How Brands Can Drive More Powerful, Proactive and Innovative Customer Experiences


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Customer experience (CX) has been a hot topic for years, with brands racing to execute CX programs that strengthen customer relationships and lift business results. In fact, in recent Gartner research, 81 percent of CX leaders within marketing said their companies will mostly or completely compete on the basis of their brand’s CX within two years. But while expectations remain high, most brands are struggling. Just 48 percent have established the relationship between CX and business outcomes and only 22 percent are today exceeding customer expectations.

Brands striving for CX excellence can get caught between competing goals and expectations. For instance, the desire for customer centricity versus the expectation of delivering business results. Or, the aspiration to improve leading indicators of customer success while satisfying the demand to produce demonstrable quarterly results.

The first step for successful CX programs is to use data to show business leaders why CX matters. Smart CX leaders combine their Voice of the Customer (VoC) data with operational and transactional data to validate how customer satisfaction improves the bottom line. By correlating customer-reported satisfaction data with purchase data, CX leaders can demonstrate that more satisfied customers buy more frequently, purchase a wider selection of products, are less costly to serve, churn less and deliver a higher lifetime value to the brand.

Another challenge for CX programs can be to identify the most powerful experiences that will help to foster strong customer loyalty and differentiate the brand from the competition. Many CX programs are caught in reactive mode, identifying and solving one customer problem after another in existing systems and processes. Few CX programs are able to turn their focus to more innovative solutions that don’t just resolve existing customer issues, but recognize and execute new experiences that can create rabid customer loyalty and advocacy.

Fixing today’s problems in today’s processes cannot help your brand to offer the sort of groundbreaking, margin-building experiences that drive success for CX leaders such as Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, Costco and USAA. To break out of reactive mode, brands need a fresh way to consider the experiences they provide today and to evaluate the innovative experiences they could provide tomorrow.

Source: Gartner

Gartner research has identified five core levels of a customer’s experience that companies can use during their customer journey mapping process. The framework encourages identification of more powerful opportunities to drive stronger customer relationships. From bottom to top, these levels are:

  • Furnish information I can use. Getting customers the right information in the right channel at the right time. This is vital, but it still leaves the onus on customers to consume and consider the content and to action on their own.
  • Solve your problem when I ask. Spoken from the perspective of the customer, your problem is the brand’s problem. Solving the brand’s problem means prioritizing outcomes such as minimizing resources and costs over customer impact.
  • Resolve my needs when I ask. Creating experiences at this stage requires a brand to listen for, understand and resolve customers’ unique needs. Brands that operate this way convey a greater level of care for customers and foster greater satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.
  • Provide what I need without me asking. Providing experiences that resolve needs before customers ask (or even know) demands that a brand truly understand customers, act proactively, surpass competitors in resolving customer needs and wants and then repeat the process to stay ahead of the competition.
  • Make me better, safer or more powerful. It is rare for brands to achieve this level, but when they offer potent experiences that change the way consumers think not just about their brand but also about themselves, a brand can foster customer relationships with prolonged retention, higher margins and an increased lifetime value.

Consider the brands that earn your trust or the ones that are widely recognized as CX leaders and it becomes apparent how they’ve succeeded by offering experiences closer to the top of the pyramid. For example, when Apple released the iPhone and iPad, it didn’t produce a minimally viable product but committed to creating products that changed the way people thought about mobile computing and how it fit into their lives. When USAA produced the first mobile application that allowed customers to make automated deposits using their smartphone camera, it changed how people thought about where and when they could bank.

Brands succeed when they take the time to know their customers better than the competition, listen for unmet needs and wants, and offer proactive experiences that alter consumers’ perceptions about the category and about themselves. They create meaningful, attention-getting, brand-building customer experiences that lead to better customer retention, greater customer advocacy, higher margins, lower cost of acquisition and stronger business results.

Augie Ray
Augie Ray is a Sr. Director Analyst at Gartner specializing in Customer Experience. He publishes research and advises clients on CX best practices with an emphasis on VoC, persona development, customer journey mapping, CX metrics and program management. Prior to joining Gartner, Augie worked as a Director of Customer Experience Action at American Express, Executive Director of Community and Collaboration at USAA, and led an experiential marketing team at a mid-sized agency.


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