By Jeofrey Bean
is the co-author of the business leadership book He is a keynote speaker and Principal of . Jeofrey is an expert at increasing the effectiveness of marketing, customer service and customer experience leadership decisions.
What is Customer Experience? Does your company have a consistent and well-known answer that guides decisions and actions to create customer advocates?
In June, Sean Van Tyne and I were keynote speakers at the Innovate customer experience conference in San Francisco. This gave us the chance to ask over six hundred people in the audience “How many people at your company have an official customer experience definition? Please show your hands.” At first, no hands went up, a couple seconds later, just a few arose. How many is a few? Our glance across the room from the stage, and later conversations with people who were in the audience confirmed fewer than 10 people raised their hand. This response was consistent with other times we’ve asked groups and individuals the same question.
As authors of the book , our definition of customer experience came from the aggregate view we developed after interviewing many of the best customer experience leaders and doing other research while writing the book.
We’ve asked many people within the same company and many people from different companies to tell us what they mean by customer experience. We’ve learned that the chances of getting a consistent definition are small. People answer based on their experience and what their situation or role is. This is fine on an individual basis. But when you’re a company seriously eying a customer leadership position so you can be better, different and more profitable, you need a consistent and well-known definition of customer experience.
The absence of a consistent answer can be problematic for any decisions and activities impacting customer experience. It can lead to unfocused discussions, inconsistent service or product development and customer interactions. For any of these scenarios to be successful, there has to be a clear and consistent view of what the company and its people mean by customer experience as early as possible.
I notice a significant increase in the number of people who “get it” when they know my definition of customer experience. Even if they don’t agree with it, they know where I am coming from. Later, they may create their own definition.
Here is the definition I share early in any customer impacting discussion: Customer Experience includes all interactions people have “with” or “about” a company’s messages, people, processes, products or services. This is the customer experience continuum.
“With” is directly interacting with the company along the customer experience continuum.
“About” is very important. It used to be mainly reading reviews of products or services or by word of mouth. With the growth of social media, the “About” part of customer experience becomes more important than ever. This is because one person can quickly communicate to many others about the experiences they expect to have, are having now or have had.
Within the customer experience is the “user experience.” User experience is a person’s direct interactions with the product or service that they will spend or have spent the money for. The user experience is where customers find out if the promises made by the company from the beginning of the customer experience are true.
When does the customer experience start?
Most companies believe that customer experience starts when there is a transaction that makes a person or company a customer. After that, people can see how they like the customer service. Experience Makers believe that customer experience starts before people are customers, continues while they are customers and, hopefully, moves them to become energized advocates! Most people will experience many of the parts in the customer experience directly or indirectly before they interact with customer service. Then, if the service is the product, it’s up to the service to assure that the promises made are true with an extraordinary user experience.
Does your organization have its own definition of customer experience?
Is it well communicated so everyone at the strategic, tactical and operational levels can contribute better with outcomes that excel? If the answer is no, start having the discussions today to move toward a consistent and well known definition of customer experience at the company. Ask people what it is. If you are already there, this can help to keep your present customer experience relevant and valuable. It can prompt you to innovate a new one. If you are at the beginning, this is a great early move in your transformation to a customer experience leader.
Let’s meet here next month. We’ll explore which companies are likely setting your customers’ expectations, why you need to know this and how you can leverage it. Until next month, if you have any questions or comments let me know @ [email protected]