How well do you know your customers? What value does your product or service bring to their life? Are they happy, fulfilled? How can you align your brand goals & values with the journeys your customers want to take while building a long-term relationship?

These are questions that keep popping up lately. Research tells us that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Many specialists, keynote speakers, investors, entrepreneurs say that you can compete on customer experience and win even if you aren’t the cheapest or don’t have the top product.

Here are few stats:

  • customers would pay in average with 16% more for products and services if the company ensures a great customer experience (PWC research)
  • 40% of customers began purchasing from a brand due to its reputation for good customer service (Zendesk research)
  • 32% of customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience (PWC research)
  • 60% of customers will stay loyal to a brand due to its history of positive customer service experiences (American Express research)
  • 79% of customers shared with others their bad experience (Zendesk research)

Bottom line is… create an exceptional customer experience and the customers will pay & buy more, be loyal and transform into brand advocates. Simple, isn’t it?!  93% of senior executives across several industries confirmed that improving customer experience is one of the company’s top three priorities, yet only 37% of the executives were actually moving forward with a formal customer experience initiative (Oracle research). In the meantime, a lot of customers seem disappointed, more than half stating that customer experience at most companies needs improvement.

It looks like a disconnection between what companies want and customers expect. The companies focus on their financial outcome, costs vs profits, doing good on the environmental and social front due to the consistent pressure on these topics, while customers care about values, speed, consistency, convenience, relevance. The demanding customer of today can’t understand why there aren’t more Uber like easy to use services or, why not, even a Disneyland MagicBand to improve the healthcare experience.

The customer expectation is for a seamless, integrated approach. Unfortunately, reality is “a bit” different. Accenture found that 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. And according to Kampyle 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a consistent experience.

What is Customer Experience?

According to Wikipedia customer experience (CX) is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction is made up of three parts: the customer journey, the brand touchpoints the customer interacts with, and the environments the customer experiences (including digital environment) during their experience.

In short, CX is the sum of all engagements a customer has with a company during the customer lifecycle. It’s not just about the customer service, marketing, IT, sales or your employees. It’s about each department and all of them together. The customers are different, choosing to interact with you via different touchpoints for different tasks – website, mobile app, social, call center, instant messaging, email, sales reps, physical store, ads, etc. They don’t know and, let’s face it, don’t care that your call center and web presence are managed by separate teams and operate on different technologies or that the communication between your departments is challenging.

The customers expect to engage with you effectively regardless of the channel they use, getting what they need exactly at the moment of choice. Although they may accept different level of service from different channels, the customers expect the communication to remain consistent. 71% of customers say that inconsistent message cross-channel negatively affects the experience (Forrester study).

What do customers prioritize when picturing the ideal experience?

The question was asked in a consumer study performed by Altimeter. The responders were invited to make their own top three and the final results showed that:

  • 52% of customers considered that fast responses at questions and complaints is top priority;
  • 49% of customers placed finding the information needed quickly second;
  • 36% of customers included completing the transactions quickly on their list;
  • 30% of customers considered an always consistent experience as one of the priorities;
  • 19% of customers valued personalized experience based on their data.

The same study also asked the customers what prevents companies from providing an ideal customer experience. The answers Lack of employee training and they value profits over customers received the top votes. So, when something goes wrong, the customers don’t blame it on the technology, but rather on organization’s priorities and people.

On the same topic the PWC research pointed out that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.

It seems that focusing a lot of energy and money just on mesmerizing ads or cutting-edge technology to wow customers, while neglecting the end-to-end holistic view of the customer journey and the customers needs & motivations, might not do the trick in the end. You can have the most amazing app out there. If your customer support employees are rude or the app is disconnected from the company’s internal systems, it will be just another app applauded at first, then overlooked, not used and in the end a cost with no return.

Technology is the enabler, easing the experience. Use data and analytics to get to know your customers, talk with them so you can understand them and empower your employees to drive customer satisfaction.

And when customers’ expectations are met or even exceeded, companies gain measurable business benefits.