five strategies for delivering a customer experience that drives performance.

  • Certainty and simplicity.
  • Artificial serendipity.
  • Partner in life.
  • Personalisation
  • Delivery

There is much talk these days about customer experience or ‘CX.’ But what is customer experience – does it differ from customer service – and how important is it?

I will try answer these two critical questions and highlight five trends in CX that will help most businesses drive sales and margins up while driving marketing costs down.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DEFINED 

The term customer experience is used to address the experience or experiences customers have at each stage of the customer journey. While customer service refers specifically to the standard and nature of the service a customer receives at and around the point of purchase – customer experience refers to the experiences of the customer:

  • In the lead-up to the purchase process – perhaps while planning a purchase.
  • During the purchase process – including at the points of sale and delivery.
  • After the purchase process – including after-sales service and support.

The quality of a customer’s experience is reflected in:

  • Anticipated utility – the expected benefit of a purchase and experience.
  • Experience utility – the actual benefit of a purchase and experience.
  • Retrospective utility – the remembered outcome of the purchase experience.

Customer experience is most often considered in terms of the experiences of the customer when visiting a business and making a purchase, when in fact, the term is equally relevant to the:

  • Offline experience.
  • Online experience.
  • Omnichannel experience.

The customer experience is relevant to all channels. The customer experience is impacted by every aspect of the consumer’s preparation for a purchase, interaction with the business and follow-up to that purchase. 

Gartner suggests that the customer experience is – ‘…..the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.’

WHY IS CX IMPORTANT

To understand the importance of customer experience, one need only consider the following statistics:

  • Global spending on CX is estimated to reach $640 billion in 2022.
  • 74% of customers can switch brands if their purchasing process is too complex.
  • 32% of customers “break up” with a favourite brand after one poor customer experience.
  • 86% of users are inclined to pay more for a great customer experience.
  • 64% of buyers consider customer experience more critical than price.
  • 71% of customers recommend a product or service because of a great customer experience.

Research and empirical evidence suggest that the customer experience:

  • Demonstrates a brand’s commitment to customers
  • Reflects how well an organisation’s internal teams work together to deliver on their promise
  • It is the customer’s subjective response as they interact with a business.

A recent article on customer experience – notes that:

‘Customer experience has fast become a top priority for businesses…… Customers no longer base their loyalty on price or product. Instead, they stay loyal to companies based on the experience they receive. If you cannot keep up with their increasing demands, your customers will leave you.’

Further highlighting the importance of customer experience are these statistics:

  • 72% of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people.
  • 13% of customers will share their experience with 15 or even more.
  • Just 1 in 26 unhappy customers take the time to complain.

 

Customer experience impacts the purchase behaviour of customers and, more broadly, the lifetime value of each customer. Increasingly the customer experience is viewed as part of the product – part of what the customer is paying for. 

PRIORITIES AND TRENDS IN CX

Research highlights a host of priorities that are important to customers in terms of customer experience. They include or relate to – privacy, ethics, security, manners, response times, and so much more. Critical trends in terms of creating an optimum customer experience include – certainty and simplicity, artificial serendipity, being a partner in life, personalisation, and delivery.

  1. CERTAINTY AND SIMPLICITY

 When a potential customer goes to your website, they expect it to work, be easy to navigate and provide the information they need without effort or time delays. When a customer goes to your online shop, they want it to be easy to use, easy to get around and straightforward in terms of making a purchase.

Increasingly, customers shy away from websites or e-commerce platforms that are:

  • Hard to find.
  • Hard to navigate.
  • Hard to use.
  • Unreliable.

Customers are becoming less and less forgiving and tolerant. This reflects the fact that even before a purchase experience occurs, consumers want:

  • Certainty in terms of the functioning and delivery of channels.
  • Simplicity in terms of ease of use and getting what they want.

A positive customer experience involves getting what you are looking for – as easily as possible and with absolute reliability. The more difficult or unreliable the online experience, the more inhibiting the experience. 

The same can be said for face-to-face interactions. Customers want it to be as easy as possible to get the information and products they want and finalise the transaction. Every hitch in the process (like having minimum purchase amounts on a credit card or making the customer stand in line) detracts from the customer experience. 

Certainty and simplicity are perhaps most potent before the purchase interaction.

  1. ARTIFICIAL SERENDIPITY

 Wikipedia defines artificial serendipity as – ‘… an unplanned fortunate discovery ….. a common occurrence throughout the history of product invention and scientific discovery …. a potential design principle for activities that would present a wide array of information and viewpoints, rather than just re-enforcing a user’s opinion.’

Reinforcing the importance of artificial serendipity –  EXCO 22 – ‘If we’re on the brink of a decision and discover something that surprises and positively influences, this coincidental find can be more satisfying than a decision we would have reached of our own accord.’

The fact is, consumers, while craving certainly, also crave surprises. They like the certainty of getting what they want in terms of information, service, and products – while at the same time finding the unexpected. Consumers like to go to a website or into a business where they can discover the unexpected. They are attracted to the element of surprise and the feeling that fate has brought something unexpected into their lives. 

This does not mean that businesses should offer an ever-increasing product range. Indeed, research clearly demonstrates that increasing the product range can reduce purchasing and product satisfaction when a purchase has occurred. Purchases and customer satisfaction are maximised when the product sought is in stock, along with some surprises – perhaps ideas, features, or add-ons.

The surprise can of course be a product or an experience and can most certainly be in the service provided – given that standard of service exceeds the expectations of customers.

Artificial serendipity is perhaps most potent during the purchase process.

  1. PARTNER IN LIFE.

 The primary focus of customer experience strategies has traditionally been the customer journey and the purchase process. It has revolved around the experiences associated with purchasing the product.

Increasingly, however, there is recognition that the customer experience can and should include the relationship with the brand – and more specifically, what the brand can contribute to customers’ lives. ‘Partner in life’ refers to a relationship between a brand and a customer – and the value it adds to the customer’s life.

Examples of ‘partner in life’ customer experiences include:

  • Mazda providing free parking at the MCG for Mazda-driving football fans.
  • A US insurance company hosting ‘fix your dent for free’ days.
  • Bunnings staging ‘how to workshops’ for female customers. 
  • The RAC providing a lifestyle magazine incorporating life tips and partner discounts. 

 

‘Partner in life’ marketing involves the business or brand adding value, not just through the purchase process, but more generally to customers’ lives. Adding value in this way helps to create a bond between the customer and the brand that extends beyond the last purchase.

‘Partner for life’ marketing is most applicable to the post-purchase period. 

  1. PERSONALISATION.

 I have written a great deal about the six priorities or factors driving the behaviour of people in the wealthier countries of the world:

  • Certainty.
  • Variety.
  • Significance.
  • Connection.
  • Growth
  • Contribution.

Personalisation addresses two of these priorities – significance and connection. All human beings want to feel significant (and even important). That is why most consumers reject slow service or being made to feel like nothing more than a ‘credit card courier.’ It is why most consumers want to be the centre of attention when making a purchase – and not have the process retarded or interrupted by the other priorities of the business – or indeed, its systems and procedures. 

Personalisation is about taking customer service and the customer experience to the next level and offering a personalised experience. This might involve:

  • Remembering the customer’s name and or membership number.
  • Maintaining and leveraging records of previous purchases and preferences.
  • Asking as many questions as possible, listening to the answers and acting accordingly.
  • Asking the customer’s name at the start of an online purchase and using it.
  • Sending customers a personalised letter to thank them for their purchase.
  • Ensuring that every customer feels like the only customer.

The more personalised the customer experience, the more aligned it will be with the customer’s expectations, and as such, the more likely the customer will be to purchase and repurchase. The more personalised each customer experience, the more likely a strong relationship with the brand will be established and the greater the likelihood of maximising lifetime value. 

Personalisation is important before, during and after the purchase interaction. 

  1. DELIVERY.

 When I recently purchased blinds for a property, I was told by the manufacturer that they would be installed on an agreed date – at around 8.00 am – and that we would be the first job that day. After I sent someone to the property to let the contractor in at 8.00 am – I received a call at 11.30 am to inform me the installation would occur at about 1.00 pm because the installer had been caught up on other jobs. When I complained, I was told that they would be installed the following day – at 8.00 am – guaranteed as the first job of the day. Again, I send someone to the property at 8.00 am to let the contractor in – and again I received a call at around 11.30 am to say the installation would occur at around 1.00 pm.

I don’t know about you, but to my mind, this customer experience demonstrates that this blind business has made one of the worst marketing or indeed business – mistakes – failing to deliver as promised. When a transaction occurs – there is a promise made by both parties – one to pay and the other to deliver. Failing to deliver is not just a breach of contract but also a breach of trust. 

Most people I know have a bad airline to tell. There are websites, social media pages and indeed songs dedicated to criticising airlines. In most cases, the criticism relates to planes running late or in some other way – failing to deliver as promised. There is a common view among the flying public that airlines regularly fail to deliver as promised. This, in turn, highlights a fundamental fact in marketing – delivering as promised is central to maximising the lifetime value of each customer.

Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding in terms of getting not just what they paid for but everything the business promised. In these busy times, however – fewer and fewer contractors and businesses are meeting agreed deadlines. They seem to find it easier to craft a credible excuse – when in reality – no excuse is ever good enough.

A positive customer experience requires consistently delivering on time, budget, and specification. Anything else represents and is seen as shirt changing the customer. 

Delivery is important throughout the customer experience.

TWO OTHER ISSUES

Before summarising the discussion to date – I will touch on two critical questions:

  • Who defines a good customer experience?
  • How do you create the optimum customer experience?

The answer to the first question is – the customer. The customer – NOT you – determines the quality of the   customer experience and the customer’s judgement is the ONLY one that matters.

Central to developing the optimum customer experience is understanding customers’ expectations and developing a strategy to exceed them. Asking the customer is a sound approach. Co-creating the customer experience (perhaps using a brand community) is ideal. 

The key to developing the optimum customer experience is using a brand community or customer panel to design the experience and monitoring outcomes to facilitate fine-tuning that experience. 

INSIGHTS

  • The customer experience impacts results as much as the product.
  • Global spending on CX is estimated to reach $640 billion in 2022.
  • 72% of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people.
  • 13% of customers will share their experience with 15 or even more.
  • Just 1 in 26 unhappy customers take the time to complain.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

RECOMMENDED READING

ACTION

  • Ensure absolute certainty and simplicity.
  • Create and offer a serendipitous experience.
  • Become your customer’s partner in life.
  • Prioritise personalisation of the experience.
  • Deliver on time, to budget and specification. 

QUESTIONS

  • Given that just 1 in 26 unhappy customers take the time to complain – what are you doing to ensure that your customer is satisfied and will return?
  • Given that 74% of customers can switch brands if the purchasing process is too difficult for them – what are you doing to make purchasing as easy as possible?
  • Given that 64% of buyers consider customer experience more important than price what are you doing to ensure your customer experience is optimal?
  • Given the customer and NOT you define a good customer experience’ and its key components – how are you determining what they want? 
  • What are you doing to ensure the six drivers of consumer behaviour – certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution – are fully met?

STATISTICS

  • 74% of customers can switch brands if their purchasing process is too difficult.
  • 32% of customers “break up” with a favourite brand after one poor customer experience.
  • 86% of users are inclined to pay more for a great customer experience.
  • 64% of buyers consider customer experience more important than price.
  • 71% of customers recommend a product or service because of a great customer experience.
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