by Adobe Experience Cloud Team
At pretty much some point every day you’re a customer of something, somewhere. And, like most customers, you expect a great experience at every stop along your journey with a brand. It’s what businesses these days call the customer experience (CX). But, as a decision-maker for your company, you also know that delivering a positive, smooth, and dependable customer experience at scale is not without its challenges. And, thanks to a rapidly evolving business landscape where technology progresses at an astonishing pace, it’s easy to feel uncertain about the precise components of a customer experience, let alone how to effectively deliver it.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about customer experience — what it is, why it’s important, how it differs from customer service, what good and bad customer experiences look like, and the strategies you’ll need to provide amazing CX and future-proof your business’s growth. Specifically, this post will cover:
What customer experience is
What customer experience management is
Why customer experience matters
What good customer experience looks like
What poor customer experience looks like
Creating a customer experience strategy
How to measure and analyze customer experience
What is customer experience?
Customer experience, or CX, is essentially every interaction a consumer has with a brand — across all channels and departments — and their perception of that experience.
For today’s customers, their experience matters as much as your offerings. In fact, 86% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more to receive a superior customer experience. And 64% are more likely to recommend your brand if they have a great experience, leading to increased referral business and higher return on investment.
Customer experience has become a critical component of modern marketing and sales, as businesses focus on meeting high consumer standards and improving overall lifetime value. More than 40% of data analytics is geared toward optimizing the customer experience, and with good reason. Marketers need as much information as possible to ensure they’re maximizing their ROI every step of the way.
The most important thing to recognize is that customer experience is a relationship that’s built over time through a series of interactions that take place across organizational initiatives and departments. Customer experience is a consumer’s opinion of how these interactions are carried out and whether they consider them positive, from introduction to the sales cycle all the way through to customer support.
Customer experience is far more than a mere checklist of actions to be implemented. It goes beyond the surface level and delves into the realm of feelings, emotions, and impressions. It recognizes that every touchpoint along a customer’s journey, has the power to shape perception and sentiment. Whether it's a website visit, a phone call with customer support, or an in-store experience, each interaction has the potential to leave customers feeling positive about your company or, conversely, create a negative impression. Understanding this holistic view of customer experience allows businesses to analyze and optimize each touchpoint, ensuring that customers consistently feel valued, understood, and satisfied throughout their entire journey.
What is customer experience management?
Customer experience management (CXM) is the process of analyzing, measuring, and improving the overall customer experience across various touchpoints, including interactions with both new and existing customers. It demonstrates a dedicated investment in understanding and meeting customer needs and expectations and aims to continually add value and foster long-term relationships, ensuring your customers remain satisfied and loyal.
CXM often capitalizes on technology to monitor and personalize interactions with a customer as they move along their journey. After all, with so many components of the customer journey impacting how a consumer perceives, interacts with, and appreciates your brand, marketers would be hard-pressed to manage the process without the right technological tools.
The experience begins the minute the customer sets eyes on a brand. Marketers must consider those first impressions and how to clearly establish calls to action that are engaging and pertinent. Nurturing programs through marketing automation and customer success platforms can help further entice on-the-fence consumers to take action with personalized messaging and promotions that grab their interest.
Once a prospect converts to a customer, CXM ensures they’re aware of value-added services, products, and ongoing support. Customer experience platforms regularly provide updates, engagement messaging, and marketing campaigns specifically designed to keep consumers’ interest for the long term. Combined with reliable, high-quality products and services, excellent customer support, and engaging marketing materials, CXM helps businesses gauge their successes and spot issues before they arise, crafting touchpoints that engage and optimize along the way.
Why customer experience matters
In a crowded and highly competitive landscape where products and services may appear similar, the quality of the customer experience becomes the crucial factor that sets businesses apart and influences customers' choices. It impacts key metrics such as net new sales, customer retention, and lifetime value.
The importance of customer experience lies in fulfilling customers' desire for a personal connection with the companies they engage with. By delivering a tailored, seamless, and frictionless experience at every touchpoint, businesses can meet this consumer expectation. Such personalized interactions inspire trust, loyalty, and emotional connection.
Customers who have a lackluster or downright negative experience with a brand are far less likely to become repeat customers. In fact, 95% of consumers take to social media or review websites to tell others about such negative experiences. The good news, though, is that 87% of customers are also likely to share with others if they have a positive experience.
CX doesn’t just affect referrals and recommendations. It also impacts brand loyalty, as 66% of customers say good CX makes them loyal to a brand — more than pricing and branding combined. When customers feel like a brand knows them and is invested in them, they’re more likely to continue interacting with the brand, which increases customer lifetime value. This, in turn, can drive down marketing costs and drive up ROI, vital components of a profitable business model.
It’s interesting to note that while customer experience spans a variety of departments — including product development, sales, marketing, and support, to name a few — 25% of organizations are set to integrate their customer experience approach with marketing and sales into a single function by 2023. This unified strategy may help drive interactions and experiences with a brand into a more streamlined operation while increasing opportunities for personalized communication and curated content.
What does good customer experience look like?
Creating a good customer experience is primarily about simplifying the process for customers to do business with you. It involves removing barriers and making interactions as effortless as possible.
Good customer experience is less about leaving a grand impression and more about being consistently reliable. The focus should be on facilitating easy resolution of customer goals and providing a seamless experience. To achieve this, it is essential to examine and optimize the entire customer journey. Identifying areas for improvement and determining how to make each touchpoint positive can significantly enhance the overall customer experience.
For new customers, this may look like easy checkout processes for e-commerce sites or providing convenient access to representatives for inquiries, especially for significant purchases or products or services with a long sales cycle. When it comes to return customers, making the return process as simple and hassle-free as possible is essential. While striving to make every purchase satisfactory, recognizing the inevitability of returns and accommodating customers' needs during such instances is crucial for securing loyalty and encouraging repeat business.
What does poor customer experience look like?
Companies lose $136.8 billion in sales due to avoidable churn each year, often losing
customers because of a bad experience. At the heart of a poor customer experience is a failure to grasp the unique needs of customers. It’s frequently the result of taking a generalized approach to marketing and sales. If you don’t make the effort to personalize your communications and make the buying process as simple as possible, customers will very likely feel as though you don’t value them.
Keep in mind, CX goes beyond customer service. Consider the entire customer journey and look for pitfalls where users or buyers could become discouraged, frustrated, or inconvenienced — and then identify ways to improve and become more efficient.
Poor customer experience can start with marketing content and extend to sales and product onboarding. Brands should make sure that all their information is available and accessible on every device. Consumers make nearly 73% of their purchases from a mobile device. If landing pages and website content are not mobile-friendly and designed responsively, consumers are likely to get impatient and move on to a competitor.
Marketing should be consistent and keep up with customers’ desires. That means no irrelevant product recommendations or non-existent customer service. And if automation is used, there should also be the option to connect with a real person.
That’s just the start. Other examples of tactics and processes that can lead to a bad CX include:
Inaccurate or impersonal marketing outreach
Disappointing products or services
Poor customer support experiences
Inadequate customer feedback programs
Difficulty purchasing a product or service
Questions about personal security online
Customer experience vs. customer service
It’s a common mistake to confuse customer service and customer experience. One is a component of the other. As part of delivering a positive and engaging customer experience, a brand must provide high-quality customer service at specific touchpoints along the journey.
By definition, customer service is providing prospects and consumers with assistance and advocacy when it comes to products and services. This can be anything from live support agents to online resources like frequently asked questions. High-quality customer service provides timely responses and user access and keeps interactions positive and helpful.
Customer experience takes those support efforts and amplifies them, providing reasons for a visitor to become a customer or remain one. Support teams can also use the other elements of the customer’s experience with your company to understand their journey and provide meaningful information to streamline the support process itself. All of this can be managed through dedicated systems that make cross-departmental communication — essential for CX management — viable and effective.
Creating a customer experience strategy
A CX strategy, short for customer experience strategy, is a comprehensive action plan aimed at ensuring positive experiences for customers at every interaction point. It involves using competitive insights to understand customer needs and expectations, and it encompasses all departments within an organization, extending beyond traditionally customer-facing departments. By aligning efforts across the entire organization, a well-developed CX strategy supports customer acquisition and retention.
Here are some recommendations to guide your general strategy for enhancing customer experience:
Create feedback loops. Establish mechanisms for gathering and analyzing customer feedback to understand needs, preferences, and pain points. Having a customer experience management system in place can provide critical data points that are necessary for building a robust strategy.
Create a harmonious omnichannel experience. A consistent and integrated experience across multiple channels and touchpoints encourages ongoing engagement with your brand. Start by establishing all the pivotal touchpoints that a potential customer encounters during the customer acquisition process. Consider their expectations for a fulfilling experience and compare that to the existing processes in a company.
Offer self-service options. Provide customers with convenient self-service options, such as knowledge bases, FAQs, and interactive tools. Self-service options put the power in their hands, allowing them to take control of their own customer experience. Rather than relying on assistance from customer support agents or representatives, customers can explore and resolve their queries or issues on their own terms.
Provide personalization. Tailor experiences based on individual customer preferences and behaviors, delivering relevant content, recommendations, and offers. Personalization demonstrates that your organization understands and values each customer as an individual and increases the likelihood of winning their repeat business.
Use AI effectively. Artificial intelligence technologies, such as chatbots or virtual assistants, can automate routine tasks, provide real-time assistance, and enhance efficiency. AI can analyze virtually endless amounts of customer data, like purchase history, browsing behavior, or past interactions, to produce opportune insights. These insights can be used to personalize recommendations, anticipate customer needs, and deliver targeted marketing campaigns.
Offer proactive experiences. Anticipate customer needs and actively reach out with targeted information, proactive support, or personalized recommendations before customers even ask. Proactive experiences contribute to a customer-centric approach, which makes customers feel supported and well-cared for throughout their journey.
Use quality data and analytics. Gather and analyze meaningful customer data to gain insights, identify trends, and make data-driven. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems can provide insights into interactions ranging from filed cases to email correspondence. Marketing automation tools can demonstrate which email messages resonate with your target audience and which do not with statistics on open, read, and click rates. And customer profiles can be developed from purchasing behaviors and key demographics to further segment target lists into personalized subgroups that may be more responsive to messaging than others.
How to measure and analyze customer experience
Once a strategy is in place, marketers need to know whether their customer experience programs are effective. By measuring their CX programs, you can track progress, identify areas for improvement, and determine the ROI of specific campaigns. There are various approaches and techniques that help you gain a holistic understanding of customer experience. Here are some recommended methods:
Customer satisfaction surveys. By using well-designed survey questions, you can directly gather feedback from customers about their experience. This helps businesses gauge satisfaction levels, identify areas for improvement, and better understand customer perceptions.
Use measurable data. Utilize quantifiable data, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer retention rates, or average response times, to track and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) related to customer experience. These metrics provide tangible insights into customer satisfaction, retention, and overall experience.
Perform comparative tests. Conduct A/B testing or comparative experiments to evaluate different aspects of the customer experience. By comparing two or more variations of a process, user interface, or customer journey, you can identify which approach yields better outcomes and make informed decisions based on the results.
Consult customer-facing staff. Frontline employees who interact directly with customers often possess valuable insights about customer experiences. Regularly consulting customer-facing staff, such as sales representatives or support agents, can provide qualitative feedback and firsthand accounts of customer interactions that help identify pain points and areas of improvement.
Look at customer churn rate. Analyzing the rate at which customers stop using the product or service can indicate dissatisfaction or subpar experiences. Tracking churn rate and understanding the reasons behind customer attrition helps organizations identify areas that require attention and implement appropriate measures to turn the wheel toward customer retention.
Analyze support tickets. Examining support tickets or customer service interactions provides important data on common issues, trends, and customer pain points. Analyzing support ticket data helps companies identify recurring problems, optimize support processes, and proactively address customer concerns.
Use customer forums. Monitoring customer forums, online communities, or social media platforms where customers discuss experiences can provide insights into their opinions, sentiments, and challenges. Engaging with customers in these forums provides valuable feedback to help organizations address concerns and build stronger relationships.
Improve customer experience with a robust platform of tools.
CX is integral to business success and becoming the deciding factor when it comes to purchase decisions — especially now with customers going online freely and frequently to share their feedback — good or bad — and look for alternative products and services.
Marketers and operational teams should prioritize customer experience, as it includes all of the interactions that an individual has with a brand, not just their customer support requests. A misguided email campaign or faulty service call could be just the trigger to cause a customer to leave a brand. By improving customer experience through personalization, analysis, and cross-departmental collaboration, companies are better poised for success, retention, and ROI.
When you’re ready to optimize CX at your organization, start by analyzing your customer journey and noting any points of friction or areas for improvement. Next, you need to find the right tool to help your business provide exceptional customer experience.
Adobe Experience Platform makes real-time customer interactions possible. It gives you the ability to analyze customer experience data that really matters, train AI and machine learning models, and connect all your CX technology to a single source of truth.
With Adobe Experience Platform, marketers can create true, comprehensive customer profiles that drive relevant experiences for every person, from messaging and promotions to sales and support. Everything is tracked and available in one place, making information sharing among teams a breeze while centralizing the metrics needed to determine success.
To learn more about creating a customer experience that really makes a difference, watch the Adobe Experience Platform story.