Everybody thinks they know what Customer Experience is. It seems obvious. Customers buy something from you – and then they’re either happy or not, right?
At its simplest, customer experience lets you measure customer satisfaction across each touchpoint. You can then set objective service standards which, in turn, help ensure the optimal customer experience.
Yet you probably also intuitively know that Customer Experience (CX) is a paradox.
We think of purchasing as a series of discrete steps. But it’s a dynamic process, cross-cut with ‘real events’ in the customer’s life.
Brand experience as a social construct
Experienced marketers know that ‘brand’ is a social object.
That’s how mass advertising has worked for the past 50 years, by creating shared meaning and recognisable symbols and social signals, even for goods which are not necessarily high-priced.
In the same way, consistent brand experience sets shared expectations and perceptions.
But, as a customer, what you feel is subjective, in the moment and can be shaped by external factors.
We all know that the same pint of beer may taste better on a sunny day in the Seychelles than on a wet Wednesday in Wick.
Nonetheless, any good marketer will see that CX embraces many of the simple, common sense practices of classical marketing.
What matters most to customers
The mantra to ‘put the customer at the heart of the business’ sounds familiar. Yet, in customer experience, there is a subtle but critical mindshift which makes all the difference.
Crudely, you could say that old-fashioned businesses often thought the function of marketing was ‘to increase sales’ or ‘grow market share’ or even ‘increase brand value’.
By these benchmarks, you can see how many senior marketing people might feel set up to fail.
The CX mindset posits a different question. Not ‘how to sell more?’, but ‘how can we help customers achieve their goals?’.
This leads to some simple yet profound opportunities:
- For developing customer-centric products and services
- For integrating those offerings into the natural dynamic of customers’ lives
- For smarter investment calls and powerful focus to ‘what matters to customers’
- As a consequence, creating opportunities to invest for higher return, sharpen spending and save money.
Sophisticated marketing teams will recognise immediately how this focus plays nicely into their Net Promoter Score (NPS) framework.
However, while NPS is very useful, we all know that it can be hard to shift that needle in a way that creates meaningful results for the business.
The drama in everyday life
In contrast, the CX focus shows how simple strategic decisions can influence customer behaviour at key points, and create additional profitability.
CX is sometimes considered as a black art with highly technical measures and academic rigour.
However, at its heart, Customer Experience is a human drama.
Think like a movie-maker.
As the screenwriter Syd Field suggested: ‘Character is what people do’.
This core connection to ‘what people do’ helps identify the customer’s underlying goal – as Syd Field says ‘a strong and defined need’ which your business can meet.
Like any hero’s journey, there’s also a sense of cyclical change (rather than the old idea of ‘closing’ the sale).
The brands which adopt the CX mindset open their business to a higher level of understanding of customer behaviour.
In turn, this creates opportunities to build the solutions (and rapport) that drive profitability.