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Everything you need to know about Customer Experience

This is where you can get more information about Customer Experience.

If your question isn’t answered here, please get in touch and I will answer it for you.

What is Customer Experience?

My favourite definition of customer experience comes from the CXPA:

The perception that customers have of an organization – one that is formed based on interactions across all touchpoints, people, and technology over time.

I also like Gartner‘s definition:

The customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.

But neither definition tell us what customer experience is not:

  • It is not customer service, which supports customers on their journey. Especially, when their experience is not good enough.
  • It is not the set of interactions between a customer and a supplier. This is more helpfully called the Customer Journey.

Sometimes ‘Customer Experience’ is used to mean an approach or way of working. It can be part of a job title. We often talk about Customer Experience or CX when we mean Customer Experience Management.

What is a Customer Journey?

The Customer Journey is the series of events, thoughts and decisions that take a customer from the awareness of a need to its satisfaction. The journey belongs to the customer, not us. We contribute to their journey through our products, services and touchpoints.

What are Customer Needs?

I don’t split hairs when I describe what customers need. It is not my place, or yours, to rate needs and assign labels like wants, expectations, preferences. I define customer needs as:

The criteria customers use to decide whether to include us in their journey. If we meet their needs, they buy from us, feel positive about us, recommend us and buy from us again and again.

What is Customer Experience Management?

CXM is the intentional management of our part in our Customers’ Journeys. It helps us meet customer needs during every interaction. CXM can be strategic / proactive or responsive. Both approaches add value.

Whether you manage Customer Experience or not, your customers will build a perception of products, services and touchpoints. Leave it to chance and other pressures will drive unbalanced decision making and lead to unhappy customers.

Intentionally managing Customer Experience will help you meet customer needs across your products, services and touchpoints. As a result, you will experience less churn, more repeat-, up- and cross-sells and greater levels of customer advocacy. Your costs will also reduce as you remove the cost of unhappy customers and inefficient internal processes.

Historically, Customer Experience wasn’t taught. It was absent from MBAs, degrees and other curricula. Now you can study Customer Experience at many collages and universities. Or learn by doing.

How can I measure customer experience?

We act on what we measure and Customer Experience is no different to other aspects of performance. To understand your customer experience, you can measure via listening posts or use business measures as a proxy.

Listening posts

Listening posts is the CX jargon for the places where you acquire data. Some are formal and allow easy quantitative measures – such as surveys and structured reviews. Other are purely qualitative and require more analysis. See this post for more on Qualitative vs Quantitative measures.

Relationship surveys – a more traditional approach to understand how our customers feel. We send multi-question relationship surveys at fixed periods. We send them according to our agenda, not when our customers want to communicate. As a result, the transactional survey was born.
Transactional surveys – also called micro surveys or in the moment surveys. The two question survey lets our customers quickly tell us how they are feeling. Comprising two questions – how do you feel and why – they collect data from single touchpoints.

Unsolicited feedback

However, we needn’t rely on surveys to understand our customers. We can gather feedback from:

  • online reviews
  • social media
  • call centre interactions
  • everywhere our customers are talking about us.

To see understand the wealth of data sources, watch this video.

CX Measures

Customer satisfaction
– Answers the question ‘how satisfied are you’. Can be used in relationship and transactional surveys.
Net promoter score aka NPS
– This popular measure asks ‘how likely are you to recommend us?’. Research shows that businesses with a higher NPS score enjoy greater business success. Best used in relationship surveys, but the use of transactional NPS is growing.
Customer Effort Score
– Asking ‘how easy was it to buy from us’, is a good predictor of churn. Change ‘buy’ to the action your customer takes. Can be used in relationship surveys, but generally more meaningful at touchpoints.

Business measures

If you understand the drivers of experience, you can use business measures to predict experience and improve it. Operational metrics can stand as proxies for experience. But we have to define measures from a customer’s perspective. For example, you might measure on time delivery times against contract, but your customer only cares about how long it takes.

Other business measures, can let you know you have a problem. Such measures include complaints, returns, churn, cost of sales and reputation.

The Benefits of Customer Experience Management

When you meet customer needs through their journey, you earn a good Customer Experience. As a result, customers remember you with positive emotions and that leads them to recommend you to friends and colleagues and to remain as customers.

As a result you can reduce

Churn – when customers stop buying your products or services.

Poor reviews – many customers use reviews to decide what to buy and from whom.

Cost to sell – a poor reputation results in higher sales targets and greater barrier.

Cost to serve – unhappy customers are more likely to use your customer support services.

You can also increase

Revenue – happy customers stick around and are more likely to respond to up / cross selling. They are also more likely to try out your new products and services.

Profits – higher revenues and lower costs = more profit.

Innovation – seeing the world through your customers’ eyes leads to more ideas. Your customers will also tell you what they need.

Sustainable Growth – intentional Customer Experience Management is a lever to sustainable growth.

What is sustainable growth?

Sustainable growth is growth that protects and nurtures our business. It challenges us to do better, go faster, travel further, while ensuring our decisions give us opportunities in the future.

We grow unsustainably when we make decisions that compromise the balance between business, customer and employee needs. We also harm our future when we move away from our vision and values to make a quick sale. These are examples of short-term decision making or hungering.

We grow sustainably when we balance the current needs of the business, customers and employees with their future needs. This means we have to take individual and organisational responsibility:

  • To understand and manage the implications of our decisions.
  • To design our experiences, process and systems in harmony with our values and brand promises.
  • To recognise and call out behaviours that drive short-term goals at the expense of our future.

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

We use Journey Maps to understand our customers’ current journey (as-is) or design their ideal journey (to-be).

An as-is Customer Journey Map describes events and experience as your customers move through their journey. It describes each step, including our touchpoints, from the customer’s perspective.

A to-be Customer Journey Map helps teams design an experience that meets all customer and business needs.

Creating these maps brings your teams together. It helps them understand how they contribute to CX singularly and in combination.

You can map the whole experience end-to-end or focus on a sub-journey – such as the buying experience. You must test your assumptions about the journey with customers.

Using your journey map

Maps help you identify opportunities to fix, improve or transform your customer experience. When designing internal process, your journey map should be a reference point. Then you can test and understand the impact of internal change on your customers. You may even find new ways of meeting customer needs.

Desire Paths

When designing parks, planners watch how people use the space. Only after understanding their customers, do they lay pavements and other features.

“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them … that we must fit our plans.” Jane Jacobs

How does that compare with how you design your customers’ journey?

desire path

What does outside in mean?

Outside-in, as opposed to inside-out, comes from the idea of customer centricity – putting the customer at the heart of the organisation.

Organisations mature as they use CX tools and techniques. Initially, outside-in thinking can be as simple as putting aside your biases as you read customer feedback and using customer requirements in the design of products, services and journeys.

Ultimately, outside-in thinking considers the customer during every decision.

That doesn’t mean losing the balance between customer, business and employee. Indeed, when we change or design our products, services and touchpoints we have to think inside-out.

A key outside-in perspective is seeing our customers as people whose needs we satisfy. As opposed to the more transactional or inside-out view of seeing customers as people who buy the products and services we choose to deliver.

Alternatively, think about this metric ‘call handle time’. Typically it is driven by cost not by customer care. Setting a target may make sense from a cost management perspective but not in meeting customer needs.

At the same time it is a good measure, longer call times could highlight poor answers or a pernicious problem, or in the case of one company told them older clients were lonely during the pandemic and gave them the opportunity to build ways of looking after those people (which had no immediate financial benefit). How you use a metric depends on the perspective you take. Renaming call handle time ‘how quickly we answered a question and let our customer get on with their life’ is too long. But it changes perspective.

What is the CX Wall?

Every business has a CX Wall. Each brick results from a decision that didn’t balance customer, business and employee need and compromises the customer experience. As no decision can be meet all needs, there is always a CX Wall. But organisations that intentionally manage customer experience build lower walls and know what they will do when they hit it.

How can you spot your CX Wall?

  • Every customer service request, be that pre or post sales, shows a brick.
  • Dissatisfied customers reveal bricks.
  • Churn, because of dissatisfaction, exposes more bricks.
  • Poor reviews expose bricks to the world.

As businesses grow, founders and their team are pulled in many directions. As a result, Customer Experience Management is accidental and reflects the weird gaps between departments.

In their early days, businesses can get away with accidental CXM as they focus on a few customers whose needs align exactly with their product or service. But as they grow, new customers bring different needs. If they don’t keep on top of these emerging needs, businesses can hit the CX wall. At best, the crash requires extra investment to repair relationships and rebuild products, services and touchpoints. At worst, fledgling businesses fail.

What are the differences between CX and marketing?

To some people Customer Experience fits in Marketing. After all, we both think about customers. While there are many synergies, they have different goals and measures of success. Here are some of the ways Customer Experience and Marketing differ.

Marketing delivers the awareness stage of the customer journey. Its purpose is to ‘break the ice’ with potential customers and remind existing customers you exist. Customer Experience understands customer perceptions and needs. It gives Marketing the data and support it needs to improve perceptions and meet needs.

Marketing communicates your brand promise. Customer Experience understands whether you kept it.

Marketing uses customer data to create and target marketing assets. Customer Experience uses customer data to understand customer needs and perceptions.

Marketing’s role is to fill the sales pipeline. Customer Experience’s role is to help customers to the next stage of their journey.

Despite those differences there are many reasons for Customer Experience and Marketing to work closely.

Marketing can explain the brand promise like no-one else. CX can influence the brand promise by understanding how well it is delivered and perceived.

Marketing has data about customers. CX has data about experience. Putting these data together builds better customer stories, aids prioritisation and identifies opportunities to earn a return on your CX investment.

Marketing knows how to tell stories, CX should engage Marketing to improve communication.

How does CX compare with other customer facing disciplines?

The difference between customer experience and the range of similar sounding tools and methods is confusing. I believe the people that talk about customers have much in common. So, here is a simple set of comparisons. I hope they help you work out which you need.

Customer satisfaction vs customer experience (CX)

CSAT method

Customer satisfaction is a one measure of experience. Customer satisfaction is used in Quality Management to mean the satisfaction of customer needs. It is an older concept than CX which is richer and more nuanced.

User experience vs customer experience (CX)

User experience method

If any part of your customer experience uses technology, user experience (UX) is vital. While not the only factor, UX has the potential to make or break your CX. Watch out for the use of UX to drive customers through a sales funnel. In those situations it is more about sales goals than experience.

Customer service vs customer experience (CX)

customer service method

Customer service is how we support customers through their journey. You may answer a question your website doesn’t cover, or resolve a problem with your product or service.

I have heard ‘customer service is transactional excellence and customer experience is relationship excellence’. I feel this denigrates customer service and the value it adds throughout customer journeys. Customer service drives many aspects of the Customer Journey and has the potential to add customer, and therefore, business value.

Customer success vs customer experience (CX)

customer success method

Customer success focuses on maximising the value customer gain from your products and services. It often sits with account management and has the goal of preventing churn and maximising revenue. Customer Success and Customer Experience use similar techniques with similar aims.

Customer relationship management (CRM) vs customer experience (CX)

CRM Method

CRM focuses on data and while it was conceived with the whole customer journey in mind, it has become focused on sales. However, CX focuses on relationships and ensuring customer have a positive experience.

Digital experience vs customer experience (CX)

Digital experience method

Consumers and a growing number of B2B buyers want to choose how to interact with you. So, if you don’t have a phone line, email address and chat facility you could lose customers. Digital experience thinks about the devices and apps you use to serve your customers. When a customer uses several digital tools, they expect a seamless experience. This is called omni-channel.

Voice of the Customer (VOC) vs customer experience (CX)

Voc method

VoC is the key to delivering a compelling customer experience. Without feedback no-one can truly know what their customers are thinking and feeling. But VoC is more than just listening, a mature VoC process:

  • Gathers customer feedback, and operational and customer data.
  • Analyses all data to present insights into customer perceptions, in particular drives of dissatisfaction.
  • Shares insights with the people who can take action (rarely the CX team).
  • Acts to improve Customer Experience for individual customers and prevent the recurrence of issues.

Learn more about the Voice of the Customer here.

Reputation management vs customer experience (CX)

reputation management method

Reputation management (which is also a key element of public relations or PR) gets you in front of customers and potential customers. It’s when your service, stories, external activities and commitments result in your customers actively knowing, liking and trusting your business. It is bigger in scope than marketing as it stretches outside your products, services and even brand.

Reputation management is all about what you do and say in business as well as a commitment to proactively communicate with key stakeholders who are important to the success of your business.

Good reputation management is almost always proactive. It can also be reactive, protecting and managing a reputation after a problem.

But, like marketing, it makes a promise or commitment. If you don’t keep the promise, you will lose trust and sales.

CXM helps you meet your promises. It fixes performance issues. Both disciplines develop your understanding of your customers. Reputation management can work alongside customer service, storytelling about your whole business and building relationships with key stakeholders. It is therefore an excellent ally in CXM.

Your business can only survive if you satisfy your customers. Use reputation management in concert with Customer Experience Management to build your reputation.

I wrote this answer with Karen McElroy from FCMPR

What are moments of truth?

Also know as moments that matter. These two terms are used interchangeably and with a range of meanings.

My preferred definition is

In customer experience management, moments of truth represent the points in a customer’s journey with a brand when a key event occurs and an opinion about that brand is formed. Brian Solas

This means that moments of truth can be positive or negative. I also like the idea that ’emotions run high’ during a moment of truth.

There is school of CX thought that also calls these points as wow moments. This schools subscribes to a definition somewhat like this one about employee engagement from brand experiences:

Moments that Matter (sometimes called ‘Moments of Truth’, or ‘Wow Moments’) are opportunities to surprise and delight an employee and make them feel all warm and gooey towards their employer. These should be peppered throughout the Employee Lifecycle.

I feel the second definition assumes the business knows what makes customers / employees all warm and gooey. It also runs foul of the Kano model. And it ignores those all important moments that create a negative perception of a brand.

Whichever definition you use, just make sure everyone knows what you mean when you say – “this is a moment of truth”.

Who should own customer experience?

Marketing has a good claim. Marketers use lots of data. They know your customers and look after many customer-facing metrics. But marketing uses customer data to sell more. In customer experience we use data to better meet customer needs.

Some companies appoint a Chief Experience Officer (other titles are available). This role has authority and can influence right across the business. To succeed, they need a team; here’s my take on the roles involved.

The CX team
Chief Experience Officer
– a board level executive who leads your business to meet customer needs
– can unite cross-functional teams to transform business culture, goals, measures and processes
Core team
– the people whose only job is to fix, improve, transform and create customer experience
– as well as CX specialists you may include project, change, data and HR specialists
– this team must inspire the wider organisation
– one kind of associate is functional / team representatives (reps)
– the reps raise issues to the core team and CEX, for example, customer feedback
– they contribute to problem definition and lead solution design
– the other associates are specialists (internal and external)
– specialists possess skills you need for specific activities and projects. For example, a graphic designer or friendly-neighbourhood Customer Experience Consultant
Extended team
– in successful businesses, everyone is accountable for customer experience
– so, everyone has targets and goals that will deliver a compelling customer experience
– and everyone receives communications and training
– everyone’s view on customer experience impacts customers – so the core team must listen and be ready to influence

Some organisations give this wider team specific accountabilities and create a customer council. Again other names are available. Customer councils look after Customer Strategy, ways of working and other aspects of governance such as metrics and measures.

Schedule your free consultation and learn how to harness the power of CXM to grow your business

After our confidential, 30-minute consultation, you will…

  • See a path to product, service and touchpoint improvements
  • Feel confident you and your team can continuously improve your customer experience
  • Be keen to get ahead of your competitors by delighting your customers

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