Revealing the Art of Customer Experience

It’s the straight-up truth. Somewhere, right now, someone is doing what you do cheaper and faster. So how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? By focusing on customer experience. In 2015 (for the second year in a row), business leaders have ranked customer experience as their number one priority. The trouble is, few companies have aligned their brand strategy with a customer experience strategy. The customer is large, in charge, and ready to be wowed. The information age is coming to its end. The age of customer experience is upon us. Are you up for the shift?

First, let’s get the terminology straight.

When discussing über-buzzwords such as Brand, customer experience, and marketing, I often find there are misconceptions about what these elements are and how these function within a business. The clearest explanation I’ve come across is from Cory Munchbach of Forrester Research:

- The brand sets the stage and acts as the foundation for the company’s promise and decisions.
- Customer experience tackles the implementation of the brand promise for customers.
- Marketing is the voice of the brand both in and outside of the organization.

Forget everything you thought you could control.

Customers experience your brand everywhere. Naturally, they encounter it while actively using your products or services. They also engage with it in a passive way when they happen upon your marketing efforts. You probably put a lot of focus on these tangible touch points because, well, they’re tangible—and they’re largely within your control.

See why customer experience is as important as product innovation >

But we need to acknowledge those intangible parts of the customer experience, the ones that are happening out in the wild. A patient who is choosing a healthcare provider is going to rely much more heavily on conversations with trusted confidantes than any marketing materials your brand delivers. Home appliance shoppers are going to spend some time on consumer review sites before they rush to beat down your doors.

Customer experience (CX) is the new business driver.

Why should you care? The Forrester research is clear: “…the proof lies in comparing the revenue growth of companies with superior customer experience great customer experience to that of their direct competitors with comparatively inferior customer experience.”* The more time you take analyzing how your customers behave in these moments, the more likely you’ll be able to deliver a unique experience that supports your brand. Your brand needs to take both tangible and intangible points of the experience and develop empathy for the decisions your customers are making while you’re not around.

Learn how thinking bigger will help you design the perfect customer experience >

How do you develop an understanding of your customer experience? You need to observe customers and collect data. There are different methods to do this, like surveys, questionnaires, and big data desk research. Some of the most valuable information will come from qualitative research methods like contextual, situational interviews. When you invite customers in to talk about their experience, you will begin to see their behavior patterns emerge. These insights into customers’ tangible and intangible moments uncover fascinating opportunities for your brand to innovate and deliver a differentiated customer experience.

*Harley Manning, et al., “Does Customer Experience Really Drive Business Success?,” Forrester Research, Inc., https://www.forrester.com/Does+Customer+Experience+Really+Drive+Business+Success/fulltext/-/E-RES125102, July 15, 2015.