Why Customer Experience Will Always Matter
A lot time has been spent on the topic of Customer Experience since it entered the business lexicon in the ‘90s. Thirty years on, the term – now shortened to CX, in keeping with the mechanistic brevity of our time – is ubiquitous, a mantra so often invoked it threatens semantic satiation and borders on platitudinous.
Long before academics developed the theory of Customer Experience, the idea of gaining and retaining customers by pleasing them was well-established, under the rubric of customer service. The even more fundamental idea of attracting and appealing to customers goes back to the very foundations of trade: picture merchants at the suk, vying for customers with colorful piles of spices and loud exhortations of superior quality. So what’s special about CX? And why does it seem to matter now more than ever before?
Give Me All the Feels
Essentially, it’s a function of our perpetually-rising standards and good old hedonic adaptation. Today’s customers are more informed, connected, and empowered than ever before. With endless options available on demand, customers are no longer satisfied with a merely “good” product or service. They expect a positive and memorable experience with your brand, across all touchpoints and stages of their journey. They demand not just that your product or service excel, but also expect that their interactions with your brand will make them feel good.
In an assessment of the available CX research literature, CEBMa (the Center for Evidence-based Management) highlights the distinction between “the objective utilitarian (functional) value” and “the subjective hedonic (experiential) value.” While in previous eras the quality of the product or service was the ultimate selling point, it’s now expected that the customer’s experience creates “sensory, emotional, cognitive, behavioral and relational values.”
This is where the power and value of CX comes in. The overall customer experience is made up of separate sub-experiences, each of which either contributes to or detracts from the (utilitarian and hedonic) value. By deconstructing the customer experience into its individual components – the many touchpoints and interactions along the customer journey – brands can determine which elements best match customers’ needs and expectations, and thus add the greatest value. Instead of one big lever for influencing customers, companies now have many small dials and toggles and switches to fine-tune and perfect the experience.
And that experience really matters! According to a PwC study, great CX is worth “up to a 16% price premium on products and services, plus increased loyalty.” And according to that same study: 73% “point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions;” 32% of consumers “will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience;” 65% of US customers “find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.”
The More You Know…
In this new paradigm, good customer data is the key to good customer experience. In a piece titled “Why Customer Experience is the Future of Digital Marketing”, the agency TopRight explores the role of data in marketing, and how to leverage it using new tools and technologies. Citing that same PwC study, they note “63% of customers are more likely to share more data with the brands that offer a better customer experience. Customer data enables you to customize the products and services for personalization to drive customer loyalty. Successful and engaging CX is driven by personalization, curated content and enhanced customer service.”
So the better you know your customers, the better you can predict what they want, and actually deliver it. Luckily, we live in the era of Big Data, and accessing and analyzing that customer data has never been easier. While standard sources, like customer surveys and data from smartphones, remain important, TopRight pushes us to move beyond “conventional channels of engagement.” Technological innovations using Natural Language Processing (NLP), like voice commerce and intelligent assistant technology, provide new ways to interact with and delight customers. Because NLP helps interpret human language, it can be leveraged to better understand search queries, or to create more engaging customer content. Of course today, it’s all about the AI: chatbots are better than ever, and provide a wealth of customer information in natural language.
The other field where new tech provides new opportunities is in security. With all this customer data flowing, it’s imperative for brands to be diligent in protecting it. Again according to PwC: “88% of U.S. consumers say that how much they trust a company determines how much they’re willing to share personal information.” How you treat your customers’ data plays a big part in that trust. Security measures like HTTPS protocols, SSL certificates and two-factor authentication protect customer data and build confidence and trust. Defining a robust security policy shows that your organization takes that trust seriously.
O Brave New World
Without a doubt, CX is the present and future of marketing. We marketers have the capability to capture and analyze tremendous volumes of customer data, and transform that into a meaningful, personalized user experience that speaks directly and uniquely to each customer, builds trust and loyalty, and hell, maybe even sparks joy.
While technology continues to evolve at lightspeed, the needs and wants driving the customer experience – utilitarian and hedonic – remain a constant. Using the latest technology, from AI to security protocols, ensures we not only have access to the most and best customer data, but also allows us to safeguard the trust so critical in building a lasting customer relationship.
EX Squared is perfectly positioned to help you evolve your customer engagement model. Our focus
on the Whole Product Experience means we look at your brand and customers holistically – from entry to exit and beyond. We understand that nothing happens in a vacuum, that each aspect of your brand plays a part in shaping the overall customer experience.
Most importantly, we think about the humans behind the data.
If you’re ready to create meaningful engagement with your customers, it’s time to dig deeper with EX Squared. Imagining, building and evolving whole digital products that people love is what we do.