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Customer Experience; The Ultimate Guide to CX

In the dynamic realm of business, where interactions between consumers and brands shape the very essence of commerce, the concept of customer experience (CX) reigns supreme. From the first spark of awareness to the final disposition of a product or service, every touchpoint leaves an indelible mark on the customer journey. Mastering the art of customer experience is not just a strategic choice but a necessity for businesses aiming to thrive in a fiercely competitive arena.

At its core, customer experience encapsulates the entirety of a customer’s interaction with a brand, encompassing not only the quality of products or services but the seamless flow of engagement, the responsiveness of support, and the emotional resonance forged at each encounter. While customer service undoubtedly plays a pivotal role in this narrative, it is but a single facet of the multifaceted gem that is customer experience. True greatness in customer experience emerges when businesses not only meet but exceed customer expectations, offering solutions that are not just effective but effortlessly accessible and intuitively satisfying.

Table of Contents

 

What is Customer Experience (CX)?

Finger activating digital customer experience.

Customer experience (CX) refers to every interaction your customers have with your business or brand and your products. It begins when they first become aware of your existence and continues until they dispose of your product or dispense with your service. Will they purchase a replacement from you? The chances of them doing so will depend, to a large extent, on their experiences. 

Customer service experience is a big contributor to the overall customer experience, but it’s only part of the overall picture customers form when they support your business and use your products. Great customer experiences occur when you not only meet but exceed expectations. What do your customers expect? Broadly speaking, they’re looking for a solution to a problem or pain-point. They want it to be easy to do business with you, and they want your solution to work well when they get it.

Customer experience must be managed and built on instead of just offering something you think will satisfy your clients and leaving the rest to chance. It will require a team effort, so making your team aware of the importance you attach to customer experience is a must.

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Customer Experience vs Customer Service

Laptop with reviews for customer service and customer experience.

So what’s customer experience vs customer service? Are the differences significant enough for you to care? Here’s the short version. Customer service is a very important part of customer experience, but it’s by no means the same thing. 

There are many things that customers want to know and want to experience. Do you have people who are available to answer customers’ questions? Can they advise customers on the best version of your product to match their needs? Will they help customers by dealing with questions and problems? That’s customer service! 

Customer experience is much more than customer service, but includes customer service when people want it. Customer experience consists of every touchpoint that customers have with your business. From the way they discovered you all the way through to following up on completed purchases, every detail contributes to your customers’ experience. 

Can you offer positive customer experiences without awesome customer service? In some cases, you can. In others you absolutely can’t. Some customers know exactly what they want, and if you make it easy for them to find it and buy it, they’re happy with the results. But, when customers want help or service and don’t get it, your business’s reputation is going to suffer, and so will your sales and repeat purchases. 

Customer service is only a component of customer experience, but without high quality customer service, a percentage of customers will have bad experiences. Expect them to be vocal about that.  At the same time, it’s possible that someone who was having a hard time doing business with you will change their mind about the experience if you offer fantastic service.

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Omnichannel Customer Experience

Concept illustration of the various channels involved in the omnichannel customer experience.

It is important to interact with customers using the platforms where they are present. The challenge lies in the fact that both we and our customers use multiple channels of communication. Customers may send us an enquiry on any one of several social media channels where our marketing messages are seen, follow up with an email, and then contact you over the phone. The omnichannel customer experience is determined by how seamlessly we can integrate all these experiences and communications so that we aren’t treating our customers as if they were “strangers” every time they switch channels. 

Failing to offer a well-integrated omnichannel customer experience leads customers to suppose that we are inefficient at best, and at worst, simply don’t care about them. 

With businesses fielding many communications across multiple channels, integrating all communications from each client into a coherent whole can prove challenging. 

Needless to say, trying to organise customer communications across multiple channels without the help of advanced software is all-but-impossible. Improving the omnichannel customer experience begins with leveraging technology, but doesn’t end there. 

Technology is only as good as the people who use it and the methods they employ. So, besides having the capacity to integrate communications across channels, businesses need people with a strong understanding of the business and the ability to join the dots across communications histories to understand their customers’ current situation properly. 

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What is Customer Experience Management?

Customer experience management documents.

Most businesses do some customer experience management without ever putting a name to it. For instance, they design their website to look professional and enticing and round that off with user friendliness. But if they don’t actively work on managing the customer experience, they’re going to drop a few balls along the way.  

For example, customer experience management means that even the biggest businesses work to provide personalised service. They’ll use high-tech customer experience management tools to achieve this. But although personalisation is an important element, there’s more to customer experience than dealing with businesses that seem to “know” you. A single bad impression at any point of the customer journey is all it takes to undo your efforts towards the delivery of an unbeatable customer experience. 

Although good customer experience management helps you to make an initial sale, it will also help you to make future sales. Best of all, those recommendations from your customers will be seen as being more trustworthy than any marketing communication from you, and it doesn’t cost you a penny. 

Your team needs to work in a unified way towards building a great customer experience and that begins with getting all the customer experience-related data you have in one place. Fortunately, there are customer experience management platforms that do just that, but you still have to pull everything together and develop a customer experience management system. And to make sense of how you’re performing, you’ll need up-to-the-minute customer experience analytics. 

What happens if you don’t work according to a customer experience management strategy? Thousands of disaffected former customers take their business elsewhere. And even if they’re not actively warning their friends off – which they will if they’re dissatisfied enough – they certainly aren’t recommending you!

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What is Digital Customer Experience?

A man giving a 5-star digital customer experience rating.

Nowadays, an increasing amount of business is done online. But that doesn’t mean that customer experiences aren’t just as important as they are when doing business in person. The challenge you face is this: your customers should feel as engaged when dealing with you through online channels as they would if they were to meet you face to face. 

Digital customer experience should never feel impersonal. But how can you achieve a great reputation for service when you’re working with customers you may never meet? It’s not something you can do if you don’t have a digital customer experience strategy. Think it through. Plan carefully. Engineer those moments that wow your customers, even when they’re thousands of miles away. 

Map the digital customer experience journey! From the first touchpoint to the last, every moment matters. Start by considering how customers find you online. Then, think about what happens next. Usually, it’s a landing page. Does it entice them into further exploration? And, if they dive in, will they easily find what they want? If they do, how’s your checkout experience? And what happens if they still have questions? Having made a purchase, are you still there for them? Map customer experiences to see how you can improve overall impressions. And remember, every touchpoint contributes towards that. 

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What Is a Customer Experience Platform?

A person completing a survey on a customer experience platform.

In simple terms, customer experience platforms are software packages that make it possible for you to analyse and improve or deliver service so that customer experiences are positive. But, since everything customers experience when they do business with you forms part of the customer experience, there are a lot of different tools that might be termed customer experience platforms.

They might cover aspects related to website design, marketing, sales, and after-sales experiences. So, one of the first things you should ask yourself when choosing a customer experience platform is what function you want it to perform. As far as we know, there simply isn’t a single package that does it all. At the same time, there can be overlaps between one package’s functionality and another’s. So, building a software ecosystem that helps you track and manage customer experiences as economically as possible will require a strategic approach. 

If you’re looking for the most impactful element of customer experience, direct communication with customers is especially important. Sales, customer service, and customer support need to send consistent messages and be easy to reach, and the more communication channels your customer experience platform covers, the better. Manage that one-on-one service or support request well, and there’s a lot customers will forgive. Finding out how to improve from support calls is a simple matter of looking for trends. Why did your customers need help? Can you eliminate that problem altogether?

You want customer experience platforms to slot into your systems well. There has to be compatibility between the packages you choose and the software you already have so that different applications can “talk” to each other and share information. For example, if a customer needs information about the status of their account, your CRM software should meet the technical specifications that help support agents access it. 

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Customer Experience Strategy

A customer giving a rating on their experience with a business.

A great customer experience is not something that happens thanks to some happy accident: the company you felt so good about strategised to deliver that feel-good moment. Insider perspectives across every function in your company will prove valuable. You’re going to need the support of all your people to formulate and implement your customer experience strategy. To help you, your people need to know what your goals are and why they’re so important to the business.

To help them understand their customers, many businesses craft customer personas representing the type of people who buy their products. These are fictitious people that are representative of one or more of your target markets. Besides looking at demographics, strive to get “under their skins”. What are their needs, hopes, fears, and ambitions? What prompts them to buy or makes them hesitate? The more well-rounded and believable your customer personas are, the easier it is to adopt a strategic approach to customer experiences.

Customer experience is the sum total of every touchpoint and every interaction with your company. For example, just seeing your advertising is already part of the experience. Everything that happens after that, all the way to the time when customers dispose of a product or cancel a service adds to the overall picture. At every step along the way, customers have expectations. Just meeting them doesn’t necessarily mean you offer a memorable customer experience. Your customer experience strategy must offer something that’s even better than they expected.

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Metrics for Measuring Customer Experience

A woman sitting in a car and giving feedback on her customer experience.

You may be going all out to deliver excellent products or services, and you’re sure to have designed your physical or online store to provide a positive customer experience. But have you hit the sweet spot and earned your customers’ approval and loyalty? The only way to find out is by measuring customer experience, and the source of your information on this is your customers themselves. 

What customer experience metrics should you apply, and what should you do with the information you uncover? Net promoter score (NPS) measures how likely a customer will recommend your business to a friend or colleague. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is a customer experience measurement tool with the typical one to five-star rating you see on review platforms. Customer effort score (CES) measures how easy it was to use your service to resolve an issue. The customer lifetime value (CLV) metric underpins your entire customer experience measurement framework because it translates your results into a metric every business is interested in: revenue.  

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The Customer Experience Journey

A person holding a paper plane in front of the customer journey stages written on a chalkboard.

It’s no secret: customers buy products from companies they like, and if they continue to like the business after their first purchase, they’re more likely to buy again or even become long-term customers. None of this happens by accident. It’s up to you to provide customers with experiences that keep them coming back for more. Understanding the customer journey can help you to boost sales and retain customers for longer.

Each stage of the customer journey creates an impression, and you want that impression to be much better than “neutral.” Indeed, you will strive to make it good, or even exceptional. Fail on one stage, and all your other efforts might be overshadowed. Great customer journeys are purposefully crafted. The work you do to create impressive customer journeys that end in brand advocacy is termed customer journey management. 

Never forget that customer journeys are followed by real people. Who are yours, why do they buy your product, and would they recommend you to people they know? Unless you have a completely new business, you can use your sales histories and existing clients to answer this question. Surveys are a great tool. For example, your Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score will be useful metrics. 

Each stage of the customer journey is represented by one or more touchpoints. Each of these must be positive or you run the risk of losing them along the way. What would they want to experience? How do you provide for that? Map out all the possible touchpoints and strategise around them. Of course, different customers may experience different journeys. Begin by mapping out a typical one. After that, you can expand your customer journey model to cover additional options. 

When optimising customer journeys, remember that you’re trying to make them easy and pleasant for your customers. Your aim? A first-class journey in which your customers’ every need is attended to. Your customers feel valued, and they’re frankly impressed. 

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How to Improve Customer Experience

Block with customer experience written on it placed in between other blocks with marketing terminology on them.

You know that positive customer experiences increase your chances of repeat purchases and referrals – and you’d like to take steps to ensure that your customers have the best experience with your business. You’re wondering how to improve customer experience and get ahead of your competitors. 

Interpersonal contact is one of the key elements of a positive customer experience. From pre-sale enquiries to after-sales support, your customers will be expecting more than scripted responses that don’t quite fit their enquiries. While scripts have their place, your employees should know when to deviate from them and what they may offer to do in response to enquiries or complaints. Even non-customer-facing employees should have the customer in mind when doing their work. Give them the confidence to raise concerns and reward them for suggesting ways in which customer experience can be improved. 

Customers want convenience, good service, and a product that resolves a problem. No matter how good your product is, convenience and good service will be key to the customer experience. Miss a beat, and you’ve lost that advantage. So, if you’re geared for receiving calls and emails, but fail to respond to messages on social media, for example, you’ll lose out if customers reach out to you on the platforms where you have a presence but don’t carefully monitor communications. 

Think of every possible way in which your clients may contact you, and ensure you’re geared to respond promptly and efficiently. And since your customers are quite capable of changing channels based on what’s convenient at any given time, be ready to collate information across channels before responding with counter-questions they may already have answered elsewhere, or recommendations they may already have tried to implement. 

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How to Differentiate Your Brand Through Customer Experience

Agent providing a good customer experience

Differentiating your brand from the competition, gaining loyalty, and getting accolades from your customers, requires much more than just an acceptable customer experience. Nothing but an exceptional one will do. If you’re doing what everyone else does, you aren’t differentiating your brand. You’re just keeping up with the Joneses. You need to do more. For your customers, differentiating the goods and services you offer from your competitors’ may be difficult. But it’s important to remember that customer experience has a great deal to do with how your customers feel. 

Meeting expectations doesn’t differentiate you. Exceeding them, and making your customers feel valued, does. And the easiest place to get the edge is in your choice of the people your clients will deal with when they have enquiries, complaints, or comments to make. Scripted responses, delivered without feeling, may represent your internal policy, but they don’t make your clients feel important. You need empathy, expression and communications that accurately reflect the procedures your business follows while making the client feel that someone actually cares about what he or she has to say. 

Once you can’t improve your virtual or physical storefront and layout; once your products or services match or exceed those of your competitors; if practicalities like billing and delivery can’t be improved, the quality of your customer service and support agents could be the area where you differentiate your brand from its competitors. 

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Getting the Right People on the Frontline

If you’re looking at providing a customer experience that sets your brand apart, we have the personnel, analytics, and dedication to help you take it to the next level. Who answers your phone? Who responds to your customers’ emails and messages on social media? Is he or she a communications expert? Is every nuance attended to? Is there empathy and connection? 

Finding the right people to deal with your customers may not be easy. Or, it can be as easy as calling RSVP.

Read our guide to customer service.
Read our guide to the omnichannel approach.

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