What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience is 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. - Gartner

In simple terms, we can say customer experience is how your customers feel when they see, understand, and interact with your product.

Is it applicable only when they're consuming your product?

No, it doesn't. It includes all the stages of customer interaction: pre-purchase, consumption, and post-purchase.

It starts the moment someone lands on your website. It applies to your user interface and how you navigate your visitors through your content and convert them into paying customers.

Does it mean the customer experience is limited to the engineering aspects of your product?

No. It also includes your brand's attitude towards customers: how your support team interacts, hears customer issues, and resolves their queries. It even comes into play in how you treat your customers when they leave your product/service.

In a meta sense, customer experience also includes how your customers feel about your product even when they're not using it.

The evolution of customer experience

Though we've heard about this buzzword a lot only in the past 3-5 years, the origin of customer experience can be traced back a few decades.

However, in those days, it wasn't cautiously practiced in a business's day-to-day activities, nor did it cover the multiple stages of customer interactions with the brand.

Initially, businesses weren't excited about providing a great customer experience and viewed CX as the cost of doing business. Its practical application was limited only to the customer support teams.

How did this atmosphere change?

As the service industry boomed, brands started positioning their products as "Experiences."

It was no longer cool to own a product—the attraction shifted towards getting a great experience out of that product.

There isn't a more apt example other than Apple to explain this positioning shift. When Apple started selling its products in the late 1970s, it didn't focus on its groundbreaking tech specifications. They focused on people's emotions, feelings, and positive experiences when using Apple products. It did wonders for them.

Slowly, brands realized their brand value and loyalty started to increase when they offered their customers an incredible experience.

Customer experience isn't an expense. Managing customer experience bolsters your brand. - Stan Phelps

Seeing this, other brands started replicating those CX strategies to attract customers. Now every brand competes against each other to provide the best possible customer experience.

What is customer experience management?

The practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. - Gartner

Customer experience management (CXM) is the process of understanding your customer's needs and concerns and implementing the remedies to improve their overall experience of interacting with your product.

There are multiple stages involved in customer experience management.

The first part would be monitoring and interacting with your customers, as well as asking how they feel when using your product/service. Their feedback and your observations should be analyzed, and the remedies should be implemented to void any concerns. If customers have any feature requests, they should be addressed, and if it's an apt request, it should also be added to the roadmap.

In large organizations, multiple departments take care of customers at various stages. Customer experience management should break the silos between those departments and ensure a smooth, uniform experience across multiple touchpoints within the organization.

Why is customer experience important?

In the past, low-cost and unique marketing placements were attractive enough to bring customers to the store. But today, brands have to do a lot more.

Why? Because the customer is king.

Brands can no longer be negligent about their designs, language, and user interface or be lethargic about how their customer support works. The internet gave power to every customer out there. If they're not treated well, customers can harm brands.

How?

A few decades ago, people didn't have access to convey their opinions on mass media. Social media platforms changed these dynamics and brought people virtually together, closer than ever.

When a brand fails to offer good customer support to one individual, the individual can take the issue online and bring it to the notice of thousands of other customers. It affects the brand's value and reputation among its present customers and those who're considering using the brand.

An individual customer can cause multiple ripples the brand cannot control. Ultimately it could result in financial as well as reputation/branding loss.

Fortunately, access to the internet is a double-edged sword.

Yes, customers can harm a brand that's not providing a satisfying customer experience, but, at the same time, when a brand does provide excellent CX, it will create positive ripples for that brand.

A satisfied customer could share their positive experience on the internet, and it'll grab the attention of both current customers as well as those interested in that brand. It'll in turn increase the reputation and value of the brand without them having to spend anything.

Build brand reputation and earn loyalty with customer experience

Loyal customers, they don't come back, they don't simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. - Chip Bell

Is customer experience only about these viral moments?

No. CX is not something that is practiced expecting something in return. It doesn't work that way. Customers can feel the artificiality in it.

It's about naturally constructing the elements of CX, which should make every interaction with your product a joy for the customers.

Even for a brand that hasn't heard about CX, its ultimate goal is to make the customer happy. Only by making them happy can they expect their customers to stay with them. If not, churn will happen, and the brand will fade away.

When customers are satisfied, they tend to stick to the brand, increasing brand loyalty. A loyal customer is an unpaid spokesperson for your brand.

If a brand can achieve that, they've got an army of loyal customers who'd be there with them for life. That is why providing a great customer experience is important.

B. Joseph Pine II and James H.Gilmore used the term "Experience Economy" to describe the attempt to provide a wholesome customer experience. They say businesses must create memorable events for their customers. They argue that those memories will become the product in their minds over the customer's interaction with the business.

We can take the example of Apple here. If there are multiple alternatives available on the market for every Apple product, why are people spending more to buy Apple products?

Because Apple made it their mission to provide the best possible customer experience, which turned their customers into loyal spokespersons. When you talk to any Apple user, they will try to convince you to buy or at least try the Apple products. Apple doesn't pay them to praise their products. They praise them because that's the loyalty Apple has earned by providing awesome CX.

"The best advertising you can have is a loyal customer spreading the word about how incredible your business is." - Shep Hyken

How to improve customer experience

There isn't any rule book or guide to learn how to improve customer experience. Brands known for their CX strategies invented their own, experimented along the way, and refined them. But certain common aspects can be enhanced/addressed to provide a wholesome customer experience.

  • 01 Improve the quality of your product/service

    Before we discuss the other factors, the quality of your product/service should be top-notch. You can't expect customers to stay with you when you don't offer a quality product/service.

    Customer experience also includes the engineering quality of your product. Customers can't enjoy the product if it's unusable or riddled with bugs. Work on the quality of your product or service offerings to provide a great customer experience.

  • 02 Be customer-first

    Being customer-first isn't something you mention on your letterhead and move on. It's about the overall attitude you show your customers. It's easier to say than practice. To become a customer-first brand, you must understand your customers and connect with them.

    Customers are aware they're just transactions for businesses. But when you make the extra effort to see your customers as assets instead of mere transactions, your customers will start to value you.To become a customer-first brand, wrap your brand's mission around providing a wholesome experience to your customers at every point of interaction.

  • 03 Listen to your customers and act on them

    Many brands make the mistake of not talking to their customers. Yes, it's time-consuming, but it's an easy, simple, and direct way to understand your customer's needs straight from them.

    Also, when your customers share concerns or suggestions about your product, take them seriously. If it's a valid concern or noteworthy suggestion, address it to bring resolution to the customers. They'll stop sharing with you if you're not acting on their feedback. It'll drop your customer's trust in your brand.

    Listening to and acting on your customer's suggestions will automatically improve their experience with your brand.

  • 04 Offer awesome customer support

    Exceptional customer experiences are the only sustainable platform for competitive differentiation. - Kerry Bodine

    No one can be expected to sell a product/service for which there'd never be any need to contact customer support. It simply isn't possible. Customers need to contact your support team for one thing or another. There's no shame in that.

    However, it'd be a shame if you don't offer customers quicker resolutions. Mind you, it's not just about the speed, but also your support team's attitude towards customers.

    It can be a monumental challenge to maintain the standard of your support offerings as customers can sometimes be mean and demanding. To provide a wholesome customer experience, your agents should listen to your customers, understand their needs, and provide help accordingly.

    Also, it'd be best if you talked to your support agents. Since they're interacting with your customers post-purchase, they'd know what your customers are thinking.

    Reach out to your customers frequently, asking what you can do to improve. By initiating this interaction, show that you value them. It'll increase their loyalty to you.

    Reach out to those who're showing displeasure with your product/service. It might not be a major issue, but by reaching out, you're proving you listen to your customer's opinions and value them.

    Implementing such minor changes can turn around how your customers look at you and earn their loyalty.

Why is Zoho SalesIQ the best tool for boosting your customer experience?

Do you need a software tool to engage your customers and offer them a whole customer experience? Well, technically, you don't, but managing every stage of customer interaction manually would be a nightmare. This is where Zoho SalesIQ comes to your rescue.

Zoho SalesIQ, the engagement intelligence platform, offers abundant features to boost your customer experience at three pillars of customer interaction: marketing, sales, and support.

Features like Visitor tracking/Live view, Lead scoring, and AI-based profile enrichment for companies help you easily identify your potential targets. Using our proactive live chat, you can instantly reach out to them based on their interaction with your website and resolve any queries they have. SalesIQ also offers features like Chat routing, Departments, Messaging channels, and Canned replies to empower your support team to better serve your prospects and customers.

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