Customer experience is an elusive animal and while it may not possess the physical senses of a living being, it can certainly impact all of our senses as consumers. Though we don’t often think about it, it’s fascinating how many parts there are to the customer experience puzzle, each interaction adding a piece to the big picture of personal perceptions of a company, product or service. Think about this blog for a moment. As you browse it and possibly other pages of our site, you are gaining tidbits of experience our company and part of its leadership. Ultimately it is the customer’s behaviors that follow their consumption of products and services that determine whether or not we will succeed long term. So let’s talk a bit about what customer is today compared to what it was years ago.
For many of the world’s most successful companies, creating a unique, identifiable customer experience has evolved into the most powerful platform to attract and maintain customer relationships. The concept of the customer experience or “CX” has actually been around for more than 100 years, but recently it’s become the latest boxing ring for forward-thinking businesses to stand out from competitors. The first Ritz-Carlton Hotel opened in 1911, developing a CX credo that still stands strong: “We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” Ever stayed in a Ritz Carlton? If you have, you can see why they have been able to command a higher price tag and higher market share of premier resort accommodations for 100+ years. Yet you don’t have to be a big company or luxury brand to create the sense of desire and loyalty generated by the Ritz Carlton’s of the world. Not since the creation of the time-tested “Unique Selling Proposition,” has there been a more effective way for businesses of all sizes to differentiate themselves.
Often businesses are confused between customer experience and the hyper-focused area of customer service. Unlike customer service, which mainly focuses on “front-line” personnel, assisting customers to meet their needs in a prompt, professional manner during and/or after the sale, customer experience is much more widespread. In fact it is an all-encompassing, holistic voyage through the land of _____________ (enter your company name here), that effects customers/clients in ways that are more impactful on a small business owner’s bottom line than simply customer service. If you really pull the camera back, customer service is just one the puzzle pieces. Customer service is something usually delivered reactively or when it’s required, while customer experience is something you deliver, whether intentionally or not, within every moment, through the lifetime of your relationship with your audience. In fact, there are countless situations in which customers never even deal with an aspect of customer service, yet they still walk away with an experience… each one uniquely their own.
So what exactly is customer experience? It can be difficult to pinpoint because it’s everything really and today’s technology complicates our ability to control it. It’s the advertising and marketing that prospects are exposed to, the systems and processes surrounding their transaction, the virtual or personal connections with your business, the engagement with your online/offline brand and the voice of the customers who interact with it. The question really is, what isn’t part of the customer experience? Whatever business you’re in, there’s never been a better time to bring it into focus and to start setting yourself apart by enhancing the pieces that have been neglected. A company’s ability to break down each component, consciously take control of it and fine tune a positive customer journey is one of the most effective paths toward growth and profitability. Gartner research shows that companies focusing on maximizing their customer experience generate profits that are 60% higher than those of their competitors. Most small businesses are just getting their feet wet when it comes to CX, meaning tremendous opportunities exist for those thinking about creating their own unique customer experience that compounds sales and conquers the competition.