What Really Makes for a Great Customer Experience? : Thoughts from Today’s Top CX Experts

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With customer experience expected to overtake everything, including price and product quality as the top brand differentiator by 2020, it’s no wonder that organizations and their leaders are doubling down on their CX efforts. But for many, a very important question stands in the way of their pursuit to delight customers: “What exactly is a great customer experience?”

We’ve asked three of today’s most prominent and influential customer experience experts to offer their definition. Here’s what they said:

Get All Your Employees on the CX Train

Shep Hyken, CX thought leader, bestselling author, and Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations has worked with leading organizations across industries to help them build lasting relationships with their customers and employees. As Hyken puts it, every employee plays a role in customer experience.

Hyken: “Customer experience is everyone’s job – from the CEO to the most recently hired. Every employee, whether they know it or not (and they should if they don’t), has an impact on the customer. And, if you’re not dealing directly with a customer, you are most likely supporting someone who is. So, everyone needs to understand the customer service and experience vision of the company.”

We train our employees on how to execute their jobs, and how to adhere to our company’s culture, but equally important is the need to train them to make sure that they know what is expected of them when it comes to how their role impacts customer experience.

“Everyone needs to be properly trained to deliver it. Sure, the front line will be trained differently than someone behind the scenes in the accounting department or the warehouse, but everyone must be trained to deliver on the vision. That’s what the best customer-focused companies do. They have a clear definition of what the customer experience vision is. They are constantly communicating it to remind and reinforce the vision. They train to it. And, they hire to it. These are the basics that will help drive a culture that is focused on delivering an amazing customer experience.”

Perception is Reality

Delivering an amazing customer experience requires shaping your customers’ perception of your organization. How a customer perceives their interactions or experiences with you is their reality. If they walk away from an interaction with your team feeling like their needs weren’t met, then they’ll associate those negative feelings with your organization in perpetuity and likely never return.

Annette Franz, Founder/CEO of CX Journey Inc., has been working in customer experience for 25 years, helping some of today’s top companies improve customer satisfaction and retention. She illustrates the importance of making sure customer perception aligns with the experience your organization delivers.

“Let’s start by defining what customer experience is. It’s the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a brand over the life of the relationship with the brand; and it includes the feelings, emotions, and perceptions of those interactions along the way. That last part is important because how we are left to feel after an interaction certainly dictates (or causes us to reconsider) if we will do business with the brand again.”

As Franz mentions, there’s a lot riding on every single interaction we have with our customers, and fellow customer experience expert, Blake Morgan, agrees. Morgan, who hosts her own customer experience podcast and has helped companies like Intel and Verizon Wireless create CX’s that keep their customers coming back, emphasizes that organizations must craft experiences that elicit visceral reactions and emotions.

“Experiences are the things that light up your eyes, or make your blood boil. Companies make our eyes light up or our blood boil as a customer when we interact with them. Let’s get personal for a second – for you, an experience you vividly remember may include: your wedding day; the day your child was born; when the doctor was helpful during a time when you or your loved one needed special care…A customer experience you remember: something that used to be hard is now extremely easy; you got something you didn’t expect, more than you thought you would; you learned something that greatly improved your life. Why is it that, at work, we forget we are designing experiences for other people? We forget that we are making our customers’ eyes light up or blood boil?”

As human beings, we make plenty of decisions based on our feelings, and deciding whether to do business with a company is no different. The most successful companies don’t just provide a product or service — they make us feel and perceive things in a certain way and take mundane business interactions and turn them into experiences.

Think about it, buying an iPhone from Apple makes us feel sleek and connected, taking a trip to Disney makes us feel like a kid again, and so on. To deliver memorable, impactful experiences that make our customer’s eyes light up, we must continually work to create a perception that makes our customers want to experience doing business with us over and over.

Consistency is Key

Perception and employee training mean nothing if your company is not consistent. To build loyalty and retain customers, companies need to deliver the same experience every time they interact with customers. As Morgan says, consistency needs to be ever-present.

“I believe that a great customer experience is personalized, timely, relevant, effortless/simple, seamless, remarkable, memorable, and consistent. Consistency is an important “umbrella quality” in that all the other qualities need to describe your every experience with a brand. Always. Every time. Consistency sets expectations and creates predictability. And that leads to trust. When a brand earns a customer’s trust, the relationship is solid.”

By creating consistency across channels and interactions, organizations are able to reduce the effort customers need to put forth to get what they need, and as a result, gain trust. One of the most powerful ways to create consistency in your CX is by leveraging communication technologies that allow your customers to reach you whenever they have questions or concerns. With any relationship, lack of communication is the biggest killer.

And whereas consistency tells customers that they can rely on an organization, personalization tells customers that organizations understand them. Over 80% of consumers report that they want companies to understand them better. And when we do show a greater understanding of our customers through personalization, this leads to customer loyalty and increased revenue.

Every customer is different, which means their definition of a great CX is going to be different as well. However, to ensure we are in a position to delight all of our customers, our own definition of a great CX must contain the foundational elements mentioned above. This includes integrating CX as a core organizational philosophy, focusing on delivering personalized experiences, and maintaining consistency.

In today’s highly competitive landscape, anything less than an exceptional customer experience will kill your chances to succeed. Not only will a stellar CX keep your customers coming back for more, but it’ll also allow you to stand out from the pack. So take a page from these CX experts and don’t just serve your customers — provide them consistent experiences that keep them coming back for more.

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