Companies are pretty bad at judging their own customer experiences. Just ask their customers. Bain & Company once surveyed 362 companies, and 80% said they delivered a “superior customer experience.” According to their customers, only 8% really did. In this age of hyperconnectivity, you’d think companies would be more in tune with their customers. But in reality, there’s a widening gap between the two.
Today, customers can interact with companies in more ways than ever, across unique channels, devices, and time zones. A customer might see a company’s ad, visit their website, browse their products, read customer reviews, and go on their way—all without speaking to a single human. While technology and automation have unquestionably improved our lives, they’ve also made the modern customer experience much noisier. Countless customer interactions happen around the clock, and many fly below the radar.
In this post, we’ll discuss what customer experience really means today, then look at five key qualities that make a great customer experience great.
But first, check out our all-new video: What is Customer Experience?
What is customer experience, really?
The term “customer experience” gets thrown around a lot, and people often confuse it with more familiar concepts, like customer service and customer satisfaction. In reality, it’s much broader. Here’s how we define it:
Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all touchpoints and interactions customers have with a brand throughout their relationship.
If that still sounds a bit jargony, here are some examples of interactions that make up an average B2C customer experience:
- Visiting a company’s location
- Purchasing products online
- Contacting customer support
- Asking for pricing information
- Signing up for a free trial
- Booking an appointment
- Requesting a refund
- Using a company’s mobile app
- Renewing a subscription
That list could be a blog post unto itself, but you get the point: an endless number of interactions make up a customer’s experience with a company. And, for better or worse, each of those interactions impacts the outcome of that relationship.
Why is customer experience so important?
Let’s look at a couple common scenarios… A customer visiting your website might have a great desktop experience, but if they switch to mobile and the experience is awful, they might get frustrated and bail without buying. Or imagine a customer chats with a support agent who helps them resolve a frustrating, ongoing issue. Their opinion of your company could change radically thanks to one great employee. In both examples, the customer’s feelings toward your company changed because of one interaction.
However, the majority of companies are out of touch with what their customers really think, and this blindspot creates a major problem. It not only leads to customer dissatisfaction and churn, but it can severely damage a company’s reputation. One negative experience can quickly escalate into a brand disaster if that customer decides to share their story on social media (and about 45% of them do). We see the brands-gone-wild horror stories constantly. Just look at how quickly the United Airlines saga snowballed, revealing major corporate flaws that were swept under the rug for years.
That’s not meant as a scary reminder of how easy it is to screw things up. In fact, it’s the opposite. When you look at customer interactions as opportunities to increase customer satisfaction, you’ll see how much opportunity there is to gradually improve the customer experience as a whole.
What does a great customer experience look like?
Since every company is different, defining a “great customer experience” is a little hard if you’re approaching it from the company’s perspective. What’s easier is defining what modern customers want: consistency, convenience, and personalization. With those qualities in mind, we’ve identified 5 primarily qualities that make a great customer experience great.
- A great customer experience is seamless. It’s cohesive across channels and devices, so no matter where, how, or when a customer interacts with a company, the experience always looks and feels the same. Processes run smoothly, user interfaces are carefully considered, and everything is optimized for the customer, down to the “Submit” button.
- A great customer experience is proactive. It anticipates customer needs and responds. Whether it’s launching a live chat when a customer lingers on a web page or emailing onboarding videos after they sign up, proactive help can make a world of difference. It ensures customers get the resources they need before they have to ask, which cuts down on support tickets and prevents frustration.
- A great customer experience is receptive. It’s not only open to feedback, but it seeks it out. In order to meet customer expectations, you have to understand their needs. Customer feedback can shed light on common issues, reveal trends, and surface new ideas. By asking customers for their input regularly, you can gain the insight you need to make smarter, customer-centric decisions that grow your business.
- A great customer experience is human. It’s built on relationships, not interactions. When you focus on increasing customer engagement through personalized interactions, your customers feel understood. Whether it’s sending an email promo based on their purchase history or reaching out with an unprompted “thank you,” human acts create a sense of connection that ultimately drives customer loyalty.
- A great customer experience is dynamic. It’s constantly adapting to shifting customer preferences and business goals. Like any other strategy, you need to revisit and refine your customer experience strategy as the market changes. A dynamic CX program never stops working. From running A/B tests on your website to measuring service quality across channels, you should take a constant, customer-minded approach to your business.
As customers, we have endless options. If a company isn’t meeting our needs, it’s pretty easy to find an alternative. Sometimes all it takes is a Google search. This tendency to jump ship is so prevalent that experts have dubbed it the “switching economy.” What it means is that customers, by and large, are highly underwhelmed by the experiences companies are giving them, and they’re looking for better options.
For companies, that means there’s more opportunity than ever to gain and lose customers at a rapid pace. It’s not about price or product either. Customers are shopping for better experiences—for companies that understand their needs, make their lives easier, and treat them like actual humans. When companies prioritize the experiences they’re delivering, they’re already leagues ahead of their competitors.