Why does customer experience matter?
Editorial

Why does customer experience matter?

When was the last time you felt enthusiastic about an interaction you had with an organisation, or raved to friends about the great experience you received when buying a product or service?

In fact, it doesn’t happen that often. Most of our daily conversations with brands are mediocre or mundane – it’s not often that our experience exceeds expectations. In these days of social networking and 24/7 media, when it’s often not easy to differentiate one brand from another, customer experience matters more than ever. Customers are seeking increasingly personalised experiences, and mass marketing means that products become indistinguishable in a crowded marketplace.

If the product is high quality and the price is right, why does customer experience matter? There is growing evidence that customer satisfaction drives buying behaviours and is reflected in stronger business performance. Loyalty, recommendation and trust derive from customer satisfaction, which is ultimately driven by the customer’s experience.

A couple of years ago, the chief executive of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, admitted that the budget airline had historically failed to view customer service as a priority – but insisted they would be investing heavily in improving customer experience over the next few years. “People used to come to us for the low prices and put up with the service,” he told the Telegraph. “I don’t want them to have to put up with the service anymore.” Ryanair’s 2016 Annual Report announced that, during year two of Ryanair’s ‘Always Getting Better’ customer experience initiative, passenger numbers grew by 18% to over 100 million passengers – a growth that continued in their most recent report published in February 2017.

Satisfied customers are loyal, spend more money and refer others. Positive word of mouth reduces marketing budgets. It also costs less to keep existing customers than to attract new ones. If a company can deliver on customer expectations, then there is less need to spend on putting things right when customers complain. In addition, employees derive satisfaction from feeling they’ve done a good job in meeting customers’ needs. And when employee motivation and retention improves, recruitment expenditures fall.

Therefore, there are many revenue justifications for delivering an exceptional customer experience. Every interaction is an opportunity to 'wow' – or to 'disappoint'. Improvements in customer experience offer an opportunity to reduce customer churn and build competitive advantage. Sometimes it is not just one single interaction that causes dissatisfaction – it is often the cumulative effect of numerous experiences, often via multiple channels over a period of time.

Customer experience is not the same as customer service. Customer service typically refers to the degree of assistance and courtesy granted to those who patronise a business. Customer experience, on the other hand, is the sum-totality of all interactions a customer has with an organisation throughout the duration of their relationship, from pre-purchase to initial investigation, enquiry, negotiation, purchase and post-purchase, too.

For this reason, building a commitment to delivering a positive customer experience rests on strong leadership and ensuring a company culture that keeps the customer as the primary focus. It is not just the responsibility of front-line employees, but of all employees, to understand the customer, their needs, their expectations, and their experiences. By engaging cross-functional teams, the message can be rolled out internally.

In order to deliver a great customer experience, brands must listen to their customers and build a deep understanding of what really matters to them. Customer insight is critical to defining the brand promise. Data-driven analysis is needed to identify key improvements so as to enhance the future customer experience.

A growing recognition of the importance of delivering a superior customer experience is the reason why you may have noticed some of the top global brands are now recruiting roles such as head of customer experience. Here is an extract from one company’s job ad on totaljobs.com:

“As Senior Customer Experience Manager, you will be responsible for delivering best-in-class customer experiences on major concept launches. Leading multi-channel design, you'll collaborate across teams, applying your knowledge and experience to drive improvements in customer experience, ensuring that this company is always setting a golden standard for exceptional service. You will be a competent leader and communicator, with the ability to coach people and implement real and lasting positive change.”

Another company asks: “So what is a ‘Customer Experience Manager’? Essentially you are fanatical about delivering a fantastic experience for our customers … identifying opportunities to improve the customer experience.”

A frequently cited Walt Disney quote embodies the justification for a relentless focus on enhancing the customer experience: “Do what you do so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do…”

Today, when social media represents a key communications platform in spreading attitudes, behaviours and experiences, customer experience really does matter.

Want to hear more from Jean Sutton on this topic? Sign up to our Introduction to Customer Experience course and discover the importance of customer experience management. 

Jean Sutton Course Director CIM
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