The way companies interact with their customers and prospects has changed a lot in recent years. Your marketing, sales, customer success and professional services departments all own various “touch points” that intentionally or unintentionally contribute to a customer’s experience. But do these interactions result in an overall experience you are proud of? One that generates loyalty to your brand or your organization? Do they help to create the kind of customer who avidly recommends your products or services to others?
Or is it the kind of experience that is ripe for disruption by a competitor that really understands what your customers want? Only companies that give their customers an exceptional experience will win in the end.
The Customer Experience Movie
More often than not, customers experience a fragmented relationship with a company — one with enticing offers but with chasm-sized gaps of nothing. Imagine if customer experience were a Hollywood movie in which several different departments were charged with writing their own scenes … except no one gave them any direction as to what kind of movie was being made. It might make sense in the moment for each group to create a fresh experience with new characters, new settings and a new tone, but this would leave audiences confused and dissatisfied (even if some of the scenes were really great).
Your business’s various departments don’t get to start fresh when it comes to customer experience (CX). As a company, you are building a story that needs continuity. If each department has only a rough idea of what your “movie” is about, then by default they will end up choosing for themselves where their scenes begin and end. This approach creates gaps — sometimes major gaps — in an otherwise good experience.
In contrast, when a great CX is edited together, the individual moments build a memorable journey for the customer. And not all scenes need to be a car chase. Good, meaningful interactions that advance the story can still create a great movie overall. But if each scene in your customer experience isn’t crafted with the end result in mind, you’ll likely end up with something that’s more "Ishtar" than "Citizen Kane."
Cut! Breaking Down the CX Silos
When you do create your perfect CX, you can’t simply “set it and forget it,” because market and customer expectations will continue to change. Just as your campaigns and programs need to evolve to respond to these changes — so must your customer experience. That means CX is more than just another project, or the job of a few people. It must be central to your company’s strategy and a collective responsibility.
This isn’t as onerous as it sounds. At the heart of it is a collaborative organization with transparency around issues that affect the customer experience. This collaborative spirit should extend to your customers as well. After all, they’re the ones with the best vantage point to give you feedback. They can tell you where the continuity of your movie is broken or where the plot is stuck.
Action! Nurturing Advocates
The days when a company could simply put its message out into the world and expect customers to knock down its doors are long past. Today, customers are listening to other customers. So, who are these peers and influencers? In some cases, they are customers who have had a great experience — and who will go out of their way to share those great experiences.
Webopedia describes such “brand advocates” as customers “who talk favorably about a brand or product, and then pass on positive word-of-mouth (WOM) messages about the brand to other people.” They are also often the dominant voices with the most passionate and compelling testimonies. Part of your CX strategy should extend to cultivating meaningful relationships with your valuable advocates in order to keep them energized so they’ll continue to go to bat for you in the future.
All of this CX effort doesn’t have to cost more — in fact, it could cost less and make you money. In a study published in Harvard Business Review, research scientist Peter Kriss looked at the impact of customer experience in both transactional and subscription-based businesses. He found that customers who had a positive experience with a transactional business spent 140 percent more than those who had the poorest experiences. In subscription-based businesses, which are all about loyalty, Kriss was able to predict longer tenure for members that recorded the highest customer experience scores.
Kriss emphasized that the experience didn’t have to be “expensive” or “premium” to be effective: “For example, Sprint has gone on record as suggesting that as part of their focus on improving the customer experience, they’ve managed to reduce their customer care costs by as much as 33 percent.”
As you can see, there are good reasons for your company to make customer experience a priority. By getting the right people, processes and collective mindset in place, you can begin transforming your business into a well oiled, “Academy Award-winning” CX machine. Add to that a way to collaborate with your customers, and you’ll bring a sometimes chaotic and disorganized set of customer experiences together into a single integrated experience that further advances your goal of putting customers first.
After all, in today’s world, outstanding CX isn’t simply something that would be nice for your company to achieve — it has to be at the very heart of your organization’s mission. Otherwise (spoiler alert!), you’re producing a movie that customers won’t watch.
Title image by Everett Collection