The definition of customer experience––or, CX––can be difficult to pin down. It means different things to a customer than it does to a seasoned vendor, for example. Some think of it as encompassing only the check-out experience; others conceive of it as more holistic, where the environment of the store or site, its layout, and the availability of support all need to be taken into consideration.
Successful companies opt for the latter interpretation.
In fact, providing great and valuable CX means ensuring every single touch point you have with a customer is pleasant and seamless. Moreover, it entails being operationally proactive in addressing both explicit and implicit customer requests and needs.
Pretend for a minute you’re running a major hotel in San Francisco. A hotel guest checks in for their second stay. They request a non-smoking room, fresh apples in the morning, and a king-sized bed.
Most can deliver on those explicit requests. But the best owners, in this case, would also know that in that guest’s first stay at your hotel, they only ate the red apples from the fruit bowl––and subsequently equip the bowl only with red apples for this second stay. In other words, they’d deliver on that implicit request, too.
That’s how you provide an unforgettable experience. It comes down to sweating the small stuff, essentially––which is one reason why CX is so often something companies overlook. Unfortunately, to overlook the varied and essential components of CX is to undermine the competitiveness of your company and its ability to acquire, retain, and grow loyal customers over time.
So, how do you prevent yourself from undermining your own CX efforts so that your company can thrive? It starts with avoiding these common CX pitfalls.
1) Forgetting the imperative to make CX everyone’s job.
Companies are made up of many departments. Internally, knowing the difference between each department––differences in responsibility, focus, etc.––is, of course, critical.
But customers don’t see 20 different departments. When they’re interacting with your company or brand, they only see a single entity.
This means that it is the responsibility of everyone across departments to provide customers, if and when they interact with them, an excellent, positive experience. It doesn’t make a difference to a user whether they’re working with someone on the sales team, in finance, support, or engineering. All they know is they’re working with your company. Ensuring you provide great CX starts with internalizing this fact.
2) Not providing consistent, repeatable messaging––or availing key relevant data––that is accessible and can be used by everyone interacting with customers.
The best way to ensure folks in finance, for example, can provide customers with the same positive experience as the support team––such that customers walk away from every interaction with your company feeling positive––is to provide your entire company with a consistent, transferable framework for CX processes.
To accomplish this, everyone must have access to the same data and be familiar with the appropriate CX-focused vernacular. When a customer calls the finance department, whoever answers the phone should be able to say, “Hey Jane, yep, I see your information and that you’re calling about XYZ. I can confirm your status now. I also see you had a meeting with the Support team last week. How did that go? Is there anything else I can help with?”
In this example, your company rep was able to use data to solve the customer’s immediate issue. And even though those last two questions are not directly related to the customer’s original reason for calling, they’re examples of employees appreciating the ultimate metric of CX: whether the customer feels supported and that you care about their needs. It’s a matter of strategic compassion.
A great example of the difference this makes can be found in American Express. Logically, Amex should be failing, as the yearly cost of the card is relatively high compared to other credit card companies. They charge stores and outlets high percentage rates, and the card is not accepted by many smaller vendors who’re more conscious of costs. So why does Amex do so well? Because Amex consumers know the company has their back. If you lose your card, you will have a new one in but a few hours. When you speak with an Amex rep––regardless of department––they’re articulate, professional, and actually happy to be speaking with you. All of this makes a difference.
This sort of interaction is not possible, however, if all your functional groups are siloed, and the finance department––in this theoretical case––doesn’t have access to customer information or the right CRM channel. For everyone in your company to provide adequate CX, they need access to all relevant kinds of data, including which customers have had past issues or need extra support.
Of course, not all data is created equal. You also need to be purposeful in the CX-focused metrics you use. All departments, before and after interactions with customers, should be tracking how quickly a resolution was realized, what responses customers are giving in surveys, what kinds of questions they’re asking, and how long it took for something to get resolved. More importantly, everyone should be actively using that data to inform how they go about ensuring their CX approach is exemplary.
3) Not providing multiple avenues for customer feedback or closing the loop on that feedback.
Speaking of data, perhaps the most important kind of data you can collect and track is customer feedback. As such, you should have processes and systems in place across your company for obtaining, analyzing, using, and following up on it.
Too often, companies will set up customer advisory boards or ask customers to send in things like feature requests only to allow that data to vanish into a black hole. At best, users may receive an automated “thank you” email. Now, compare the experience of receiving that email to instead receiving a personalized message with an actual response, complete with reasons for or against implementing the feature in question, details around what your company is doing to address their concerns, or, better yet, relevant information around how the user can do the exact thing they’re asking about.
What this illuminates, all told, is the need not only for collecting and using feedback, but for closing the loop and getting back to people who send it to you. That makes customers feel special, and it goes a long way towards fostering loyalty.
At the end of the day, customer experience is not something you can package; it is something that every employee must be aware of and strive to provide.
And it’s not something that customers will often be able to articulate, either. To be CX-centric is to constantly provide customers with a positive experience which they feel more so than anything else. It’s that intangible appreciation they feel when their room is stocked with the sort of apples they like, or when purchasing your product online takes only two clicks instead of five.
To achieve this sort of result requires nothing less than an investment from everyone in your company. It’s a holistic experience that necessitates holistic involvement, irrespective of the department or individual. With great execution, CX will be the difference between you and your competitors turning CX into a major competitive advantage that other will find it difficult to match.