A great customer experience can give an immense competitive advantage to businesses.
What is exactly CX and why is it so important? In this article we want to guide you through customer experience knows and hows.
What is customer experience?
Gartner’s 2017 customer experience research shows that 81% of firms expect to compete mostly on customer experience. Not price, not products quality, but customer experience. Often shortened as “CX”, customer experience is defined as the sum of all the interactions happening between a customer and an organization and his attitude and feelings about it.
What is a great customer experience?
In order for customers to be satisfied and loyal, brands need to ensure all interactions and touchpoints are flawless. We are not talking just about the purchasing phase or the post-purchase client service. Customers evaluate brands on their overall CX, not just on minor interactions, this can cover marketing and advertisement but also customer retention activities. Nowadays, making customer experience as near to perfect as possible has become brands’ main goal. In a research by Bain and Co, 80% of the companies surveyed judged the CX they were offering awesome. While only 8% of their customers believed their CX was superior. The gap between businesses’ and customers’ perception is huge. This is a big problem but also a great opportunity: all more reason to focus on CX and improve yours!
What can be considered a great customer experience? Here are 4 pillars any business should always keep in mind.
A great CX is…
Customer-centric. It is shaped on customer needs and journey. This way customers are more involved, in terms of interest but also on an emotional level.
Innovative. Businesses need to keep up with trends and tech also when it comes to customer experience. Customers may be used to the experiences your competitors are offering, hence they expect something similar for you. At the same time, innovation may allow you to differentiate your CX from others.
Brand-focused. “Customer experience IS the new brand” according to Forbes. CX can have a strong influence on customers’ opinion on your brand. This means the CX you are offering needs to be consistent to the brand values, mission and vision in all its aspects.
Smooth and intuitive. Whatever the customer is trying to achieve, she has to reach her goal without encountering any obstacle.
What is a customer experience strategy?
How to achieve this goal? With a strategy. In a CX strategy, an organization plans how to deliver a positive experience through all interactions to the customers, so they have positive attitudes and feelings towards it. What are the steps a firm needs to take into consideration while planning such a strategy?
Customer research: who are your customers? Their demographics? Their characteristics? Who are your buyer personas?
Competition and industry standard research: what are the competition’s visible strategy? What is everyone doing, what are the trends?
Careful brand management: what are the mission and vision of the firm? It’s good practice to always keep these in mind while building the CX strategy.
Usability testing: it’s very important to ensure the experience is smooth and user-friendly.
Customer journey maps. A good way to plan the CX strategy is by designing possible customer journey maps. We will focus on this technique later on.
Customer experience quotes: get some real inspiration
Quotes by experts can bring many insights and also motivate you to do better and get your hands dirty. That’s why we selected some CX quotes to inspire you.
“The point of the story is that every single interaction, the most minute details of the interaction you have with your customer, are an opportunity for you to create something remarkable.” – Joey Coleman, Customer experience expert and host of Experience This! Podcast.
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
– Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”
– Steve Jobs, Apple founder
“Customer experience is the new marketing battlefront”
– Chris Pemberton, CX expert, Gartner
“Customer experience stands for constant experimentation. Keep trying. If it fails, you will learn and get data.” – Des Cahill, CX expert, Oracle
Customer experience vs user experience
There is often confusion about the two terms customer experience and user experience. Let’s solve this doubt once for all. While customer experience includes ALL touch points between firms and customers (customer service, advertising, purchase, product delivery etc.), user experience is instead more specific. It refers to the specific interaction the customer has with a product, website or app. While customer experience is more general, user experience is much more about design, usability, and functionality. We could say that user experience is a small part of customer experience.
Customer experience vs customer service
This is another common dilemma. Customer experience, let’s repeat this once more, consists in all interactions where the customer meets the brand. Customer service, on the other hand, is the assistance, the help a company gives its customers. Also, in this case, customer service is a part of customer experience.
Even though CX is a different thing, we decided to spend some more words, bringing you examples of good and bad customer services.
Good customer service experience examples
The Ritz-Carlton hotel is perhaps the most popular example of great customer service. The company is famous for its blind devotion to customers. Employees at the Ritz go the extra mile for their customers’ satisfaction, and there are many inspirational stories that became viral. The Bali Ritz-Carlton staff managed to get crazy specific ingredients for customers with particular allergies. The Amelia Island Ritz made a kid’s day by sending him back his lost giraffe toy with super funny pictures of the toy enjoying his longer vacation time by the poolside and in the SPA.
Amazon, famous for being a customer-centric company, provides extra support for customers experiencing trouble with their delivery. When delivery fails, the company tries its best to reach the customer, plus the customer service is always very proactive and fast to respond to requests.
Bad experience customer service examples
Ryanair airline company was fined 550K € for providing poor customer service. The company is famous for its unreasonably expensive reimbursements, frequent changes in prices and one time also addressed passengers forgetting boarding passes as “idiots”. It is not an ideal example to follow for sure.
Smucker’s, the popular American food manufacturer, removed anti-GMO posts from its social media profiles. The worst you can do in customer service is ignoring negative remarks, or even worse, delete them!
Customer experience measurement: how to find out if customers enjoy their CX?
What gets measured, gets done. We have introduced CX, we have tried to clear out what’s customer experience and what’s not. Now that you know all about it…How can you find out if customers enjoy the experience you’re offering them? Having a consolidated customer experience measurement is the first step towards improvement and metrics can give you quick and insightful answers. Let’s go through the most popular ones:
Net Promoter Score (NPS) focuses on measuring the score of your customers’ satisfaction and loyalty. This score is based on one simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend this brand/website/ product to a friend or colleague, where 0 is not likely and 10 is very likely?”
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) specifically investigates your customers’ satisfaction with your product/service/interface. The typical CSAT question goes as follows: “How would you rate your satisfaction with the product/service/interface you just experienced?”
Customer retention and customer churn. These metrics are clear signs telling you if you’re providing a good enough experience – or not.
Operations and Usability quality level. When a product or service features a poor service and/or interface and does not meet basic requirements, the CX will be poor.
Where can you find these metrics? By asking customers. Surveys can be immensely helpful and insightful. But also by looking at all the data your CRM system and/or web analytics service collects.
Customer experience survey tools and questions
Whether it is through online surveys or in store, surveys are a great way to collect customers’ feedback. By asking the right questions, you will understand whether or not your customers are content with their experience.
How can you test your CX by asking a few questions? Here are some questions you can use as a guideline.
All in all, how would you rate this product/service?
Is the quality of the product/service high?
Is the product/service modern and up to date?
Were you able to quickly find all the information you were looking for? Did you experience any difficulties?
What’s more, with surveys you can also gather data about your users, e.g. demographics data, like age and gender. By understanding who your users are, you will be able to better shape your own CX upon them.
Customer experience companies: businesses devoted to CX
With the previous examples, we have focused on customer service. Let’s now focus exclusively on customer experience and bring some examples of businesses completely devoted to CX. We tried here to choose very different brands, to give you a complete overview of the different shapes customer experience can have.
Nike is also a good example. Sure, finding information and buying products is extremely easy, both online and in store. You would think that the experience of buying shoes ends with buying. Well, thanks to its app Nike+ app, Nike makes post-purchase also a cool amazing experience. While wearing Nike shoes you can track all your activity on the app and if you enjoy running you can join a whole community of people in most capital cities around the world. This way Nike renders CX memorable, from beginning to…the next pair of shoes!
Asos, the famous online retailer, has a great CX. Signing up, information availability, payments, returns and customer service are all on point. The journey clients go through is a smooth and hustle-free experience. Deliveries and returns are often painful operations for most companies but Asos ace them by making the experience great.
Disneyland MyMagic program. Let’s look at integrated customer experience. In 2013, Disney introduced MyMagic wristband to their theme park experience. By wearing the wristband, customers can access attractions, skip lines and pay for food and souvenirs. What’s more, customers get a personalized daily custom itinerary and personalized experience in some attractions. Finally, they can use the bracelet code to then look online the pictures that professional photographers have taken of them. This makes their experience amazing and hustles free.
Coca-Cola #ShareACoke 2011 campaign. We chose also to put here a more marketing-oriented experience. In 2011, Coca-Cola replaced the traditional logo on one side of their bottles with the phrase “share a coke with” followed by common people’s name. With this idea, the company turned the very ordinary event of drinking a coke, into a shareable and personalized customer experience. For the first time in 10 years, their sales grew.
What is the online customer journey?
Online customer journey definition: what is it?
Up until now, we have been talking about CX, the customers’ attitudes and feelings towards all interactions between him and an organization.
The customer journey is the representations of the touchpoints a customer engages with a brand. We can define customer experience as the set of attitudes, thoughts and feelings regarding the touchpoints.
Let’s make a clearer distinction between these two terms
Customer journey: the interactions (touchpoints) between a customer and an organization.
Customer experience: the customers’ feelings and attitudes towards such interactions.
When considering the online customer journey we are clearly referring to those customer-brand interaction taking place online, most likely on a website or app. Let’s take as an example a customer who is buying a plane ticket. Everything he will do online, from seeking information, to look up prices, to buy the tickets, to checking in online, all of this will be part of his online customer journey from beginning to end.
What’s the difference between a customer journey online and offline?
As mentioned above, the online customer journey takes place on websites or apps. The rest of interactions between a customer and a brand that are not taking place online go under the name of “offline customer journey”.
Clearly, this part of the customer experience usually involves many variables. If we take as an example the customer buying the plane ticket, we can say his offline experience will begin from the moment he enters the airport. There he will need to check in his luggage, then he’ll be boarded on the plane, he’ll look for his seat etc.
The airline company will carefully think at each stage of the customer experience and will focus on making it as good as possible. First of all airline employees will need to be prepared, helpful and trustable, both on the plane and at the airport. The company must also keep their planes clean and tidy while providing good quality food up in the air.
These are only some of the elements that affect the customer experience offline, and all of them are super important and can influence greatly the customer attitude towards the airline.
Customer experience omnichannel: the new buzz word
Some businesses choose to sell their products or services “offline” only, e.g. in brick and mortar stores. Other companies may instead choose to be available exclusively online.
That said, most people have now access to data on their mobiles. This means they have the chance to look online and be connected, no matter where they are. This is one of the main reasons companies are investing a lot to provide experiences on both channels: offline and online. They are choosing to offer an omnichannel customer experience.
Omnichannel companies seeks to provide customers on both offline and online channels a smooth and flawless experience. Our airline example fits well: the customer probably used his laptop to book the ticket and he most likely downloaded the boarding pass on his mobile. Once on the plane he is still using the mobile to read the newspaper the airline is giving him access to. At the same time he is sipping his coffee the hostess kindly offered him.
His customer journey is a continuous flow between online and offline channels.
The online customer journey: why is it so important?
Any organization should focus carefully on the online customer journey they are offering. Why is that?
I think you already have an idea of what the answer could be. Only by taking care of every touchpoint and interaction, can an organization be able to craft a great customer experience. Web and mobile technologies have brought customer experience on a lot of very different channels: it is super important to carefully craft all of these and never overlook some of them.
How to use an online customer journey map (mapping tool)
Customer journey maps are diagrams and flowcharts that clearly show where a customer is.
They help organizations to plan more timely and relevant interactions to their customers. We have said before how important providing a great experience is. Thanks to an online journey map, it is easier to visually see if the experience flow makes sense and can satisfy the customers.
We have made here a selection of what we think are great and intuitive mapping tools. Most of them offer good customer journey templates.
A good customer journey map mapping tool is Lucid Chart, a web-based tool that helps to create and to edit diagrams.
UXPressia is an interesting tool, it gives access to customer journey templates and also spices things up by adding customer personas to the plate.
Finally, Smaply is a very valid tool to create customer journey maps in a very easy and clear way. We suggest using their customer persona editor first to have a clearer idea for your mapping.
Customer journey in online marketing: the knows and hows
One of the areas that can benefit the most from customer journey mapping is online marketing. A customer journey map can help marketers plan out the perfect strategy to attract prospects and later turn them into leads.
Matching the right step to the right content, putting the right “call to action” button in the most relevant page… all of these online marketing decisions can immensely benefit from a precise customer journey mappings.
Meeting the customer when he is ready and more prone to say yes is super important and thanks to customer journey maps it is easier for marketers to clearly identify these moments.
Let’s take again as an example the customer looking for plane tickets. For the plane company, it will be vital to reach and retarget him with the right advertisement on social media, while also providing him with the information he probably wants.
Customer journey in online shopping
We’ve outlined how important is customer journey mapping in online marketing, let’s take it now to the next level: online shopping.
Nowadays, more and more companies sell their products online. Some do not even own brick and mortar store but rely solely on the web channels. Imagine now how important it is to track the online experience they are offering! By using customer journey maps, companies can visualize the process customers go through and provide them with a greater experience.
Let’s go back once more to the customer interested in buying plane tickets. He will most likely go on the airline company, set possible destinations and dates to compare the prices of tickets. If then satisfied by the ticket found, he will add extras, such as luggage bag and finally, he will purchase the ticket.
By focusing on the customer journey, the airplane company will have clear in mind the different stages the customer will go through and will know how to render his online shopping experience smoother and easier.
Best online customer experience examples: learn from the best
Here is a selection of great online customer experience you can learn from. We tried to select some less mainstream examples for this article.
Vivino is a Danish online wine community where users can rate wines. If you’re considering buying a bottle of wine and want to be sure it tastes good, you can take a picture to the barcode and Vivino will tell you what’s the average rate for that one bottle. The process is super easy, both the website and the app works great, giving customers a good online experience.
Norwegian airline makes it easy to find the lowest fares to fly, both on desktop and mobile. Their app is also excellent when it comes to checking in online.
Headspace is a meditation mobile app. Both website and app have usable and very well designed user interfaces, and these elements make a very good customer experience. The product itself (app with meditation lessons) are very well structured and effective making it easy for the customer to be motivated and keep on meditating.
Customer journey online course you can use
We hope we succeeded in giving you a clear overview on customer journey and why mapping it down can be vital for brands.
More and more industries are realizing the importance of this topic, and there are online courses you can attend to learn more. We recommend to use Coursera, which collects lots of interesting courses.
The university of Pennsylvania offers “Customer Analytics”, a course teaching how to use customers’ data to predict their behaviour/journey and provide better customer experiences.
Customer experience examples
In this section, we decided to take different situations and industries to make clearer the concept of customer experience.
Customer experience in retail
In an industry like retail, CX is now even more important than before. Many retailers offer the same or very similar products, and what’s more, potential customers can find anything online. A great CX can in this case bring competitive advantage, can be a valid selling point. All more reason to make customer experience as good as possible.
What’s a great customer experience in retail?
Trained employees: a great customer service can bring a retail experience to another level. Employees who are competent and ready to help are always appreciated.
Trustable payment methods: both online and offline, customers must feel safe when purchasing. The accepted payment methods need to fit customers’ expectations then.
The environment. The atmosphere can play a big role in any retail experience. The more the customer enjoys being at the store, the more likely he will buy and come back.
Products availability. Not finding the right size or color can be very stressful for a customer. To make a retail experience great, make sure to keep up and refill the items you sold out.
Customer experience in B2B: best practices and differences
Customer experience is as critical in B2B as it is in retail. Yes, you’ve read well. Just like in retail, the experience influences a lot customers.
What are the main differences with B2C that makes crafting customer experiences for B2B more difficult?
In B2B there is no single customer, and providing a great experience for all is not always feasible. Companies usually have multiple stakeholders with different buying behaviours.
Offerings and pricing are often tailored to individual customer needs.
B2B journeys tend to be longer and more complex, involving more players and different departments.
How can then B2B adopt a more customer-oriented approach?
By committing to customers and make them feel valued. Companies should lean towards customers, be ready to go the extra mile for them, show them they are treated with special care.
Understanding customer needs. In B2B is vital to show the customers you are passionate about their vision and you want to help them achieve their goals.
Proactivity: being able to foresee customer needs is super appreciated and almost expected in most B2B relations. This way, before the customer is even feeling the pain, you can present your solution.
Smooth experience. An important driver of satisfaction in B2B is ease of doing business with the supplier. Simple and hassle-free experiences are vital for a good CX.
Customer experience in banking: a conventional example
Banking is a good example when talking CX because in the last years the industry standards were completely shaken.
What are now the challenges banks have to deal with in order to provide a great customer experience?
Mobile is now the standard. This means banks had to develop their technology in order to provide great CX also on that channel, as most interactions with the customer happen there.
It has never been easier to offer digital banking solutions. This means traditional bigger institutions are now facing smaller realities who thanks to mobile adoption can now have a say.
Customers expect banks to be “always on”. As services are provided online, customers expect to receive assistance 24/7, the standard is now much higher.
When a security lapse happens, customers are very likely to blame banks, even when it is not their fault. It is even harder now to gain trust.
E-commerce customer experience: a dive into the online world
Let’s now shift and talk about CX in e-commerce. What are the ways to improve CX?
Flawless website experience: your platform must be on point. No broken links, no slow loading images, e-commerce websites are store windows.
Create content with value: give your customers the chance to learn more and find useful information on your website – show you care about their interests and you’re not only there to sell products.
Be authentic on social channels: engage with customers in a genuine way, they will trust you much more.
Go the extra mile: show customers you care about them by making small gestures out of the ordinary. Send them a personalized card, add extra goodies to their packages, send them loyal rewards.
Customer experience innovation examples: does experience also mean new?
Even though experience does not necessarily mean new and innovation is not the sole driver of better customer experience, it is worth talking about it.
That said, innovation is no doubts an important driver of customer experience. Let’s look at the banking industry. The benchmark for “good customer experience” was drastically affected by smartphones advent. The same goes for retailers who, to offer a complete experience to customers, had to also open an e-commerce platform.
Those companies that recognize the potential in some technologies and early adopt them can, of course, benefit greatly from it. Even if they are not the first to adopt it, businesses who fully embrace innovation, can always benefit from it. Innovation is often lowering costs and bringing customers’ closer.
Customer experience strategy examples: win the market over
Finally, we want to give you here a customer strategy example you can use as starting point to build your own customer experience. According to the Customer Strategist Journal, therese are the six areas you need to focus on.
Reachability: what are your customers’ preferred channels? Where can you better meet them?
Service convenience: is your service frictionless? Are the information up to date?
Purchase convenience: what are the firm’s e-commerce features like? Are there tools to provide help at anytime of the process?
Personalization: can you make the experience customized for specific users’ segments?
Simplicity and ease of use: are the channels you’re using to interact with customers easy to use and intuitive?
Channel flexibility: can customers switch seamlessly from one channel to another? Is the process hustle-free?
Now you have all the tools to go and win the market over with customer experience!
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