Customer experience (CX) is the sum total of customers’ perceptions and feelings resulting from interactions with a brand’s products and services. Customer experience spans the lifetime of customers’ relationships with a brand, starting before a purchase is made, continuing to active use and advancing to renewal or repeat purchase.
How customer experience works
Customer experience encompasses all of the touchpoints that customers have with a brand. Examples of touchpoints include opening a product’s packaging, reading the instruction manual, speaking to customer service, having the product repaired and exchanging the product for a different model.
Customers experience feelings and emotions at each touchpoint, which cause them to form judgments. Feelings can range from joy to apathy to disappointment. Judgments can range from positive, such as viewing the company as helpful when a customer is efficiently assisted, to negative, such as seeing the company as incompetent when dealing with slow and frustrating customer service. The emotions and judgments can vary wildly from one touchpoint to the next.
Customer experience providers
Any brand with customers provides customer experience, whether the brand realizes it or not. As the name implies, customer experience is based on the perceptions and opinions of customers. A brand may claim to sell a superior product or provide outstanding customer service, but customers are the ultimate arbiter.
Customer experience can be hard for brands to control, since customers can act, respond and react in unpredictable ways. The best approach for brands is to assess and optimize each customer touchpoint to maximize the likelihood of customer satisfaction.
Customer experience management
Companies can use processes to track, oversee and organize customer touchpoints through customer experience management (CEM). With CEM the organization can evaluate and improve every interaction between a customer and the company throughout the customer lifecycle.
In a small business, such as a bakery, produce market or dry cleaner, customer experience is provided by a few individuals. In larger companies that sell complex products and services, customer experience is provided by many groups and departments. Whether the customer interaction is direct or indirect, every group plays a role in customer experience. Sales and customer support interact directly with customers, while engineering, marketing, finance and legal create products, services and processes that affect and influence customers.
For more complex products, excellent customer service requires close coordination across groups. For example, sales and customer support shares customer feedback to engineering, which creates a new feature to address a product deficiency. Engineering coordinates with marketing to communicate the new feature to the market. Without such coordination, the product deficiency may not have been addressed, which leads to a poor customer experience.
It can be helpful for brands to assess the customer experience they provide through CEM. Companies can use several techniques and technologies, including:
Importance of customer experience
Brands must provide a customer experience that meets or exceeds customer expectations. Brands that provide a poor customer experience will not survive. Providing excellent customer experience results in satisfied and loyal customers, who will purchase again. These customers may also become brand ambassadors or advocates, recommending a brand’s products and services to friends, associates and colleagues. Many brands use customer experience as a competitive differentiator, taking market share by providing a superior customer experience compared to competitors.
The quality of a customer’s experience can make or break a company. For example, a brand may sell an innovative product that wins industry awards. However, the customer service they provide is a weak link; when customers ask for assistance, the requests fall on deaf ears and customers’ issues go unresolved. In this example, the poor quality of customer service defines the customer experience, minimizing the value delivered by the innovative product.