Customer experience is one of the simplest disciplines to understand and the most complex to apply. It is defined as the perception that customers have whenever they interact with a brand at any touchpoint. In other words, customer experience is a result from the customer’s perspective (which can be positive, neutral, or negative) that occurs every time there is an interaction with a brand at a point of contact.
A simple concept – that is, until we start to apply it.
In the first place, in order to make the customer experience valuable to the customer, the whole strategy of a brand must have the customer at the center. It’s not worth having the customer at the center of your marketing efforts if they’re not also at the center of your support strategy. If you do no’t have the customer in at the center throughout the relationship cycle, from they are unknown users until they decide to be your customers, the experience that customer will perceive will be inconsistent in the best case.
Secondly, once a customer-centric strategic decision has been made, the operational complexities appear, which, in turn, are the result of a brand’s strategic approach: the customer, the touchpoints, and the interactions.
Who is the client?
Customer experience must always be understood as the perception of the customer and not as the objective of the brand, a mistake that is all too common and that reveals whether the strategy is more brand-centric than customer-centric.
A topic as essential as the point of view of perception is to define who the client we want to create a positive experience for is. When we say a customer, this does not mean that we should focus on producing a positive experience for those who have already purchased or contracted the service.
In customer experience, the word client is used to include all the states of a user, from “unknown user” through, as interactions are generated with the brand, to “client” (or not). There are many words to express different states of people who are not even customers, such as suspects, prospects, potential customers, users, visits, attendants, and many more.
When we talk about customer experience, we talk about people in different states of relationship with the brand who, due to that relationship status, have different expectations in their interactions.
At what touchpoint do I create the experience?
Customer experience must consider all points of contact without exception – physical and virtual (both digital and analog), internal and external (third party). This seems obvious, however, inconsistent customer experience happens when all points of contact are not considered or when digital ones are prioritized over analog ones (such as call center).
Addressing the complexity of the points of contact requires understanding the customer, again, being customer-centric. There will owned touchpoints or channels, such as your website or your customer service application, in which you have to explore and understand which client you contact and what their status is (visitor, potential client, client, etc.) to define an experience.
When it comes to touchpoints the brand does not own, such as social networks, there is only so much it can do to influence customer it experience. However, many brands have chosen to assign a main function to the social networks in which they participate, so that each one proposes a different experience and adjusts to the client’s expectations. Many use Twitter, because of its immediacy, to support the client; Facebook or Instagram to inspire potential clients; LinkedIn to mature a long-term relationship with corporate buyers.
What are the interactions?
In customer experience, digital interactions (which are not the only ones, there are the physical interactions, of course) provide data that can become valuable information about the customer experience.
There are many types of client interactions. If we use an e-commerce site as an example, we find that in a purchasing process there are several digital events that are produced by the interaction between the website and the visitor, such as visualize, browse, search, select, filter, save, share, download, buy, recommend, etc.
The complexity in defining a positive experience, whether or not it is a shopping experience, lies in understanding the user’s status, their expectations in each interaction, and their expectations as a whole.
A simple search in an online store can serve as an example of the relationship between status, interaction, and expectations.
- Why does a user use the search engine of a website? Maybe he or she is interested in some product, but has not found it at a glance. Their status is “interested,” for example.
- What does a user expect when using a search engine on a website? Probably that the results will be presented quickly and in a friendly way, but their expectation is to find what they are looking for.
- What does the user expect, in general, beyond this particular interaction? If they have found the product they were looking for in the search results, their expectation is to verify that the product fits their interest. In that case, they might consider making a purchase (change of state). They hope to find a product page that explains the benefits, advantages, and characteristics of the product, among other points that influence the purchase (availability, delivery, means of payment, etc.).
If the customer experience (the buyer experience in this example), has been defined so that each interaction responds to the user’s expectations, it is very likely that the whole experience is positive and becomes a purchase.
But, since each interaction has provided us with data, we could build the path of optimal interactions for the purchase.
It is very true that we must think big and act in small to get results, iterate, and grow. But we need to see the big picture of the customer experience and their three pillars to lay the foundations of customer experience – the customer, the point of contact and interactions.
Marcelo Arnone is a customer experience expert and the lead marketing and commerce practice on Capgemini DCX Spain. You can contact him at marcelo.arnone.@capgemini.com.