In recent years, the term “customer experience” has garnered buzz in the business community. Recent research found that as of 2016, almost 90 per cent of companies believe they are competing mostly on customer experience, as opposed to only 36 per cent at the start of the decade. Approximately half of all product innovation investments are expected to be diverted to improving the customer experience instead. So while the concept is clearly on the radar of many B2B organizations as a method to stand out from the competition, many companies haven’t developed a singular understanding of what customer experience entails and how it differs from traditional customer service.
Since it’s an important issue for both consumers and company leadership, every organization needs to undertake an honest and comprehensive assessment of their current customer experience. For some companies that have never codified the structure of their customer experience strategies, the first step is to develop and refine a formal plan. For others who have thought about the principles of the overall customer experience and implemented them throughout their processes, it may require taking stock of the mechanisms in place at every stage of their customer journey and improving them in pursuit of an unparalleled experience for every customer.
It’s worth digging into the semantics of this topic; it has important implications to the prevalent disconnect between customer experience and customer service. The problems begin when most companies create a distinct department called “customer service.” The employees in this department typically handle tasks related to customer support, order processing, billing questions, and returns and exchanges. These are all transactional processes, which is likely why many business leaders think of their strategy solely in transactional terms.
The customer experience, on the other hand, is not based on a transaction between the customer and the company. It is the customer’s overall perception of their relationship with the organization. It is also formed as the result of a compilation of their feelings about and interactions with the brand and its representatives, beginning with initial awareness and extending well beyond the point of purchase. The responsibility for creating and delivering an exceptional customer experience doesn’t fall on the shoulders of just one employee or department. In fact, for an organization to deliver an outstanding customer experience, staff members throughout the organization have to be committed to providing reliable and thoughtful service.