June 2, 2020

What Is Customer Experience?

Customer experience, at its core, is about the overall perception that your customer has about your brand. Everything that your brand does contributes to this perception, from the products you sell and messaging you use, through to the sales and aftersales support the customer receives. Internally, other factors come into play that have an ultimately outward-facing effect on customer experience, such as the leadership and inter-departmental communication and the engineering of the product sold. Basically, customer experience is a many-headed hydra, with perception as the heart that keeps the beast alive.

Being as so many factors come into play, it is a constant juggling act to ensure that all areas are running at optimal capacity. A brand may be succeeding in one area but struggle in another, which can be enough to severely detriment customer experience overall. Equally, customer perception of a brand is always in flux, and can change with every interaction they have with the brand along the way. You may have a marvellous product, but if in-store or phone customer service is poor, the upshot is that the customer feels undervalued and will probably go elsewhere.

In this digital era, customers are more well-informed and empowered than ever. They are hyper-connected: from their desktop or tablet, to their smartphone, social media and in-store, they have numerous touchpoints with a brand and equally as many communication channels. Being engaged with and implementing the latest technological software and solutions is a matter of sink or swim for brands in this new landscape.

Hand in hand with customer empowerment comes the freedom to switch brands at will. The level of choice, particularly in retail, is vast. Customer retention is both critical and incredibly difficult, but it is a key part of customer experience management - indeed, it is a principal reason behind it. The cost of acquiring a new customer is higher than that of retaining an existing one, and a satisfied customer is more likely to stay with a brand, regardless of individual factors, like price points and so on. It is these returning customers that have the most significant effect on revenue, through incremental sales and positive innate brand promotion via word-of-mouth, the latter of which feeds into the revenue generated from new sales.

So how can you optimise your customer experience?

Know thy customer. This should be the resounding mantra across all brands, regardless of their product or service offering. A detailed and up-to-date customer persona is an important aspect here. Information for building your customer persona can be gleaned from paying attention to data. Data is the lifeblood of the customer experience strategy, allowing your brand to gain valuable insights into your customer preferences and needs. With this information to hand, you will be able to offer customers the personalised brand experience that they crave.

This personalised brand experience is another entity born out of the digital era. Myriad factors resulting from the digitisation of retail (such as social media) have come into play to create a consumer that is no longer satisfied with having the same experience, or indeed the same product, as every other customer. Brands must work harder to ensure that what they offer the customer meets their unique needs, that they are nurtured and valued as an individual.

Quantifying Customer Experience

A good customer experience strategy places the customer at the centre of its activities, whilst intelligently applying customer insight gathered at each touchpoint of the customer journey. The identification of these touchpoints in the first place will lead to a more unified and consistent customer experience, allowing a brand to strategise in advance how they plan to nurture the customer at every phase of their journey.

Strategically mapping customer experience through the visual plotting and layering of customer interactions and engagement throughout the journey, from the first point of contact through to their very last interaction on a given purchase, provides a valuable outline for ongoing strategic action.

A good customer experience map should include:

  1. The initial identification of all potential touchpoints where a customer could interact with your brand.
  2. Pinpointing the priority need of each customer at each phase of the journey.
  3. Devising an accurate chronological order for the customer journey.
  4. Discovering where the gaps between expectation and actual experience lie and how they can be resolved.
  5. Establishing set actions to be taken maximise satisfaction.

As data is what is required in order to help make decisions that make sense to your brand, it is necessary to find ways to quantify something that seems impossible: subjective human experience. However, brands that perform well on customer experience know that there are tried-and-tested techniques for doing this. Building a customer experience measurement ‘scorecard’ will help you to determine how well your brand is performing across a set of insight metrics.

The most effective metric used to determine current customer perception of a brand is known as ‘Net Promoter Score’. This identifies how willing a customer is to recommend your brand’s product or service. Divided into three categories and gathered using surveys, this powerful approach results in a numerical ‘score’ which gives a reasonably accurate picture of how your brand is performing on customer experience.

Your ‘Net Promoter Score’ is on a scale from -100 to 100, and comprises:

  • Promoters (loyal, satisfied customers)
  • Passives (satisfied yet unenthusiastic)
  • Detractors (unsatisfied customers)

The answers given in the survey divide respondents into each of the three above categories. To get your Net Promoter Score, subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

This is a task to be done on a regular (monthly) basis as you adjust different areas of your customer interactions. Over time, you will be able to determine which factors workably improve customer sentiment and which other areas may need improvement.

Surveys remain one of the most straightforward ways to identify how your brand is performing on customer experience, as you are asking them directly. But other data derived from analysis of sales, website analytics, and so on, will also help you to get a firmer idea of what works.

Remember overall, that your customer wants to feel valued at every step of the way. The features and tools you offer them to further empower their experience with your brand will assist in meeting this goal, whilst also preparing your brand for the future. With digital front and centre of how brands are moving, being early adopters of technologies that can help your customers get exactly what they want, faster and fuss-free, is of crucial importance and should not be overlooked.