Customer experience (CX) refers to all the interactions a customer has with a brand or product before, during, and after making an actual purchase. It includes impressions made by marketing, engagement with digital tools such as a website, use of the product itself, and customer service interactions.
Customer perception can be divided into three parts:
Discovery. This is when potential customers are collecting data about your brand and products, either on purpose or passively.
Engagement. Once they decide to make a purchase or a commitment to your product, customers enter the engagement process, where they interact not just with your actual product but potentially with your sales team, store staff, customer service, and more.
Delivery. A specific aspect of customer experience revolves around how you deliver your products to customers. Easily? On time? In good condition?
When an aspect of customer experience is initiated by the customer—say, making a purchase or calling your customer support hotline—this is called direct CX. But indirect CX is equally important: all of the passive encounters a consumer may have with your brand, for instance on social media. In fact, the passive CX can be the true differentiator when it comes to reducing customer churn.
“Give customers a great experience and they’ll buy more, be more loyal and share their experience with friends. That’s what every company strives for. So why are so many consumers disappointed? Call it an experience disconnect: companies tout the latest technology or snappy design, but they haven’t focused on—or invested in—the aspects of customer experience that are the most meaningful.”
According to Forbes, brands that lead in the CX arena outperform the laggards in this category by 80%.
Customer experience has always been a major driver of brand loyalty, but the customer has more interaction with brands than ever before in history. Through social media, news, ad targeting, peer reviews, and other avenues, would-be customers form distinct impressions of your brand before they become paying customers.
Three-quarters of consumers say that customer experience is critical to their purchasing decisions, but far fewer have a strong degree of faith in the brands they have experiences with.
Companies know that CX is important, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it.
According to the respected consulting firm PWC, the factors that go into good CX, from the customer point of view, include:
In other words, even when it comes to digital products and automated purchasing experiences, consumers seek the emotion that comes with good old-fashioned service—and the convenience that comes with digital technology.
A customer relationship management, or CRM, tool is typically one of the first things organizations employ to start to manage customer experience. Airtable has a Sales CRM template that can get you started.
Customer service is not a formulaic effort, and there is no consensus on what makes a particular company the best at it. For many digital companies, branding and marketing constitute enormously important elements of CX. There’s no one perfect formula, but there are some common themes to pay attention to as you strategize your CX efforts.
Effective and accessible customer service
Transparent sales and marketing practices
Intuitive and innovative product design
Proactive and useful business-to-customer communications
While CX encompasses a lot more than just customer service, service is still a critical aspect of CX. While customer service used to mean friendly smiles and cordial greetings, today’s landscape is significantly more complicated.
Customers expect brands to be responsive on a number of different platforms. The ones that are best at customer service are quickly responsive on social media, answer emails promptly, and offer multiple other ways to connect — the phone, SMS messages, in-app chatbots, live chat with a human representative, and a self-service knowledge base.
The first step to a successful customer service experience is to make it easy to reach your company. The second is to solve customer problems and go above and beyond their baseline expectations when it comes to service.
Customers also feel entitled to an abundance of information. They want to know what a brand stands for. The ideals that guide a brand’s actions are important to today’s customers, who don’t want to support a company that doesn’t share a set of similar beliefs when it comes to protecting the environment or standing up for diversity, for instance.
For this reason, a fundamental aspect of the modern customer experience is the relationship a customer has with the brand. In a 2022 Harris Poll, 82% of shoppers stated explicitly that they want a brand’s values to align with their own, and three-quarters said they’ve cut ties with a brand over a conflict in values.
Particularly when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, the confidence and trust consumers have in your brand really matters in this regard.
Finally, the third pillar of CX is a customer’s actual experience with the product. Marketing, brand-building, and customer service mean nothing if the product itself is not good enough. Apple made a name for itself with superior products—but the company is also known for its award-winning advertising and unique brand. Apple also revolutionized the way a computer company could do customer support when it launched its iconic Genius Bars.
Not every company masters CX like Apple—and some companies master it in completely different ways.
Whether your company has a business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) focus, the way you communicate with your customer, both passively and actively, makes a world of difference in the experience the customer takes away.
With every aspect of CX, the key to ensuring the best outcomes is to implement strategies and best practices. Here are a few pointers.
To create optimal, consistent CX requires an intentional customer experience strategy. Companies like Apple and Trader Joe’s didn’t get where they are haphazardly. Here are four practices that will help your company stay in favor with customers for the long run.
Gather and analyze customer feedback
Understand your customer’s journey
Create a comprehensive CX strategy
Leverage the right tools
Want to create a better customer experience? Ask your customers what they want done differently. There are many ways to do this. Here are a few examples:
Automate post-purchase surveys to get instant feedback on the CX of your checkout or sales process while it’s fresh in the customer’s mind
Use chatbots to get in-app or on-web feedback from customers as they’re engaged with your brand or product
Take advantage of poll features of social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram
Listen in on social media in general — what are people saying both TO and ABOUT you?
Gather specific types of customer feedback such as Customer Effort Score (CES), Net Promoter Score (NPS), Time to Resolution (TTR), and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores
These examples should be a part of your customer feedback strategy.
Here’s an Airtable template that works great for gathering and analyzing customer satisfaction feedback: Customer Satisfaction Form and Analysis Template
Most customers don’t buy something the moment they hear about your brand. They often take a roundabout route to purchase, getting to know your product through their own digital research, by talking to their friends, and by seeing social media content and ads.
Marketers and product developers often draw up complex buying diagrams—called “journey mapping.”
Read more about How to create a customer journey map on Airtable, including examples of customer journey maps
3. Create a comprehensive CX strategy
If you’re familiar with terms like customer 360 or omnichannel approach, they refer to the idea of a holistic customer experience strategy that takes every possible touchpoint into consideration. Your CX strategy should cover every place where a customer could potentially interface with or learn about your company: social media, your website, advertising, customer service, sales, and more.
A CX strategy helps you see how your customer experiences your brand across all of these touchpoints, and ensures that every team is aligned around optimizing the experience customers have.
Read more about How to create a CX strategy on Airtable, including all the elements that make up a great CX strategy
As you undergo all of these CX initiatives, deploying the right tools in place will make your job much easier and your outcomes more successful. Technology holds certain advantages such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation that can take the manual effort out of many of your customer experience initiatives.
Tracking marketing campaigns is one way to keep tabs on how your customer experience initiatives are doing. Here’s a Marketing Campaign Tracking Template from Airtable
Once you understand what your customers are looking for, put a CX strategy in place to meet those needs, and track the success of your efforts, your ability to impress your customers will improve.
Customer experience management refers to ownership over CX strategy.A CX strategy can’t succeed without the right oversight. In some companies, CX strategist is a full-time role. In others, the process might be overseen by members of the marketing or product teams.
CX efforts are typically cross-functional, involving multiple teams responsible for the myriad of different ways customers can interact with a brand, including the sales team, marketing team, engineering team, and customer service team. Here’s how each might be involved.
Product — The product team, made up of product managers, developers, testers, and other roles, determines the quality and functionality of a product, which of course is a key aspect of how customers relate to and engage with the product.
Marketing — The marketing team controls the brand perception, along with most interactions that customers have with that brand prior to (and after they) buy. This includes touchpoints such as the website, social media, and advertising.
Sales— In a more overt manner, the sales team interacts with potential customers to close deals, whether it’s on one-off consumer products or subscription-based software or services.
Support — Customer support is a critical aspect of good customer experience, since customers typically don’t call on support unless they have a question or a problem.
Because many teams—in many places—may manage customer experience, a cloud-based tool is nearly always preferred.
See the library of templates Airtable offers for various kinds of project management
Sure, customers have many options and many, many opinions. But with a consistent, strategic approach to your overall customer experience, you gain the advantage over brands that are less persistent and organized. The right tools are a critical part of this effort.
Airtable is a connected apps platform that can help teams build the exact tools they need to excel at customer experience. Plus, with plenty of pre-made templates for business and integrations with other tools you’re already using, it’s quick to get started on Airtable today.
For a better understanding of how Airtable can help you amplify your CX efforts, read the basics in Your guide to building in Airtable.
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