What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience is every interaction a customer has with an organization as they navigate touch points and interact with products or services.

Customers are more likely to repeat business and leave positive reviews when they have a good customer experience (CX). Benefits of good CX also include improved loyalty, increased customer satisfaction, and better word-of-mouth marketing, including customer recommendations.

But what defines a ‘good’ customer experience? A good customer experience doesn't only mean a pleasant engagement with the brand. A customer typically interacts with a business to attain an outcome, for example, to have an issue resolved. A positive customer experience, therefore, means meeting those expectations and achieving the desired outcome. When expectations are not met, can use bullets and subheadings) outcomes are not achieved, or the experience is not successful for any reason, then the customer will likely come away having had a negative customer experience.

Graphic showing the importance of customer experience.

Impact of negative customer experiences

A customer who has a bad experience may never interact with that brand again—in fact, in the US, 32% of customers will stop doing business with a brand they loved after a single negative experience (source: PwC). This leads to a loss of revenue, negative word-of-mouth marketing, bad reviews, and a possible hit in reputation. Some common causes of bad experiences include:

  • A difficult process for purchasing
  • Negative interactions with customer support channels
  • A compromise in security
  • Waiting too long for services
  • Feedback that is ignored

Are your customers happy with the experience you are providing? The answer is seldom as clear-cut as yes or no. To understand how satisfied your customers are, or aren’t, you have to be able to dig deeper. Here are several ways to develop a clearer picture of the customer experience.

Analyze satisfaction survey results

Regularly analyzing CX satisfaction survey results gives an organization an idea of various customer interaction touchpoints, how successful the interactions are, and which areas would benefit from improvement.

Identify the rate of and reasons for customer churn

Few customers are likely to keep doing business with you their entire lives. That said, many of the customers that choose to stop doing business are likely leaving for a specific reason, and understanding exactly what it is that may be driving your customers away is the first step in fixing the problem. Organizations should frequently perform an analysis of lost customers to determine if their churn rate is increasing, decreasing, or holding steady. This can help determine any reasons for churn and actions that can be taken to prevent the situations from happening again.

Ask customers for product or feature requests

One of the most reliable ways to understand the experience your customers are having is to go directly to the source. Customers provide the most valuable information about their experience. Open the discussion and ask them for their honest feedback by creating forums, sending out emails, opening community pages, and posting on social media. Give customers the chance to offer suggestions, reach out, and communicate, and you’ll have one of the most reliable sources of CX evaluation available.

Analyze customer service case trends

When a problem occurs once, it may just be an anomaly; when that problem occurs regularly, it’s probably symptomatic of something bigger. Customer service cases give a direct insight into ongoing problems. Take the opportunity to analyze any and all recurring issues and follow through on possible solutions. This will help you improve the customer experience for new and returning customers, give you the opportunity to demonstrate to those customers your ability to fix problems, and help you improve future iterations of your products and services. Similarly, departments outside of customer service can benefit from closer analysis of recurring issues; by tracing smaller concerns back to their root causes, it’s possible to identify and eliminate major problems that may be having widespread impact.

Of course, it’s not enough to simply recognize the need for better customer experience; to improve it, you first need to be able to quantify it. After all, there are many factors that go into determining how satisfied a customer is, and identifying and remediating issues associated with these factors depends on your ability to measure the experience. Successful businesses employ a variety of metrics to accurately gauge what kind of CX they are providing.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

You’re providing your customers a service, and that means you should be making their lives easier in some way, shape, or form; when customers have to expend a lot of time or effort to use your service, they generally see that as a negative. CES measures how difficult or easy an experience with a product or service is when customers complete an action. An example would be: “How easy was it to get your needs addressed today?” This could then be followed with ranking options ranging from “very difficult” to “very easy.” This can also be used along certain steps of the customer journey to measure the effectiveness of each step.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

This score indicates the degree to which a customer is loyal to a company. An example of a question used to determine the NPS might be “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

While it may seem similar to the NPS, the CSAT score indicates a customer’s satisfaction with a product, rather than their likelihood of recommending it to others. A common question may be “How satisfied are you with our product or service/ Are you satisfied with our product or service?” Responses can be binary “yes” or “no” options, or a rank that ranges from “very dissatisfied” to “very satisfied.”

Time to resolution (TTR)

TTR describes the average length of time that it takes customer service teams to resolve a customer issue or case after a customer has submitted it. The measurement can vary from minutes to business days, depending on the industry, product, service, etc. This score takes the unit of measurement and divides it by the number of issues or cases that are resolved to provide a reliable metric for improving resolution times.

As previously stated, customer experience is seldom as simple as good or bad; most businesses succeed in certain areas while falling short in others. However, there are a number of potential issues that are widely recognized as negatively impacting the customer experience.

Broken processes

Broken processes can crop up almost anywhere, from marketing and sales to customer service—any point of contact between a customer and an organization. Bad processes also create a negative customer experience even if the interactions are between teams. Broken processes grind the customer journey to a halt, creating inefficiency, frustration, dropped cases, and more.

Broken products/services that never get fixed

We live in an age of extreme complexity, and customers understand that not every product or service is going to function perfectly every time. That said, they expect that once an issue has been identified, it will be addressed and fixed as promptly as possible. Leaving product defects and other problems unresolved is a surefire way to drive away current customers and create negative word-of-mouth.

Forcing customer to repeat themselves

Sometimes it takes more than one support agent to resolve a customer issue. But when a case gets passed from one agent to the next, customers expect the new agent to be up to speed on what’s going on. Agents who greet customers by asking them to repeat their explanation of who they are, what product or service they are using, and what issues they are experiencing lead to frustrated customers. Advanced customer service systems can help ensure continuity in the handoff process, so that customers and agents are constantly moving towards a solution, rather than stalling.

Long wait times

Waiting for a long time for service is irritating. Customers expect to reach a representative over the phone, receive a reply to a comment on social media, or hear back via email about an inquiry within minutes. They expect these points of contact to serve them quickly and efficiently, and if the problem is going to take more time to resolve than originally anticipated, customers want to be kept in the loop with assurances, updates, and time estimates.

Reactive service

Many devices offer constant connectivity, and as such, modern customers expect the brands they do business with to always be ‘on’ as well. That means that when issues arise, customers want companies to notify them proactively to help keep them informed and minimize disruption of service. When customers instead have to take the initiative themselves to identify and report problems, that’s called reactive service, and it leads to bad customer experiences.

Employees who do not understand customer needs

Agents need enough technical and product training to be able to accurately identify and resolve problems. But they also need the interpersonal skills to empathize with customers, understand their needs, and act as their liaison. This includes being able to interpret vague requests and offer solutions that customers can understand without having an intimate knowledge of the product.

Unresolved issues/questions

Customers who contact you with problems are demonstrating their faith in your ability to provide a solution. If you are unable to do so, those customers lose faith, and are less likely to want to do business with you in the future. Ideally, your agents should be able to solve problems in a timely manner. But even if the problem does not have a clear solution, it’s your responsibility to keep working with the customer until the issue is resolved. Telling customers that there is nothing you can do for them—or worse, simply abandoning the case without sufficient explanation—can do irreparable harm to your brand reputation.

Too much automation/not enough of a human touch

Automated systems can ease the customer service process, but it can lack the human touch and understanding that customers may sometimes require. There are times when customers require more than what even the most-intelligent bot can provide. If your support processes lack the option to work directly with a human agent, then many customers will become frustrated. Finding a healthy balance, where automation supports agents without eliminating them as a service option, allows for greater scale and faster service.

Impersonal service

Customers want to feel like they matter, and when it comes to your business, they absolutely do matter. Personalized, customized service that addresses the individual needs of the customer and acknowledges preferences and past interactions helps customers feel individually noticed and important, which creates a better customer experience.

Rude/angry employees

Even if an employee is having a bad day, it’s not an excuse to be rude to a customer. Experiences are better when employees are capable of de-escalating a situation and approaching each customer with genuine friendliness and willingness to help. Highlighting the importance of the case, practicing active listening, being respectful and professional, and thanking customers for bringing the issue to the company’s attention are all valuable skills. And while some customers will remain angry throughout the duration of the case, many will remember the kindness of the agent who helped them and develop a more positive attitude towards the business. Agents who match a customer’s belligerence, on the other hand, will only escalate the problem, and destroy any chance of salvaging the customer experience.

Although a key aspect of providing a positive experience is being able to avoid many of the pitfalls addressed above, a good customer experience means something more. Positive experiences depend on your ability to meet or beat expectations at every stage of the customer journey.

Setting expectations about the product or service

Part of providing a product or service is managing expectations and being transparent about what the products/services can and can’t do. Making promises or assertions about a product that it can’t fulfill results in a poor customer experience.

Intuitive product design

Providing quick resolutions to problems can help ensure a positive experience, but getting in front of problems is a better solution. Intuitive product design that allows customers to enjoy the full range of usability without difficult learning curves can help prevent issues from arising.

Omnichannel customer service

Omnichannel service enables customers to seamlessly interact across numerous channels or touchpoints, with all relevant customer-history information maintained and accessible from a single location. This seamless integration provides a more consistent customer experience, while also providing them with the freedom to interact with the company using their preferred channels.

Proactive service

Don’t simply wait for problems to arise. Actively work to identify and address issues in your products and services. As you discover these issues, keep your customers aware of the situation, with messaging and alerts informing them as to the problem, and how you are working to resolve it. Move toward using data and artificial intelligence to detect and prevent issues entirely.

Minimal effort from the customer

Customers should not have to put in more effort than is necessary. Ideally, their problem is solved in the first interaction without the need for finding different touchpoints. They also shouldn’t have to search far to find resolutions to their issues or contact points; all resources should be readily available.

Achieving customer objectives

At the end of the day, the customer will likely be most concerned about whether or not you were able to effectively resolve their issues and help them achieve their goals. Make customer objectives your objectives, and work with the customer to help ensure successful remediation of every case.

  • Create a clear customer experience vision.
  • Understand who your customers are.
  • Create an emotional connection with your customers.
  • Map out customer journeys.
  • Capture customer feedback in real time.
  • Maintain focus on achieving customers’ objectives as they engage with your business.
  • Use a quality framework for development of your team (continuous improvement).
  • Act upon regular employee feedback.
  • Address the root cause of issues.
  • Identify opportunities to deliver proactive service.
  • Speed up resolution/reduce customer effort (by connecting teams and automating steps of the resolution process).
  • Measure the ROI of customer experience improvement initiatives.

CX affects the success of every aspect of a business. As such, every employee, whether or not they directly interact with customers, is responsible for the customer experience. All processes and systems within an organization need to be geared toward delivering a great customer experience or easing the role of customer experience teams.

Customer service is one part of the whole customer experience. A customer’s experience is their overall feelings toward an organization based on interactions and perceptions with an organization, whether or not it is direct, while customer service encompasses direct customer touchpoints.

  • Self-service
  • Surveying
  • Addressing root cause
  • Proactive service
  • Workflow (Connect teams and automate)
  • Integration

Make customer service flow

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