Apptentive recently published The Ultimate Guide to Customer Experience, a comprehensive eBook diving into everything customer experience (CX); from breaking down roles and responsibilities to outlining the blueprint for improving CX. But today, we wanted to take a step back and answer the simple question: What is customer experience, and why is it important?

According to Gartner, the definition of customer experience “the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels, or products.”

Your brand isn’t just your product, logo, or even your employees. Your brand is the culmination of everything people think and feel about your company, product, and people. The common thread between these aspects of brand: customer experience. CX is the glue that holds everything together. It’s an all-encompassing, transformative aspect of your business, and at the end of the day, it has the most influence on how people feel about your company.

The old customer experience model vs the new customer experience model

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

This Maya Angelou quote is often used in reference to interpersonal relationships, but we think it can be applied just as well to business relationships. People remember experiences, not things.

Ultimately, CX is made up of three parts:

  1. The customer’s journey experience
  2. Brand touchpoints
  3. Customer engagement channels

Let’s look at each below.

Journey Experience

Enhancing customer experience for the future means you must not only understand happiness and satisfaction at each touchpoint but also measure how sentiment has changed over time—across the variety of interactions. This understanding comes from looking at your customers’ journey experience (JX), i.e. what customers have undergone with your brand or product in the past.

Journey experience

Measuring past journey experience often reveals a winding path, where emotions waver over time as customers encounter varying brand or product experiences, ranging from love to ambivalence or disappointment. In those cases, your ability to take corrective action—i.e. to win them back and rekindle the love—often leads to a degree of loyalty that is even stronger than before because you’ve earned their trust and reinforced their decision to patronize your brand.

It’s only by looking back over historical engagement and feedback that you can fully understand customers and work to be truly customer-centric. Over the course of the customer lifecycle, analyzing journey experience allows you to see a series of pointers to times and places where your actions or other events caused them to switch from fan to critic, from promoter to detractor, or from love to frustration.

Brand Touchpoints

The blending of the physical and digital worlds continues unabated. A company might primarily be known for its physical presence, but increasingly, digital channels are outpacing the growth of the physical—and those who can’t keep up are being left in the dust. Over 3,800 retail stores announced they were closing in 2018. The list includes brands like Gap, Walgreens, and Toys R Us (which closed all 735+ US stores after filing for bankruptcy). The analytics investments of the past two decades have enabled measurement and led to a marked increase in the insight into consumer behavior on digital channels.

Brand touchpoints customer experience

Now, companies invest more heavily in digitizing the physical experience, whether it’s through the connection of the physical (e.g. gas station pumps connected to the Internet) or the introduction of digital-first experience in the physical locations (e.g. order kiosks at McDonald’s, check-in kiosks at airports and hotels, in-room checkout, etc.). Companies are building customer experiences that blur the lines between in-store and online. For example, Nike entered this “brick-and-mobile” movement with two tech-infused stores where customers tap their phones to trigger a variety of in-store experiences.

This leads to a newfound importance and opportunity for the leaders of physical storefront operations. Each physical location has the opportunity to dazzle customers. The new customer journey can be understood through investments in digitizing more of the physical experience, and while the excitement and hype around Bluetooth beacons has diminished to some extent, those investments are starting to coalesce in a broader strategy of connecting and lighting up touchpoints everywhere. It’s safe to assume we’ll see a deepening of these investments by market leaders.

Engagement Channels

Meeting your customers where they’re at is only part of the battle. That one-way communication is valuable, but two-way communication is what drives real growth. Customer engagement is the final missing piece of the customer experience. So, how are you making sure customers are still interested in you? How do you keep them coming back for more? How do you understand their needs and wants?

promote engagement and customer feedback

These two channels package feedback nicely, bringing all communication to one, easily manageable channel. But for customers, these two channels are neither convenient nor conducive to their experience. Both channels require leaving the experience (especially for mobile apps), launching a feedback channel or email client, and describing the query at hand, many times while using an obnoxiously small keyboard.

To make matters worse, neither channel offers much in the form of a response. Someone might respond to your email, but by the time it finally comes, the issue will no longer be top-of-mind—especially as you’ve already been forced to leave your original experience.

At the end of the day, many customers feel that providing feedback is simply too time-consuming, too annoying, and too much of a hassle. That’s why companies typically only hear from one percent of their customers. It’s much easier for them to simply uninstall an app or search for a competitor, and move on to the next alternative. On the flip side, many companies feel overwhelmed by the idea of collecting feedback from too many of their customers because they aren’t confident in their abilities to make sense of it.

But it doesn’t have to be this hard. There are easier ways to gather customer feedback and turn it into your brand’s biggest strength, unique only to your business. Download The Ultimate Guide to Customer Experience to find out how.