MOVE OVER, CUSTOMER SERVICE. Customer experience, or CX, is now king. CX involves all the touchpoints between a customer and a company, from initial research, to purchasing and onboarding, through ongoing support and management, to the end of the lifecycle. Channel pros who don't take CX seriously do so at their peril.
"CX is very much in demand today," says Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at IT association CompTIA, in Downers Grove, Ill. "Customers value experience even more so than price, particularly in the corporate or B2B world."
While traditional customer service revolved around a few interactions, such as helping customers resolve problems or select products or services, CX is more encompassing, including the impressions and sentiment customers have toward a business. "Customer experience is the entire experience your customer has with your brand," explains Jeannie Walters, chief customer experience investigator at Experience Investigators, a CX consulting and training firm in Oak Brook, Ill. That experience starts before the customer is even aware of your brand and goes through the entire customer journey, she explains, either concluding when they leave you for another brand or continuing as long-term “loyal advocates."
Customers are seeking experiences that are seamless, flexible, and allow them to interact with their providers from any device using any medium, whether that’s email, phone, or emerging technology such as AI, chatbots, and video, April says. "Having those choices is the hallmark of a good customer experience," she adds.
According to Brad Smith, exemplary experiences in the consumer realm are driving expectations for the same type of CX in the commercial sector. Smith, founder and president of CX consulting firm Vector Business Navigation, in Irvine, Calif., asserts that companies today—no matter the industry—are competing with the likes of Starbucks, Disney, and Zappos. "Intuitive experiences that are thoughtful and well-designed, provided by companies that anticipate your needs and demonstrate they know you, resonate with you as a consumer and follow you to work," Smith says.
Add the amplifying effect of social media, Smith says, and "the voice of the individual customer is now stronger and louder than it's ever been." And that voice often is accompanied by action. "Customers aren't afraid to walk away from a brand," Walters says.