By Nathan Breidenbach, Technical Writer @ Stratifyd
What is Customer Experience?
Customer Experience is a hot buzzword that is often used, but rarely understood. Harvard Business Review defines the term as the sum of all customer interactions across touchpoints. Customer experience is thus a gestalt concept, which is why it is so difficult to understand and perfect.
Most of my day is spent researching and reading other contributors’ blogs, white papers, articles, reports, etc. Very little of my time is devoted to actually writing content, because writing content without providing new value to potential readers is a waste of both of our time.
A google search will land you on plenty of business-oriented blogs and articles telling how you can “Improve Your CX Strategy with These 7 Things” or “6 Steps to Better CX”. They will gloss over how you need to invest in a digital transformation, invest in mobile scalability, listen to customers, etc. Few of them will actually tell you how to do these things, simply that you need to do them.
Wait a second...that's a bit ironic, isn’t it? As a customer of some of those blogs, I doubt you are receiving a good experience reading the same vague advice doled out on other blogs. A lot of this "content" is written to increase SEO and pump out fast, keyword intensive content. Our goal is to educate and provide thought leadership on customer experience.
Isn't customer experience basically the same thing as customer service?
No, customer experience is not an interchangeable term with customer service. Customer service is just one of many interactions that roll-up into customer experience. You can have great customer service and still have a bad customer experience:
Customer support answered my questions thoroughly and quickly, but the mobile payment options didn’t include Paypal, and the product broke 3 months after purchase.
While customer service was good, the poor customer experience may make you turn to a competitor in the future.
Because customer experience is a composition, we need to understand each of its components. Because so many functions impact customer interactions, it is easier to think about the components the same way you simplify a business’s operations: departments. There are four main departments that directly contribute to customer experience: Marketing, Sales, Product Development, and Service. Each department affects the customer journey, from initial consideration to brand loyalty.
Marketing is where most journeys start. Good marketing fulfills the purpose of generating sales leads and interest among consumers. The touchpoints within the marketing department are numerous - social media content, promotions, digital and traditional advertising, email messaging, website visitation, mobile app sessions - just to name a few.
Although marketers tend to have indirect contact with customers, there are many ways poor marketing can kill customer experience, just ask Pepsi...
In April 2017, PepsiCo ran a commercial starring Kendall Jenner. She hands a police officer a Pepsi, which magically stops all protesting on race, gender, and economic inequality. The ad was criticized for insulting all who have suffered and fought for these movements. Coca-Cola was probably laughing though.
Sales can be broken down further into B2C and B2B. In the B2C context, sales is a quick process with a lot less room for error to shape the customer experience. Nonetheless, the checkout process can be a major touchpoint for the sales department, both online and in-person.
B2B Sales have many more touchpoints comparatively – such as sales rep communications, post-purchase hand-off, delivery, and purchase processing – because sales reps are forging relationships with other businesses. In this context, the other businesses are the customers looking for a good customer experience.
Once a customer receives a product, their interaction with your company continues. Product satisfaction is the biggest factor for product teams to consider, and it is not as simple as having high quality. It includes having convenient packaging, instructions, set-up/installation, and a channel for customers to provide feedback. Individual product features may also impact customer experience.
Product teams can sometimes measure their overall success through a user adoption score. Another popular method involves analyzing the sentiment expressed in product reviews. Machine learning platforms analyze thousands of reviews in seconds. They can extract product features with sentiment and reasoning for poor product satisfaction. Product development teams use these insights to constantly improve their products.
Customer service is one of the biggest contributors to a customer’s overall experience. Customer interactions with service representatives and the resources you provide customers to find answers both fall under customer service. Service departments often rely on their Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a key metric for assessing their performance.
I recently stayed at an Airbnb in Asheville, NC where the hosts were more than just superhosts. They were customer service superheros. They introduced us to niche stores and restaurants, shared recipes with us, and even offered us an additional night's stay after an ice storm rolled through. My girlfriend and I will be returning because our customer experience was 5 stars.
Hopefully, this Four Department model for Customer Experience helps you organize the concept and gain new perspective, but it does have its limitations. For one, not all departments have an equal contribution to overall customer experience; it’s entirely situational. For example, the checkout process (Sales) and online support (Service) will have a far greater effect on customer experience for an e-commerce company selling directly to customers online.
Assessing the CX at your business doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Create a simple framework by prioritizing touchpoints in order of impact on customer experience. To gain more insight about your customer satisfaction at each touchpoint, consider simple email surveys or questionnaire forms at the end of one touchpoint. An advanced method of collecting and measuring customer satisfaction scores is to use dedicated software such as Salesforce, a CRM system, or an AI platform designed to help you assess customer experience.