Understanding Customer Experience for Success

“Customers are no longer buying products and services – they are buying experiences delivered via the products and services.” – Gregory Yankelovich

Companies are now understanding customer experience from a completely different viewpoint. It ceases to be only an ideal or a standard but has moved to being a premeditated and functioning directive for any company if they are to taste long term success. Customer experience is no longer about the ‘experiences’ a person has with a company post becoming a customer but starts at the stage of the company’s efforts to attract and educate potential customers and continues till the customer decides to remain with the company and sometimes beyond. We know from experience that even one bad experience during our interaction with a company is enough to ensure that we don’t buy from them again – poorly stocked store, rude customer service persons, badly cooked meal at a restaurant – just some instances of how a poor customer experience can have a long standing negative impact. For example a friend and her family go out for dinner at least once a week and usually check out new restaurants / cafes or then frequent a place that they remember fondly. This friend makes it a point to go on-line and post her comments about the restaurant but more often if the experience has been poor. These comments are read by other diners and do affect the business of a particular joint.

Improving and maintaining customer experience is certainly not an easy task or even a one-off task. It requires focus, commitment and continuous monitoring of all the touch-points and the customer’s experiences with the offerings of the company. The idea is for the customer to be the focal point of the business. With so much competition, companies cannot afford to ignore this important aspect since it is through the experiences that customers have with a company that they form perceptions about a brand and the value it adds to them. Various studies have revealed that the higher number of positive customer experiences translate to higher revenue and more success for a company.

Improving customer experience is about forming an emotional connection with the customer and from the customer to the brand each time. Enhanced customer experience also leads to evolved customer engagement which means that customers will be amenable to provide feedback, look up the latest news and reviews about the brand, be part of discussions about the company and the brand on social media sites, take part in promotional events organized by the company and other such actions that are connected with the brand. Customer engagement thus is extremely vital for enhanced customer experience. The reality is that the customer of today is smarter, more informed, empowered and is completely in control with social interactions and can thus prove to be formidable partners (and foes) if they get the kind of experiences they want. In fact, it is a very real demand from customers that they have a say in how the brand functions and also have opportunities to connect with and participate in the events of the brand they patronize.

Those companies that are able to establish a rapport with their prospective customers are able to get them to disclose their likes, dislikes, preferences, needs and other such aspects that only the customers would know. Doing so will allow the company to customize the products and offerings by matching them to the personality of the prospective customer, which in turn would be more appealing to the customers. Such ‘personalized attention’ provides a major boost to the customer experience and would eventually turn the prospective customer to an actual one and also ensure repeat business and further recommendations to friends and associates.  Getting the customers to answer questions and reveal their insights about the brand is the best way to gain knowledge that can be instantly used to provide better service and enhance customer experience. Customers are delighted to share their knowledge especially when companies offer some benefits and rewards for doing so – it makes customers know that they are being heard and that their feedback is valued by the company. Since the customer is the end user, it is extremely important that they also feel like they are contributing to the brand which they would ultimately use.

Amongst the best ways to enhance customer experience is to engage customers in product design, pre-launch meetings and solicit ideas for the kind of products they would like to see. Doing so gives them the opportunity to be in the ‘driver’s seat’ and feel empowered with the ‘special right’ they have been given. As customers engage with your company and build feelings of trust and confidence they would also be more inclined to share their great customer experience with others. In addition, as a company you could also nudge your customers to provide testimonials mentioning how your company’s products and offerings made their life simpler and if possible provide pictures and videos describing how they used the products. This kind of long time interactions with your company and its brand results in higher levels of customer engagement and creates more opportunities for positive customer experience. In addition, the company learns a little more about their brand and the customer and the customer in turn gains more insights into the vision and culture of the company.

The business market has become increasingly tough and competition is fierce as more companies offer the same products, pricing and compete on level ground. Such challenges lead companies to try and create visible differentiation through enhanced customer experience and are doing whatever possible to ensure that the improvements are significantly noticeable. As we mentioned, customer experience begins by a company’s endeavours at creating awareness of their products and goes on till the time the customer stays with them. Companies are making every effort to ensure that each interaction leaves a positive and memorable impression in the mind of their customers since each happy customer experience exponentially raises the chances of customer loyalty, repeat business, referrals and regular recommendations via social media and other channels.

Just like any other aspect of customer service, companies must remember to provide customers with consistently great experiences in order for them to continue having a positive opinion of the company. Consistently good customer experience would mean that each all segments and departments of the company are working cohesively and also that every aspect on which service rides, are working as one. We know that customer service is not the job of one department and also provided great customer experience is not a one-off but rather a journey that the company makes with the customer. It means that the company is actively listening to its customers and is committed to adding and developing new skills or knowledge base in order to provide the best customer experience possible.

When customers can perceive a genuine interest from the company in providing excellence in service and product quality, they are more than willing to reward these efforts. Companies on their part, must remember that it is the trust and human touch that separates one company from the next even if all competing companies are at par on pricing and products. It is about fostering close relationships and creating a positive customer experience each time such that the customer is delighted and is more than willing to be the company’s ambassador / advocate.  For any business to succeed (not just survive), it is crucial that it gets serious and remains focused on finding and implementing ways to manage and understand customer experience.

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