Customer experience is the benchmark of business success today— above customer service, and above the value of the product. You read aboutthis in expert articles. You hear about it through business reports and marketresearch 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 weshould point out, touchpoints are good places to get customer feedback – theoverall 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 overallexperience defines the relationship between the customer and your company.Which is why you can’t leave the process of handling customer experience, orcustomer experience management, to chance.
Think about the last few times you had to call your cablecompany. Each call, each touchpoint, was probably unique. Some of those callswere probably painless. Some may have even been pleasant. But maybe one ofthose calls was awful. You were put on hold too long, you were transferred tofive different departments, or the person you spoke to just couldn’t understandyour problem.
Now add to that some of your other interactions with the cablecompany: the last time a technician had to come out to your house, or yourexchanges over social media and chats with online help desk reps.
One of those calls may have colored your feelings about thatcable company a little bit more than the others, but in the end, yourrelationship with the company is defined by allof these interactions. Collectively.
Customer experience is defined by this cumulative whole — the relationship your company has built withthe customer. It’s both conscious and subconscious in nature, and it’s almost entirely emotional.
Two dramatic changes that have arisen in the businesslandscape in recent years significantly impact your ability to shape thatcustomer relationship: ready access to information and more diverseinteractions.
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 isreadily accessible.
In practice, this means that fewer customers call your companyto ask questions about a product, and more reach out via social media to solveproblems. It also means that fewer customers are calling for basic techsupport, and more are calling afterthey’ve tried all the typical resolution steps and still haven’t been ableto fix the issue. This all colors the experience, without your directinvolvement.
Understanding the factthat customers have a greater amount ofinformation means that the way your company interacts with customers mustreflect their journey.
Too many companies still presume ignorance when a customerreaches out. This hurts the overall customer experience because it means theway the customer views the relationship is very different to how the companyviews 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 toreach your company. They’re emailing you, chatting with you and tweeting atyou. Customers don’t wait for you to tell them the best way to get in touchwith you – they reach out using the medium theyare most comfortable with in the moment.
And that might change from interaction to interaction, or evenduring 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, theinteraction may happen over social media. For your company, these are distinctinteractions – but for the customer, it’s all just communication. That web ofinteractions paints an entire experience picture for the customer, and it willdefine how they feel about your company.
Understanding this –that each method of communication is not distinct in a customer’s mind – shouldchange 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?