What is customer experience?
Ask 10 marketing, customer experience (CX), customer support or sales directors, and you’ll get 10 different answers. But they’ll agree CX is a big deal. Improving CX is a top priority for many businesses’ boards and leaders, who are investing considerable money and resources to “delight” customers. According to a commissioned global study of 484 CX leaders conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of CSG, 58% are currently spending more than $2.5 million on CX initiatives and strategies. Similarly, investing in new products and services to streamline CX is a high or critical priority for 64% of respondents.
Despite the investment, these initiatives aren’t always paying off. There’s a disconnect between businesses’ and customers’ perceptions of CX. This gap is partially caused by the vagueness of (or the misaligned) definition of what CX is and how to measure and track it across the end-to-end customer lifecycle. Without a shared and aligned understanding of CX, it is hard to pinpoint where today’s customer experience is broken, which areas require more attention, and how to go about fixing them.
CX is Frequently Misunderstood
The Cambridge Dictionary defines “experience” as “the way that something happens and how it makes you feel.” When starting with a vague, hazy description, it’s no wonder brands struggle to deliver the experiences customers expect. How do you measure feelings? And how do you provide different experiences to satisfy each customer’s expectations, at scale? Business leaders excel at tracking and interpreting cold, hard facts and figures (e.g., number of sales, length of customer service calls)—not the complexity of customer interactions.
Customer experience is a popular buzzword, often used interchangeably with “customer journey,” “user experience,” and Net Promoter Score (NPS). While these concepts are all related to customer experience, they are not the same.
What is Customer Experience?
Although there is not a universal definition of CX, Gartner defines customer experience as “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.” The key terms to pick up here are one-off and cumulative, as they will become critical to understanding the five components of CX.
5 Key Customer Experience Components
To improve CX and measure the impact of technology solutions on it, one must start by understanding the five customer experience components, align the organization on these five components and enable a technology-driven research and design team to analyze and understand customer behavior.
Context includes the customer’s location, physical environment, and mental and emotional state when interacting with a product or service. Think about a customer on vacation when suddenly, their credit card is declined. A financial services company should account for the timeliness of the fraud notification delivery so as not to let financial anxieties burden a customer on their time off.
The actions customers take to interact with a service, product or system and achieve their desired outcomes, or Jobs to Be Done. For instance, a patient will need to log into their MyChart app to view medical test results. Thus, a healthcare organization must account for this patient action when designing an experience around test result delivery.
Channels are the core part of the experience where customers interact with delivered products/services. Communication channels could be websites, apps, partners (e.g., delivery and logistics partners), phone (contact center), physical locations, kiosks, mail, email, and/or text messages. To improve CX, consider what the customer sees, smells, hears, touches and tastes and how these senses make customers feel while interacting with your brand. If the automated hold messages are lengthy and keep pushing customers to online channels, despite the fact that they tried the online channels before calling and failed, doesn’t make for a good channel experience.
This refers to how customers move back and forth between actions/steps. This could be waiting for products or services to arrive, waiting for complaints to be resolved, traveling to (and parking at) offices or retail stores, finding the contact center number, or being routed between channels (e.g., “please contact us via email or this number”). For example, if a replacement router doesn’t arrive promptly from the internet provider, the customer wonders if it was delivered to the wrong address. They will frantically switch back and forth between confirmation emails on their phone and FAQs online. Mastering this multichannel experience is necessary to deliver seamless experiences that are consistent across channels.
Journeys refer to sequences of actions or steps, through different channels, connected with transitions to enable customers to achieve a certain outcome. Understanding and deliberately designing a proactive and personalized journey is as important as designing in-channel interactions, especially in logistical areas where waiting is a core part of the experience. For instance, a retail organization needs to account for every touchpoint from when the order is placed to when a customer is driving to the store to when the goods are physically picked up by the customer. A great customer journey is defined by these three characteristics:
- Clarity on what happens next and what is expected from the customer
- Nudging and guiding the customer through the next best action or experience
- Helping the customer navigate channels in the most effective, proactive and personalized manner
To better grasp how these components interrelate, you can use this visualization:
Start by Understanding ‘the What’ Using Advanced Analytics Across the Five Components
To design and deliver personalized and proactive experiences, organizations must develop a clear and quantitative understanding of “what” their current experience is across the five components. They must use a tightly harmonized suite of omnichannel and journey discovery analytics to understand how customers engage today—through which channels and contexts—to proceed through journeys and achieve their desired outcomes.
Then Uncover ‘the Why’ Behind Your Customers’ Actions
With a clear and real-time view of the current experience elements, user research and design capability will take quantitative information to the next level. This capability applies qualitative research techniques such as interviews, focus groups, fly-on-the-wall observation or service safaris to dig deeper behind the numbers and understand the root cause behind customer behavior and triggers.
Only by combining the quantitative and qualitative parts of the puzzle—the what and the why—will organizations be able to find the real problems they need to solve to deliver extraordinary experiences.
This team then can collaborate with the rest of the organization using design and agile ways of working to define, design, test and deploy innovative solutions to real problems, and not just the symptoms.
CSG has a team of expert user researchers, as well as strategic UX and UI designers, who can work with you to uncover new actionable insights that help improve your customer experience.
For example, the team helped ADT reduce their call volumes by 20% by redesigning their billing statements to make them read better and simplifying data visualization and presentation. They took this approach as opposed to jumping straight to standard conclusions or strategies that produce yet another chatbot or a lengthy IVR redirection that does not, in this case, solve the root cause of the problem.
Read The Case Study: ADT Builds a Better Bill with CSG Experiences Practice