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What is customer experience?

All about customer experience (CX) and how to improve it.



Start here: A customer experience definition

From the first click on your website to the most recent call to your contact centre, your customers are constantly forming subtle impressions of your brand, your employees, and the value of your products or services. These impressions are cumulative, and everyone in your organisation has a hand in shaping them—positively or negatively.

Customer experience, also known as CX, is the aggregate of all the perceptions a customer has about your business over the course of your relationship. This includes all the sentiments attached to those perceptions.

For example, a customer might experience delight at the quality of your product, surprise that your marketing emails address pressing needs of the moment, or relief that your delivery and customer support services are fast and convenient. Every touchpoint along the customer journey matters because, consciously or not, the quality of those experiences is what will sway the customer towards becoming a repeat buyer or continued subscriber.


Why CX is important for your business

Today’s consumers have an abundance of choice, and they can seek out and compare products and services online in a matter of seconds. As such, CX has become a critical differentiator for businesses in virtually every sector. In fact, CX has become so important that it’s difficult to conceive of a business that wouldn’t improve its bottom line by focusing on it.

A good customer experience has a positive effect on every measure of success for a business. Higher revenue, greater customer retention and loyalty, sustained growth, and improved brand reputation can all be linked to CX improvements.


Customer experience vs. customer service

So what is considered customer experience, and what isn’t it? It’s worth noting how common it is to confuse customer experience with customer service. Customer service is an important function of your business: it’s how you support customers during and after their purchase from you. Friendly, prompt customer service—whether it’s via a voice call to your contact centre, a live chat with an agent, or an email exchange—builds trust with customers on a human level and is a vital aspect of customer experience. But it’s just one part of the picture.

Customer experience is a much broader concept. It includes every single touchpoint a customer has with your business throughout their relationship with you. A consumer’s perception of your brand can be impacted by anything from how easy it is to make a purchase on your website to how relevant your marketing emails are. Even how easy or frustrating it is to open your packaging can impact the customer experience.

The quality of your customer service interactions is an important consideration as you form any CX strategy, but the reality is that every department in your organisation has a hand in the results you will get.

Understanding the distinction between CX and customer service and arriving at a correct customer experience definition is important because the most effective initiatives for improving CX are the ones that take a broad, holistic approach.


How to deliver a great customer experience

Each business is different, but the basic elements that create a good CX are universal. Here are some fundamentals that reliably lead to an improved CX and a positive brand reputation.

Convenience.

Today’s consumers expect ease and speed at every touchpoint along the customer journey. If they don’t get it, they will seek the path of least resistance elsewhere. Make the customer experience more convenient by investing in solutions that eliminate common friction points. For example, you could make your website simpler to navigate or maximise your use of customer service software to help agents resolve issues more quickly. Customer feedback will point you towards where those friction points are.

Positive interactions.

Train all staff who connect with customers in person and virtually to listen empathetically to customer requests. Invest in tools to help them put the customer first and understand their needs. It often only takes a single negative experience to lose a customer to a competitor.

Connectivity.

A seamless buying journey is important to many customers. Make it easy for customers to connect with your brand on whatever channel they prefer. Integrate systems that collect and analyse customer data so employees in any department can get a complete view of any customer during any interaction—sparing the customers from the chore of having to repeat their requests.

Personalisation.

Systems that anticipate customers’ needs are strong drivers of an excellent CX. A carefully targeted marketing email that represents an upsell opportunity for your business can seem like a pleasant convenience for your customer. It gives them the feeling of, “This brand knows exactly what I need. They get me.” Personalisation is a win-win.

Customer empowerment.

Giving customers self-service options, such as how-to videos, FAQs, or access to automated 24/7 support through a chatbot or virtual agent saves customers time and allows your contact centre agents to focus on resolving more complex issues that arise.

Product or service quality.

Lastly, no business can go wrong by making a service easier to use, making a product more appealing, or reducing the time customers spend on maintenance and reordering. Watch this webinar to learn how you can deliver hyper-personalised customer experiences.

Watch this webinar to learn how you can deliver hyper-personalised customer experiences.


5 CX pitfalls to avoid

Ask anyone about their worst customer experience, and they will instantly come up with a story. Unfortunately, customers’ frustrations and disappointments usually boil down to the same five causes. No matter what your business model is, look out for these pitfalls and find ways to avoid them.

1. Waiting … and waiting.

No one likes to wait. Whether it’s on hold for a customer service agent, in line in a store, or at home anticipating a late product shipment, waiting makes customers think, “They don’t value me,” and makes buying from you feel like a chore.

2. Slow or no resolution to customer issues.

The last thing a customer wants to hear from your employees is, “I don’t know how to help with that.” It can be deeply frustrating for customers to have to hunt for answers to their questions online or repeat themselves to multiple agents only to receive an unsatisfactory solution.

3. Too much automation.

Intelligent automation technology like virtual agents and chatbots are meant to enhance, not replace, human connection. These kinds of technologies save valuable time when customers can use them to get answers to common questions, but it should always be easy to reach a real person.

4. Too little personalisation.

In the digital age, customers automatically provide businesses with a wealth of personal data, and ideally you should be using that data to get the right products and services to the right customers at the right time. When customers receive marketing communications that are irrelevant to them or struggle to navigate a website that doesn’t show them what they are looking for, it represents a missed opportunity—one that your competitors will happily seize.

5. Ignored customer needs.

Today’s consumers expect the brands they buy from to effortlessly add value to the way they live and work. Unless you capture customer data at every touchpoint along their journey and solicit their feedback, you will be in the dark about what those needs are and how to fill them. That leads to a CX of “they don’t care.”


How software can improve your CX

Software can help businesses improve CX by enabling a more holistic view of customers. Use CX software to better understand customer behaviours, expectations, buying intent, as well as the perceptions and emotions that they experience as they use your products and services. CX software can give insights into the entire end-to-end customer engagement cycle, from awareness, to purchasing, through to interacting with your service agents and repeat buying.

One powerful feature of CX software is customer journey mapping. A customer journey map gives marketers a visual representation of your customer data to improve their experience. A map can help you create a picture of your customer’s lifestyle and needs, identifying motivations, preferred channels, and pain points along their journey.

Armed with this well-organised information, you can deliver more personalised, relevant offerings, capturing customers’ interest with the right products at the right moment. Mapping can also pinpoint many of the common bottlenecks and challenges customers face throughout their relationship with you so you can remove those roadblocks and elevate their perception of your brand.

Investing in technological capabilities that improve CX has never been more critical than in today’s highly competitive market. As customer expectations continue to rise, having the right software in place can earn you customers for life—and a healthy bottom line.

Elevate every interaction with Microsoft Customer Experience Platform

If you want to win loyal customers with high-quality experiences, there is a complete customer experience solution that is ready for you. Microsoft Customer Experience Platform is a complete marketing stack that learns from every customer interaction to deliver meaningful experiences. Microsoft Customer Experience Platform goes beyond simple personalization, optimizing your use of valuable customer data to garner rich insights into each customer journey.



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