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defining the customer experience

The art of the definition

‘Customer experience’ is a phrase widely bandied about in the contact center space, but failure to define what it means to the organization can easily result in unhappy customers and lost earnings.

Defining the customer experience is not as simple as stating that it is ‘the experience that a customer has when interacting with a company.' Although this may be technically true, and even count as the textbook definition, the truth of the matter is that properly and effectively defining the customer experience encompasses a much bigger picture.

IBM, for example, has defined the customer experience as ‘the designed interaction between a customer and your organization.’ If we unpack this statement, the key term here is the design element. This is because your customer experience is ultimately determined by the way in which you have designed your actions, processes, and procedures. If they are designed well, then your customer will likely have a good experience. Design them poorly, and you will probably end up with unhappy customers.

One of the challenges with customer experience is that it is seldom something that is looked at in a holistic manner. By this, we mean that the customer experience needs to form part of the fabric of your organization, rather than merely being the focus of a single area of the business. Most often, customer experience is viewed only from the marketing point of view - how should the stores, marketing, and advertising look and feel to support the brand and give the customer an inclusive experience?

However, in most cases, there are no processes or procedures to link the contact center to marketing, as it most often resides under sales or operations. Because of this distance and the fact that most organizations still operate in silos, in most instances the marketing team will have little understanding of what takes place in the contact center.

Clearly, this is a major failure, as the contact center is inevitably at the coalface of customer interaction. It is, without a doubt, the most common communications channel a business has with its customer base. In fact, a Purdue University study pointed out that a massive 92% of customers judge an enterprise based upon their interactions with the organization’s contact center.

So if your company is defining its customer experience based on marketing, while your customers are defining their experiences based on the contact center, something is likely to give because of this disconnect – and you can bet that when it does, it will be your business that suffers, as customers shift their loyalties elsewhere.

It should be clear then that to defining the customer experience properly, you must ensure that your contact center plays a prominent role in any such definition process. After all, it is the customers' needs, perceptions, and influences that play a major role in shaping a company's direction, so the entity most closely associated with handling customers when they are unhappy should really have a big say in how your business defines the customer experience.

Since your contact center most often is the front line of the customer experience and has to face the brunt of dissatisfied customers, the processes you put in place will go a long way towards defining the customer experience. These processes need to focus on both the customers’ ease of access to information – whether this is related to purchases, simple inquiries or to fixing a problem they may have – and to their speed of access. This is all about the service level, the length of time they have to wait for resolution and the kind of hoops they have to jump through to achieve this resolution.

Furthermore, a properly trained and empowered contact center can be instrumental in increasing customer satisfaction and improving customer loyalty. Correctly and efficiently handling customer issues is the key to strengthening customer relationships and building and positioning the company brand more effectively.

In turn, handling the customer issues properly requires the correct management of pain points that can easily lead to negative customer experiences. You don’t want the customer to have to hold too long for service; you want to be able to serve them via their channel of choice and ensure seamless transition if they move from one channel to another; you don’t want to frustrate them with complex IVR menus; and you want to have the correct escalation policies in place to ensure prompt and effective action is taken to sort out the customer’s problem.

If all of the above is done right, then your agent will have the opportunity to support the brand messages and to boost customer satisfaction further, through the judicious application of discounts, vouchers or some other means of making the customer feel special. This is where we get to the crux of the customer experience: in order to ensure customer satisfaction, be prepared to go the extra mile in delivering not only service but a little extra on top. And be willing to empower your agents to make such offers.

Remember that what it boils down to is the fact that the more exceptional the customer experience, the more it impacts positively on your bottom line. Depending on your business or the vertical market you operate in, the overall monetary impact of customer experience when defined by how customers perceive their interaction with your company, can potentially be measured in millions of dollars.

Poor customer experiences are a huge source of wasted money for companies. This is not only in terms of investment in contact centers and personnel but also in terms of money lost because unhappy customers inevitably buy less from your business. Failing to educate and inform your customers can lead to confusion or frustration, and frustrated and confused customers can easily churn away from your organization, causing a dramatic shift in customer loyalty, which will have further long-term financial impacts.

On the other hand, effective problem resolution and solid customer service should lead directly to an increase in customer satisfaction, as a result of improved processes and better approaches by your agents. An improved customer experience should translate directly into long-term loyalty, with all its attendant revenue benefits.

Ultimately, you need to think carefully about how you define the customer experience, because a well-defined and thought out customer experience will play a significant role in delivering to your customers the experience you want them to receive – one that reduces customer churn and attrition; one that supports cross- and up-selling; and an one that truly succeeds in building loyalty.

[About the author]Dylon headshot Dylon Mills is the Director of Marketing Content Strategy & Development at Jacada. As such, Dylon’s main responsibilities are to strategize, create and deliver content for Jacada’s product portfolio that align with the global Go-To-Market strategy, corporate positioning, and marketing campaigns. Dylon’s prior work experience includes Product Management at one of the top Fortune 500 Technology companies, Symantec Corporation. Outside of work, Dylon enjoys problem-solving and any project that includes building/tinkering with tools. Dylon holds a BS Consumer Economics from the University of Georgia.

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