“The quality of the experience will be remembered long after the price has been forgotten.”- LinkedIn
Every company seems to claim that their products are the best, easy to use, best in class, and other such words describing the user-friendly ‘nature’ of their products. However, what is missing is whether this usability can be likened to great customer experience – and the answer is no. Great products and their usability do not necessarily provide top customer experience – even the best of products may deliver less than average customer experiences. The true meaning of customer experience is the sum total of a customer’s personal interactions with a company / brand over time, where none of the interactions can be negated. It is the responsibility of every company to ensure that it understands the meaning of customer experience, and delivers.
For customers to remain happy and with the company for a long time, it is essential that companies understanding the meaning of customer experience, based on which they would be able to improve each experience for every individual customer. For a company, a customer should mean a former, existing, and prospective one – enabling the company to keep itself open to opportunities for business from any of these three sets of customers. For example –allowing easy accessibility to information about the company ensures that any customer has a better experience with the company, drawing them closer to it. By focusing on the real meaning of customer experience, a company can prevent its resources from being diverted to areas that may not benefit the customers or the company in any manner. Instead, the company can put together initiatives and strategies that would significantly improve the customer experience, and enhance their satisfaction and happiness with the company.
For a company to know the true meaning of customer experience, it must see it from the customer’s point of view. According to research, when customers say that their experiences with a company are great, they would mean that the experiences were useful and of value to them, the value was easily available, and they felt emotionally engage and connected with the company. All these factors together would enhance customer satisfaction and encourage customers to stay with a company for longer. The true meaning of customer experience is every interaction between the customer and the company – right from the first email or call from the company, to the packaging of the product, and the actual usage by the customer. It includes any and every experience a person has with a company – as long as the person remains a customer of the company.
The true meaning of customer experience transcends the experience a customer has with a physical product. In fact, now it would be more about the emotional connection and feelings customers have when they interact with a company. For a customer, an experience would be good if it resolved a problem and if not the experience would be bad enough to talk negatively about it to others. To understand the real meaning of customer experience, a company must know what customers consider good or bad – a polite word could elevate an experience, while difficulty in navigating the company website would amount to a poor experience. If an experience makes a customer feel important, it would amount to a great experience, while an interaction that leaves a customer feeling ignored (even if that were not the intention of the company) would be a bad experience, which the customer would be unlikely to forget. The real meaning of customer experience for a company should be how the customer feels post the interaction, and the company must remember that customers would be more likely to share poor experiences, and move to a competitor because of them.
It becomes obvious then that companies must understand the true meaning of customer experience. The first step is to ensure that providing top class experiences cannot and should not be the responsibility of one section of the company – the service teams or the leadership. Instead, it must be part of the overall business strategy and culture, thereby making it the responsibility of each person in the company. Of course, these efforts must be initiated and supported by the top leadership of the company, for the efforts to permeate throughout the company. Existing employees must receive relevant training, while new hires must understand the importance of the meaning of customer experience at the time of the ‘inception’ into the company. Hiring of employees must be done right – that is getting people with an attitude of service, and a commitment towards providing top class customer experiences. There is obviously significant and sustained effort that goes into ensuring that each person in the company understands and practices the true meaning of customer experience.
Sadly, however, most customer experiences fall short of the expectations that customers may have. It is therefore, necessary for a company to endeavour to exceed customer expectations such that the result is at least the meeting of those expectations. Companies, which are able to do so consistently and in a quantifiable manner, are more likely to gain the appreciation and loyalty of customers. Customer experience is all about how a company makes its customers feel – it is about the company’s actions in response to the needs and expectations of customers. “Customers may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou – wise words that truly describe the meaning of a great customer experience.
The challenge for companies however, is that the meaning of customer experience is relative and subjective to an individual customer’s perspective. Every customer’s emotions, perceptions, preferences, and situations are different, and hence it is necessary for a company to ensure that it keeps the essence of customer experience, and does its best to improve consistently, its relationship with every customer. The customers of today are rushed, harried, and have a number of ‘distractions’ in the form of product choices, channels of communication and technology. Hence, unless a company is constantly thinking of how it can help them, and what it can do to better the customer experiences, it would be difficult to arrest and retain the attention of customers. Consistently thinking of and putting into practice strategies to enhance the life of customers, means that a company would have arrived at the true meaning of customer experience.
A company that can deliver top class experiences to customers all the time will be sure to make its products and brand stand out. It will make customers sit up and take notice, and be consistently interested in what the company has to offer. If a company knows its customers well enough to understand their motivations and reasons to buy, it would be better equipped to empathize with them and give them whatever they need, and when they need. It would be a lot easier for a company to convince customers of its uniqueness and distinct abilities – there would be something quantifiable to show.
The true meaning of customer experience is understood when every touch-point in the company delivers top class experiences. It is necessary that customers have consistently great experiences across all touch-points in order for them to feel motivated to remain in business with a company. More such positive experiences would lead to customers staying happy with a company, and over time becoming loyal brand advocates. While every customer may have a relative and unique definition of a great experience, for a company the true meaning of customer experience should be where every customer has a truly outstanding and memorable experience with each interaction with the company.