This article is 5th in a series describing 10 unique characteristics of customer experience relative to more well-known concepts such as customer satisfaction and retention. The characteristic defined in this article is: Duration — Customer experience encompasses the point from which customers become aware they have a need until they say that need is extinct.
Customer engagement is really what many of us think of when we use the phrase customer experience management. During the past 15 years, customer-focus efforts have largely emphasized service excellence in contact centers, up-selling in CRM, or affinity-building in NPS or communities or references. While these customer engagement endeavors are subsets of customer experience management (CEM), they are often more revenue-oriented than customer well-being oriented, and hence, fall short of goals for superior customer experience and accompanying expectations for strong business results.
Return on Investment
For customer engagement to generate revenue, constant investment in campaigns, service, and technology are necessary. Alternatively, initial investment in CEM organically generates customer engagement for growth in revenue, and simultaneously reduces costs, for growth in profits. CEM is a dedication to serving customer needs from the customer’s perspective. By aligning the entire company with the customer’s perspective, CEM eradicates non-value-add activities and attitudes within a company, preventing hassles and minimizing waste. When customers enjoy hassle-free experiences, they’re naturally motivated to become evangelists for the brand. Hence, the broader scope of CEM almost automatically leads to superior customer experience and stronger business results.
What Motivates Customers?
Think about your own motives as a customer. You’re motivated to deal with a supplier (store, brand, service, entertainment, solution, etc.) in order to fulfill a need – period. Generally, what you buy as a customer is a means toward a larger need, where multiple solutions from multiple sources (some of which may be supplied by yourself) are integrated. As a customer you simply want to find solutions that offer the best cost-benefit ratio, meaning the fewest hassles, worries, and monetary costs relative to the degree that the supplier’s offering solves your need.
Understanding the Customer’s World
Do you understand your customer’s world accordingly? Remember that businesses exist to serve a customer need, which in turn, results in revenue. So the supplier that best understands the customer’s world has the best chance of differentiating the customer experience for greater added value from the customer’s viewpoint. Customers who are delighted by greater value for less emotional and monetary cost become fans who want to tell their friends and engage with the brand. This chain of events applies to both consumer and business customers. As such, customer well-being motives within the supplier company have greater opportunity for growth than traditional revenue-oriented motives.
Duration of Customer Experience
As a customer, you might define the beginning of your experience earlier than the supplier defines it. What thought processes, steps, and challenges do you typically go through before you connect with the supplier you eventually buy from? Similarly, does your experience as a customer end when you’ve received the bill, or when you’ve participated for a while in a branded community, or perhaps when the supplier announces a new revision of what you bought? You probably insist that your experience starts and ends only when you say it does! Customer experience starts when a customer becomes aware of a need for which they’d like to find a solution, and it ends when they perceive that they no longer have that need.
Sometimes the true duration of customer experience is recognized by a supplier, with amazing customer engagement and financial results. For example, Virgin Atlantic Airways picked up first-class customers in limousines to bring them smoothly to the airport, and Kaiser Permanente has complimentary valet service when patients arrive for doctor appointments. Intel supplied leaflets in computer stores to explain the difference between microprocessors. LL Bean and Nordstrom honor product returns long after purchase. (Note: please comment below with additional examples!)
Tools to Understand Customer Experience
Customer life cycle management, customer touch point maps, and customer experience journey maps are great tools for gaining important insights about the customer’s world. (See pictorial examples.) These tools are typically used to identify opportunities to leverage marketing communications, improve sales and service, or increase intuitive use of a product, website, or store.
Whereas traditional thinking puts the company in the driver’s seat for defining the brand and the customer experience, in reality, a customer subconsciously measures a brand and the customer experience according to his or her personal perception of cost-benefit ratio. In fact, 66% of all touch points are now customer-generated, according to a study published in the McKinsey Quarterly 2009.
For companies that aim to deliver superior customer experiences that yield excellent business results, the caveats in using these tools are the temptations to use them with a revenue motive rather than a customer well-being motive, and to view the customer experience too narrowly, short-changing your opportunities to innovate superior customer experience.
Take a careful look at your customer-focus programs to determine the degree of customer well-being they’re designed to generate, relative to their revenue-generating capabilities. You may find a more successful business strategy in primarily preventing hassles, and secondarily innovating the customer experience both earlier and later in the customer experience spectrum, from the point when customers realize they have a need until they no longer perceive that need exists.