These days, business is all about the customer experience. Consumers are flooded with options in nearly every category of product or service, making it nearly impossible to create substantial differentiation between brands. As products and services become commoditized, the need for brands to create value in other areas becomes increasingly important. Those other areas combine to define the customer experience.
While there are many different definitions of what exactly customer experience is, the one that I feel resonates best with today’s landscape comes from Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of ThinkJar LLC and former research director at Gartner. In an interview from earlier this year, Kolsky explains that the customer experience is actually created by the customer, not the company. It’s an interesting notion but one that makes perfect sense. Digital transformation has brought on what is known as the age of the customer: a time where consumers have more power and influence over brands than ever before.
Companies must transform their businesses and get out of the way so customers can create their own experiences; this is the true definition of customer experience.- Esteban Kolsky
Another good explanation that provides deeper understanding into the meaning of customer experience comes from a Harvard Business Review blog post, titled “Understanding Customer Experience.” According to its authors, Christopher Meyer and Andre Schwager, customer experience is…
…the internal and subjective response customers have to any direct or indirect contact with a company. Direct contact generally occurs in the course of purchase, use, and service and is usually initiated by the customer. Indirect contact most often involves unplanned encounters with representations of a company’s products, services, or brands and takes the form of word-of-mouth recommendations or criticisms, advertising, news reports, reviews, and so forth.
However you choose to define customer experience, it’s evident that companies aren’t doing it right. According to Bain & Company, 80% of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience. Only 8% of their customers agree.
So what does it take to deliver that elusive “superior” customer experience? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to customer experience. That said, we can make a few generalizations:
1. Break down organizational silos.
Customer experience is not the responsibility of any one single department within an organization. Sales, marketing, customer service, and operations must all prioritize customer-centricity.
2. Treat customers like people.
Personalize the interactions you have with your customers. The technology available today makes this easy; there is no longer an excuse to send impersonal mass messages to your customers. Use your CRM to uncover humanizing information about your customers and tailor your message to each one. Nutshell offers integration with popular email marketing services such as MailChimp, making personalized emails easier than ever.
3. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.
Did I mention mobile? If you’re not optimized for mobile, you’re not delivering the best customer experience. It’s that simple. Adoption rates of smartphones and tablets are stellar, and mobile devices have completely changed the way people interact and shop. Get on board or be left behind.
4. Be active on social media.
We’re living in the age of now where people demand answers and information instantaneously and one of the first places they go to find that information is social media. If you aren’t on social media—or if you’re on it but not active—your customers and prospects will find someone else who is.
These are just a few things to help your business think about creating a superior customer experience. It’s no longer about what you think is best, or what you want; it’s about what the customer wants, when they want it.
What else should businesses consider when putting together a customer experience plan?