In the constantly-growing jungle of buzzwords, “customer experience” stands out among those used most often.
These days, everything is about improving, changing, protecting, examining or reinventing the “customer experience”. No one was talking about this just a few years ago so where did it come from and what’s it all about?
Let’s start with a working definition of “customer experience”
With the rise of ecommerce, more attention has been paid to even the smallest components of the customer journey and their engagement with a brand. Every touch point gets analyzed and examined down to the smallest detail because a customer’s impression of a brand can be affected in so many ways.
All of these interactions, collectively, starting from the very first time a brand appears on a customer’s radar and continuing right up to this moment, form what we call the “customer experience”.
Just think about how you would answer the question “What do you think about Company X?” Your reply is based on lots of individual things — what you think about their television advertisements, your own experience with their product, how much you paid for it, if you use it regularly or not, etc. — but they all add up to one general impression that falls somewhere on the like / dislike spectrum.
That’s your customer experience with Company X. So “customer experience” has become a convenient catch-all term as a kind measure of a brand's entire history with a client, from day one until right this moment.
Remember that warm, positive feeling you had as a child when, for example, someone took you to your favorite restaurant? Even now, all these years later, that experience still has an impact on your customer experience of that restaurant.
Yes, it’s quite a broad and inclusive idea, but it has become central to the marketing strategies of smart brands that want to make sure those warm, positive feelings last and continue to influence purchasing decisions.
Don’t confuse it with these similar concepts
Customer experience can be confused with related but distinct concepts that are also part of the ecommerce world. Things get complicated when we add “customer service” and “user experience” to the discussion. Let’s take a look at each and see how they’re very different ideas.
First, customer service. This is straightforward since most of us have had the experience of needing customer service at some point. This is the team dedicated to solving customer problems and involves dealing with someone directly.
Your impression of a company’s customer service is part of your overall customer experience, which includes everything from before and after your interaction with the customer service team. Got that?
Customer service is one part of the customer experience and you still have a customer experience with a brand even if you never encounter their customer service.
See how complicated this is already?
Let’s mix things up even more by introducing another term into the conversation — “user experience”.
User experience (often abbreviated as “UX”) refers to the time when you’re directly interacting with a certain product or service. Is an electronic gadget easy to use or hard to understand? Does a machine match the way you naturally move or does it force you into awkward positions? Can you understand how your new phone works even without instructions or it is impossible to figure out? These are all examples of good or poor user experiences.
Just as customer service is part of the overall customer experience, so is user experience. A good user experience reinforces a good customer experience and a bad user experience has a negative effect on your customer experience.
Customer service and user experience are about specific, limited interactions with a brand. Customer experience is what all those interactions — including others not listed here — add up to.
Why customer experience is important for business
So how does all of this translate into useful business intelligence that can be applied for better results?
Being aware of the importance of customer experience and the touch points that influence it is half the battle. Too many brands operate without considering how the many, smaller interactions they have with customers combine to form their overall impression of that brand.
Carefully considering how every piece of messaging impacts your customer experience helps you to:
- Gather more and better data regarding customer preferences. Maintaining a good customer experience means longer, more engaged relationships. This means more opportunities to learn what’s important to them, what they respond to and what they don’t. And that means more information to use in crafting the right message for everyone.
- Have a well-defined brand. When you take the time to think about how every interaction with your brand affects your customers, you have a better chance to consider whether or not certain things are consistent with other messaging you use or if they match the way you want to be perceived. Weaving your values into your customer experience is easier when you’re aware that customer experience exists in the first place.
- Get the most out of marketing automation. You can create a virtuous circle when your positive customer experience generates more data, which in turn can be used to craft a personalized experience at scale for all your customers, which enhances the customer experience and so on.
We hope this clarifies the idea of customer experience and illustrates how it fits into a list of terms that get used a lot when discussing ecommerce. Also, since everything we covered here broadly falls into the category of general customer care, check out another post we dedicated to that subject and all the things you can do to keep more of the customers you work so hard to attract. You can find it here.