Send the email. Finish the brochure. Launch the ads.
As a marketer, it’s easy to get so focused on tactics that you lose sight of the big picture—the entire experience that your brand delivers to customers. And that’s unfortunate, because customer experience (CX) has become the battleground for modern brands. While just 36% of businesses primarily competed on the basis of CX back in 2010, today it’s more like 89%.
Still, many businesses continue to fall short when it comes to delivering an awesome experience. Why?
For starters, there’s a major disconnect between companies and consumers in this area. A Bain & Company study found that while 80% of companies thought they delivered a “superior experience,” just 8% of customers agreed.
Also, consumers have never been savvier when it comes to finding product alternatives. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research found back in 2011 that the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information—blogs, forums, websites, word of mouth, you name it—to make a purchase decision. How many sources do you suppose people use now?
The truth is, many consumers don’t have much patience when a business fails to please them. 25 percent of customers will defect to another brand after just one bad experience, according to research cited by McKinsey & Company.
We’re going to dive deeper into this whole concept of customer experience: what it is, why it matters, how to measure it—and how you can turn it into a lasting competitive advantage.
What is customer experience?
You can think about customer experience (CX) as “the impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand, across every stage of the customer journey.”
This changing impression is influenced over time by every interaction that someone has with your brand, including:
- The initial stimulus that makes someone aware of it
- Research as they learn more about your solutions and alternatives
- Things they hear about your brand
- Any interactions they have with your company
- Their moment of purchase
- Their impressions of your product or services over time
- Their interactions with your customer support team
- Their awareness of new solutions that invite comparison with yours
- Any subsequent purchases and product impressions
The brands that really capture our imaginations and grab us by the heartstrings are those like Disney and LEGO that pair an amazing experience with a compelling story. And if you’re not sure what your own story is, don’t fret—you can dig in and find it.
Why does CX matter?
As Google observes, today’s path to purchase is more like a scavenger hunt than a straight line. Consumers perform research across different channels, often using multiple devices, and tend to prefer brands they feel they can trust.
So it’s smart to put consumers at the heart of everything you do. According to research conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Adobe, companies committed to CX have:
- Higher brand awareness
- Higher customer satisfaction rates
- Higher customer retention
- Higher average order value
- Higher return on spend
How do you measure CX?
Okay, you say. I’ve seen the research. I’m on board—CX is important. So, how do you measure customer experience to determine whether or not it’s acceptable? HubSpot suggests four ways.
Implement customer surveys
Many companies use a customer satisfaction benchmark to evaluate and enhance their customer loyalty. Element Three uses the Net Promoter Score (NPS) benchmark. The NPS survey asks “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend to a friend?” Responses can be categorized into three groups:
- Promoters (answer 9–10): Enthusiastic customers who will give you referrals
- Passives (7–8): Indifferent customers who could become Promoters or ditch you for a competitor
- Detractors (0–6): Unhappy customers who could potentially damage your brand reputation
You want as many Promoters—and as few Detractors—as possible, so it’s smart to give your customers space to comment on how you can improve. And, of course, you want to track NPS over time to see if those improvement efforts are effective. Check out this HubSpot post for much more on NPS.
Reduce customer churn
Every business loses customers, but it’s important to understand why customers are leaving, know whether your churn rate is going up or down, and determine what you can do to keep people from going with another company.
Ask for product or feature requests
Give your customers a way to request new products or suggest new features, whether it’s an email survey, social media interactions, or a community forum. Then pay attention to any trends in terms of what people want, especially if you’re hearing the same things over and over.
Analyze support tickets
Your customer support team is on the front lines, so take a close look at what’s causing pain for your customers. Then take action to resolve it.
Finally, how do you enhance CX?
With people bouncing back and forth across an array of different channels, it’s no longer sufficient to focus on individual touchpoints. Rather, you need to focus on the experience from beginning to end, McKinsey & Company advises.
Consumers no longer distinguish between different communications channels or departments of your company; they expect a frictionless journey whenever and wherever the interactions take place. They demand immediate, personalized interactions. And they may feel unsatisfied about the overall experience even if they’re pleased with individual touchpoints, according to McKinsey’s research.
McKinsey advises seeing the world through your customers’ eyes by quantifying what matters to them. That means:
- Drilling down into what matters to each of your customer segments.
- Translating those needs into your company’s common cause.
- Redesigning your business functions around customer needs.
- Defining the outcomes that matter and tracking early wins to prove your momentum.
Their experience. Your advantage.
You’re probably familiar with the term “economic moat,” which Warren Buffett coined to describe the type of competitive advantage he looks for in making investments. But that’s not the only kind of moat.
Even as the pace of innovation increases, companies like Amazon and Apple have succeeded in creating what’s been called a “customer moat”—one that’s all about creating a superior experience that instills serious brand loyalty.
A relentless focus on customers has propelled Amazon from an online bookstore into the world’s foremost e-commerce powerhouse and cloud computing leader. Meanwhile, Apple’s expertise on the experience has allowed them to expand from computers into phones, streaming music, wearables, and beyond.
This customer moat is built on trust, responsiveness, and innovation. So, how are you building yours?
Derek Smith's skills as a reporter serve him well as a senior writer here at Element Three—and if you need a coach for your soccer team, he's got you covered. He's worked as a content strategist as well as a copywriter, so he's always thinking about the why behind every word and every piece of every campaign.
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