Confused by Customer Experience? Let us help!

There is much focus on customer experience in marketing these days and for a good reason. Gartner predicts customer experience will be the main battleground for competing companies over the next two years. And a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review found in transaction-based businesses customers who had the best experiences spent 140% more than customers who had the worst experiences. They also looked at subscription-based businesses and found that customers who had the best experiences had a 74% chance of being a subscriber one year later, while customers on the opposite end of the experience spectrum had a 43% chance of remaining a subscriber.

So, what is customer experience or CX?

Especially with the proliferation of online-only businesses, CX is sometimes seen as synonymous with UX (user experience). But many practitioners take a more holistic view and include all business-customer interactions. For example, according to Forrester, “CX is how customers perceive their interactions with your company. An interaction is any two-way exchange, whether in person, electronically, or over the phone. Further, Forrester defines good customer experiences as being made up of three things from the customer’s perspective:

  1. Useful—they deliver value
  2. Usable—the value is easy to find and engage with
  3. Enjoyable—they’re emotionally engaging and people want to use them

Forrester’s definition is a great start, but there is no commonly accepted definition and many industry experts have a different take. Let’s look at a few:

  • “Customer experience is how much your company exceeds or falls short of the expectations that every patron has for every interaction between them and your organization. When you exceed customer expectations in a demonstrable, meaningful way you deliver ‘great customer experience.’” – Jay Baer, Founder of Convince & Convert, author of Hug Your Haters
  • “I describe it as customers’ thoughts, emotions, and perceptions about their interactions with an organization. When someone asks me what I do for work, I’ll often just say that I help large companies improve their relationships with their customers. For me, that’s the essence of customer experience.” – Kerry Bodine, Co-author of Outside In
  • “CX is all about the value that accrues as you nurture a relationship over time through connection, trust, loyalty, recommendations, and sharing.” – Ted Rubin, author of Return on Relationship
  • “When most people use the term ‘customer experience’ they mean making interactions nice, easy, and convenient. However, those are all service characteristics and the antithesis of what a true, distinctive experience is! Experiences, which are a distinct economic offering, should not be merely nice, but must be memorable; should not necessarily be easy but must be personalfor the experience actually happens inside of people.” – Joe Pine, author of The Experience Economy
  • “Customer experience is the combination of pleasure and pain a person goes through trying your product and using it on a continuous basis. … A great customer experience is necessary to unlock the most powerful growth driver, which is natural word of mouth from very happy customers.” – Sean Ellis, founder of Qualaroo.com
  • “As the old axiom goes, perception is reality, so your customers’ experience becomes their—and also your—reality in terms of how that experience effects their progression through your marketing funnel, from awareness to consideration to preference to action, and finally, to loyalty.” – Kent Huffman, author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success
  • “Customer Experience is a company’s delivery of its brand promise. It is how a company behaves, how leaders lead, and how they deliberately take actions to improve customers’ lives.” – Jeanne Bliss, founder of Customer Bliss

More on Customer Experience

Based on these additional definitions, we should add to Forrester’s basic definition that customer experiences: must meet the customer’s expectations over the entire length of the relationship, connect emotionally with the customer, be memorable and personable, be consistent through every company touchpoint, as well as through the marketing funnel, encourages word of mouth, and continually builds the company’s brand.

Clearly, customer experience is a key lever for marketing success. Moreover, as our experts indicate, the key is that customer experience is designed and delivered with the customer at the center. Often businesses start with what they want the customer experience to accomplish, rather than with a deep understanding of what the customer wants to accomplish. To paraphrase Mike Wittenstein of StoryMiners, customer experience is what we do FOR customers, not TO them.

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