product, and more reach out via social media to solve problems. It also means that fewer customers are calling for basic tech support, and more are calling after they’ve tried all the typical resolution steps and still haven’t been able to fix the issue. This all colors the experience, without your direct involvement.
Understanding the fact that customers have a greater amount of information means that the way your company interacts with customers must reflect their journey.
Too many companies still presume ignorance when a customer reaches out. This hurts the overall customer experience because it means the way the customer views the relationship is very different to how the company views it. The former assumes equal footing, while the latter often assumes they (the company) have the position of authority.
Customer Interactions Are No Longer Siloed
Customers are no longer just calling your 1-800 number to reach your company. They’re emailing you, chatting with you and tweeting at you. Customers don’t wait for you to tell them the best way to get in touch with you – they reach out using the medium they are most comfortable with in the moment.
And that might change from interaction to interaction, or even during the course of a particular set of interactions.
Today a customer may pick up the phone. Tomorrow that same customer might contact you with an email. The next time, the interaction may happen over social media. For your company, these are distinct interactions – but for the customer, it’s all just communication. That web of interactions paints an entire experience picture for the customer, and it will define how they feel about your company.
Understanding this – that each method of communication is not distinct in a customer’s mind – should change how your company communicates.
Do you have one team that answers the phone, another that answers emails and another that responds to online chat? If so, are those teams communicating with each other? Do they all have equal access to the customer’s information and communication history? In other words, if a customer emails your company, does the rep that answers the email know that the customer also called your company yesterday? Are they sharing best practices with one another? Do your satisfaction metrics reflect the customer journey or just measure individual touchpoints and interactions?
These are important things to consider today to improve the customer experience.
Customer Experience is Relationship
While each touchpoint is still important for customer satisfaction, the end-to-end journey is what is most important for the customer experience. That journey defines the relationship the customer has with your company – consciously and subconsciously. Are you giving enough thought to the big picture?