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What is customer experience (CX) exactly?

Updated: May 3, 2020

We talk about Customer Experience often but many of us understand the term differently. Some may think it just covers asking our customers what they think of us and (maybe) doing something with their feedback. Others may think that it is just about how we organize our ordering, sales or support processes. Get 10 people in a room and you may well get 10 different opinions. Ian Golding, a well-known CX specialist defines Customer Experience as “the sum of all interactions a customer has with a supplier of goods/services for the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy. The quality of the experience as a whole will determine whether it is a one-off or a continuous relationship.”

Most customers will have interactions with us at several points in time. Each of these interactions leave an impression on the customer. It can start with seeing our advertisement at many airports globally or browsing our website. It may continue with trying to place an order or get a quotation. That can be followed by a phone call or an e-mail asking about an expected delivery date. Then the customer may have a query about the product itself, he may require a service call, etc… Sounds a bit like a journey? Well, yes that is really what we call the “customer journey”. And understanding the Customer Journey is an important element of being able to deliver a constantly excellent service.

There are various degrees of maturity when it comes to the Customer Experience. Jerry Angrave, a CX Specialist, maintains that there are 3 degrees of maturity when looking at the evolutionary phases of customer experience and these degrees impact directly on the kind of experiences that companies deliver to their customers (2):

Random experiences are delivered by organizations that focus on task, products and processes. They tend not to measure performance. Performance and service delivery tends to be random and inconsistent. Also, things often don’t quite work out the way that they are intended and that leads to issues that require resolving. In general performance at this level barely meets the customer’s minimum expectations. This type of performance generally results in the organization bearing unnecessary costs.

Intentional experiences are generally delivered by organizations that enjoy a shared vision. The organization talks and thinks about the customer frequently and fixes its own problems (processes, quality, etc). These companies have measurement programmes in place to track performance and have cross-functional governance in place to ensure that there are processes in place to ensure consistency. In general, these companies are profitable in the way that they operate and generally meet the customer’s expectations without necessarily exceeding them.

Organizations that deliver differentiated experiences are considered by customers to be easy to do business with. They don’t just talk and think “customer”, but they act it also. They are not satisfied fixing their own faults, but also seek to assist the customer in resolving their own issues which may have a direct or indirect impact on the successful use of the organization’s product or service. These organizations deliver their “brand promise” consistently and are adept at regulating themselves. This is made possible by the shared vision and the clear understanding by everyone in the organization of the role that they, as an individual play, in delivering the brand promise. These organizations constantly exceed customer expectations and operate a sustainable model.

Achieving the highest levels of CX maturity is akin to assembling a jig-saw. Firstly, you need patience! It’s important to assemble the critical pieces in order to establish a solid foundation. It’s very clearly a team challenge: everyone has a role to play. To progress along the CX maturity line it is necessary to put in place a clear CX strategy. This will ensure that everyone knows what role they must play and what the organization wants to achieve for their customers.

 But, before you do so there are three main questions that need to be answered:

• Does the organization know its customers?

• Does the organization know what the customers’ experience should be?

• Does everyone in the organization know what role they need to play in delivering this experience?

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