You need a vacation. You book a luxury resort with all the amenities and look forward to a quiet week of relaxation. Unplugged from your mobile devices, you find yourself peacefully lying in a hammock under a shady seaside tree with a book and a cool drink hoping to find peace and serenity in the late afternoon. Your peace is momentarily interrupted by a waiter offering you another drink which you politely decline, explaining that you’re perfectly satisfied. Ten minutes later, another waiter offers you something to eat, and shortly thereafter, you’re invited (even passionately “encouraged”) by another member of the staff to join in on a beach volleyball game. After several interruptions, and feeling guilty for just wanting to be left alone, you realize the solace of your reading and relaxation is completely spoiled and it’s time to head back to your room.
What happened here? You were looking for a specific experience, but it was destroyed by the same people who were trying to provide you with that experience—or at least the one “they” thought you wanted. And why? Simply because the services they offered weren’t about you; they had no real knowledge of why you were there, what you wanted, or when and how they could best deliver on your personal needs.
When you return home, an email arrives asking you to provide feedback about your vacation via an online survey. You reflect on what might be the outcome of taking the time to complete the survey. You think to yourself, “If I return, will future interactions be improved in any way? Will my feedback make any difference to what, when, how or why the resort engages with me?” Unfortunately, we all know the answer—“not likely.”
Don’t Confuse Customer Service With Customer Experience (CX)
We’ve all become incredibly educated consumers and established the need for brands to become more competitive. As a result, most companies and brands today have placed significant focus on customer service to differentiate themselves from their competitors. But, by definition, “service” is a one-way transaction and has limited value to customers beyond a short-term level of satisfaction.
On the other hand, a Customer Experience (CX) has a long-term impact by engaging all the participants involved, positively affecting every interaction, interacting with customers across a variety of touch points and invoking a genuine emotional response. When a customer engages in such an experience, or multiple experiences, the result is an increase in brand satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. That’s the power of creating a true Customer Experience (CX) in every aspect of your marketing and sales efforts.
Learning these three elements helps marketers understand not only what to do, but what not to do. Customer Experience (CX) marketers uncover when their customers want information, and when they don’t; to whom they want to talk about different issues, and to whom who they don’t (which, at certain times, may be the brand); how they want to receive information, and how they don’t; and what information is helpful along their journey—and what is not. And finally, why they want this information.
The customer is now in control. In the “age of the customer,” it’s not about the brand or service, it’s about the customer. Rather than inundating them with features and perceived benefits they may not want (and then adding insult to injury by asking them to fill out a survey), a better Customer Experience (CX) can be achieved by using the information gained through each interaction to improve the next one. Often, it’s not the specific messages or materials that aren’t making the expected impact—it’s when and how they’re delivered.
What’s At The Heart Of The Customer Experience (CX)?
If you agree that the performance of marketing and sales efforts (i.e., increased sales) is the result of increased brand satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, it’s critical to first understand the drivers of these emotions and behaviors. For a unique view into what matters—and what works—pertaining to the drivers of business performance, the Customer Executive Board (world’s leading member-based advisory company) recently conducted a study of more than 75,000 people over a three-year period, and conducted hundreds of structured interviews with customer service leaders and their functional counterparts in major companies throughout the world (http://bit.ly/1teDMGu). The objective was to determine which aspects of customer interactions drive the greatest degree of brand satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy—in other words, what’s at the heart of the best Customer Experience (CX)?
Their findings may surprise you—i.e., “delighting” customers does not build brand loyalty, but “reducing their efforts to get their problems solved” does.
In fact, the research is quite contrary to traditional beliefs about “customer service”—efforts to exceed customer expectations during service interactions (by offering refunds, free product or a free service), make customers only marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs. Truly, the best customer service doesn’t always equate to the best Customer Experience (CX). In essence, companies and brands create loyal customers (primarily by helping them solve their problems and remove roadblocks) quickly and easily.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Before developing your next marketing campaign, carefully assess your customer’s specific journey. Where, when and how do your patients want information, tools and resources, and when do they just want to “peacefully lie in a hammock under a shady seaside tree with a book and a cool drink hoping to find peace and serenity in the late afternoon”? Do the work required to understand their specific needs, emotions and behaviors. Gain the insights necessary to know how and when to best deliver your message and, if your goal is to increase brand satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, create a true Customer Experience (CX) that will help make their lives easier and solve their problems when interacting with your brand.