Customer experience is widely believed to be the next battleground of business competition. Businesses that deliver the best CX will be the success stories of the next 10–15 years.
Clearly, customer experience focusses on customers, but who counts as a customer — and where does customer experience begin?
It starts with a sale…
The dictionary definition of ‘customer’ is: “‘a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.” With this definition the most obvious theory is that CX begins when a transaction is processed and a relationship created. The point of sale. Theoretically this is correct, and there is nothing necessarily wrong with this stance.
The Harvard Business Review defines customer experience as the “sum-totality of how your customers engage with your company and brand.” This takes a passive stance, and weighting is on CX being a customer-driven. Customers shouldn’t be expected to do any heavy lifting when engaging with a company.
Both of the above focus on the period after a transaction with a business; the experience being a consequence of the sale. But we’d argue that if customer experience is going to be a key differentiator for your business, the focus must start long before the sale.
So, it starts at initial engagement…
Initial engagement is a key opportunity thanks to the level of control companies have over how they’re perceived. The influence over perception at other stages of the customer journey is, at best, limited. The further down the journey, the more complex and difficult it becomes for a business to control the perception and, first impressions last.
There are many opportunities available as a prospective customer is sounding out a potential business to meet their specific needs. From activity on social media or offering a consultations, right down to the local market stall enticing customers with free tasters. These are the sort of opportunities that offer the best advantages during initial engagement.
This initial engagement is often handled by employees, more often than not, low-level employees. These are the people representing the business; on the end of the phone or in the shop — if they fail in delivering for the customer, it’s unlikely a sale will be transacted, or if it is, the chances of repeat business, good reviews and referrals are low.
Ah, it must start internally…
Ultimately, CX is delivered by the business — the vision, mission and company culture may be the building blocks of the customer experience but, if the team isn’t motivated, or individuals are operating in ways that contradict the stated company approach, things can rapidly become confusing for customers. If a customer is confused, it’s a pretty safe bet that they won’t be having a particularly good experience.
The whole business needs a good understanding of what matters to customers and what experience the business is trying to deliver. Allowing efforts to be aligned and consistent communication and delivery for the customers. The team delivers the CX, but they can only do that if they know what good looks like and what the priorities are.
This helps ensure all ‘customers’, regardless of whether they’re long term, prospective, priority, engaged, high or low-value, are given an experience that reflects the business goals. An experience that will become the differentiator that drives future successes.
As for when it ends…
The customer experience ends when their relationship with the company ends. A dissatisfied customer can become a satisfied, engaged customer — one that can give a fantastic account of how their experience improved and what was done to help them. A well-handled and resolved customer crisis can be worth many more painless customer transactions. The highest NPS often come from customers that have experienced problems that were rapidly resolved, as opposed to those who had a seamless experience. As long as you can retain customers, the opportunity to deliver excellent CX and reap its rewards remains.
Customer experience is delivered by the company’s employees. Employee engagement, satisfaction, and happiness; or the ‘employee experience’ — is crucial to the customer experience.
When looking at Customer Experience, the dictionary definition of customer is dangerous. Prospects should be considered as much a part of the customer experience as the most valued customer.
Treat prospects as the customer you’d like them to be: demonstrate company values, exceptional level of care, and the attention to detail they could come to expect as a customer.