What is Customer Experience?

Begin to understand what customer experience really means to customers.

Customer experience is hailed as the new marketing.

It’s something we desire as buyers; something we like to provide as sellers.

But what is it?

A recent Econsultancy APAC survey asked marketers what the biggest barriers were to their understanding of the customer experience.

Some of the answers:

Complexity of the customer experience (44%)
Difficulty unifying different sources of data (34%)
Silo-based organisational structure (34%)
Lack of sharing between departments (28%)
IT bottlenecks (26%)
Lack of leadership (21%)
Insufficient budget (12%)
Competition between channels/company culture (10%)
[Insert unlisted excuse here]

Traditionally, products and services have been able to sell themselves – at least to some extent.

But as markets become even more competitive, with customer power increasing, brands need to offer more.

So the trend is to “provide great customer experiences.”

Working to shape customer perception in the way they’re treated, rather than how the product of service might help.

And it’s a plausible idea: produce memories that create experiences that build trust and loyalty.

Making people like you, so they buy from you.

But the study also reveals that (in their own opinions) just 11% of marketers have a well-developed customer experience strategy. That’s 1 in 10.

So even though we’re all talking about delivering good customer experiences, we have no real idea what it is and how to do it. (We certainly don’t know how to do it for the long term – most clients and customers go elsewhere eventually.)

But we could be looking in the wrong places.

Banking firm TD Canada placed a live human inside one of their ATM machines to interact with people as they approach the ATM.

A baseball fan was given a cap and jersey, then surprised by one of his favourite players.

A mother of two was surprised with free tickets to Disneyworld for her and her kids.

A mother of a daughter with cancer was surprised with two plane tickets to Trinidad to visit her daughter.

These were experiences that really hit home.

TD Canada knew that to give their customers a good experience they had to do something special.

To make sure it was an experience that lasted.

Creating touching stories talked about and watched again and again on the internet. Because it was personal.

And more than anything, an act of kindness that took the customer by surprise which made it memorable.

It’s also really simple – something we need if the stats above is anything to go by.

Gaining this in-depth knowledge about customers isn’t something that just happens, though.

It’s about generating valuable insights so people actually feel a good experience with the product seller or service provider.

Elements of marketing plans do cross over here.

For example, we can rethink our channels (how our emails are sent and how we use our CRM) or improve our internal collaborations (how marketing teams work with design or how we handle data).

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in – improving the experience for your customers is key to increasing retention, satisfaction and sales.

But it isn’t the new marketing. It’s not a trend either.

Think back to a time when you had a memorable experience with a brand – think also about a bad experience. Based on this experience, craft your own for your customers and look for that one-off meaningful interaction that’ll last a lifetime.

Look to surprise.

It’s probably the only thing we can do to guarantee customer experience results.

At least until we begin to understand customer experiences to the full.

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