What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience (CX), or consumer experience, is the result of every interaction or touchpoint a customer has with your brand – both with your people and your products. 

From becoming aware of your brand to engaging with your products or service, every interaction affects the customer experience, which is why having a customer-centric mindset is so important to the success of your company.

Think of CX as each moment of engagement along the customer journey. Obviously, the more positive these customer experiences are, the more likely you are to capture customers’ hearts and minds. Ideally, this results in loyal customers, increased customer satisfaction, referrals, and reduced customer churn.

By focusing on the customer experience, you can ensure you’re optimizing your business across all touchpoints – an effort that will no doubt benefit your company in the short and long-term.

What is a customer service experience?

A customer service experience is a subcategory of customer experience that refers to the interactions customers have with sales, service, and support teams and resources. 

The customer service experience involves touchpoints where the customer receives direct assistance from your team (for example, when messaging your support team while troubleshooting an issue with an app or contacting your sales team to upgrade a subscription). 

Many customers today, especially digital-first customers, shy away from traditional telephone support. They would much prefer to find answers themselves using self-serve resources such as product tutorials and FAQ pages on a brand’s website.

There’s the potential for a positive or a negative customer service experience any time a customer requests direct assistance from a brand”

When that’s not an option, these customers might look to live chat, sophisticated chatbots, and email support for answers.

There’s the potential for a positive or a negative customer service experience any time a customer requests direct assistance from a brand – which is why it’s so important for companies to think holistically and strategically about what makes for excellent customer service experiences.

Why should customer experience be considered important?

Customer experience impacts customer sentiment, customer loyalty, customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Scores (NPS), and it also impacts revenue in a big way. According to a PWC study, customers are willing to pay a premium for products from brands that offer a better customer experience. 

Conversely, 17% of U.S. consumers said they would abandon a company they loved after just one negative customer experience, while 59% said they would end a relationship with a brand after multiple negative experiences. 

According to McKinsey, taking the necessary steps to transform your company into a brand that truly cares about the customer experience can lead to a 20-30% increase in customer satisfaction and a 10-20% increase in employee satisfaction. 

As McKinsey notes, this requires a sizable investment in the customer experience, transforming not only employee mindsets, but also operational and IT structures. Once these changes are in place, companies will more often than not recoup costs through revenue growth and customer retention.

What is customer experience management?

Customer experience management (CXM or CEM) refers to the strategies by which a company improves the customer experience. 

These strategies can include: 

  • Technological improvements
  • Product improvements 
  • Changes to the customer engagement strategy

Customer experience management relies on using customer data to inform decisions. By examining what customers like and dislike about the current customer experience, companies can steer their changes accordingly, continuously optimizing the customer experience to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. The best brands will do this proactively by using trends in the data to anticipate and proactively meet customer needs.

What is a digital customer experience?

While the customer experience broadly encompasses all interactions between brands and their customers, digital customer experience exclusively involves touchpoints that depend on virtual environments. Examples include web and mobile applications, platforms, social channels, and any other digitally-connected interfaces, such as voice-activated or IoT devices.

Along with your website, social media, apps, and customer support functions such as chatbots, live chat, and virtual assistants, the digital customer experience also includes email communications and marketing, digital forms that customers may need to fill out, and online communities where they discuss your products and services.

Your digital customer experience can therefore be viewed as an extension of your customer experience overall, and should serve the same purposes. Specifically, it should prove to your customers that you know and value them, and are committed to delivering personalized products, services, and offerings that are tailored to their individual needs and preferences.

However, unlike in physical stores, where it’s necessary for sales agents and customer service staff to ensure shoppers are well cared for and supported, a critical element of digital customer experience is self-service.

Online users behave differently than in-store shoppers. They are motivated and independent in their browsing, and seek information from websites, blog posts, and online reviews to inform their purchases. When they encounter issues, they’re much more likely to seek assistance from online chatbots, FAQs, and self-service support functions rather than speaking to a representative over the phone.

As a result, the user experience is imperative. Consumers will not remain loyal to a brand if they encounter friction during their digital experience, such as in the form of difficult navigation or long delays. And they certainly won’t recommend the brand to others. 

It’s imperative for brands to invest in their digital customer experience. A well-designed and easily navigable website is fundamental, as are user-friendly apps, tools, and services. There needs to be an intuitive search function, along with highly accessible and consumable content that customers can be connected to when they do submit a search or inquiry.

Finally, these touchpoints need to be consistent across all channels, so there is a single, on-brand look and feel, whether online or offline. This will enable you to build out a truly omnichannel customer experience that delights customers no matter where they interact with your brand.

What is an omnichannel customer experience?

An omnichannel customer experience elevates the entire customer journey by connecting every possible touchpoint that customers may encounter, whether in-person or online. That means a customer can begin their journey with your brand by engaging with an ad on social media or an email marketing campaign, and continue it physically or digitally on different channels without ever having to start over. Everything is coordinated and synchronized so that marketing, customer service, sales, and customer support initiatives where they are, in the context that makes the most sense.

Along with being consistent and continuous across channels, an omnichannel customer experience can be resumed across any device, whether a personal computer, a smartphone, a smart home device, or a self-help kiosk. Customers can text with a chatbot, phone a contact center, reach out to service reps via email, or connect through a virtual live chat function. They can view products on a website, abandon their cart, and then visit a store to purchase in-person.

Every new touchpoint and engagement is a natural, seamless, and personalized progression of the previous one. This also empowers sales and support agents, who can follow the same customer across all channels, and see the full context of their journeys and queries as they assist them.

This is much different from a multichannel customer experience. Unlike an omnichannel customer experience, a multichannel customer experience is not unified. 

Different channels have different data, objectives, strategies, and success metrics. There is no fluidity between the brick-and-mortar store, the website, mobile apps, social media, and customer support services, because their teams and management are focused on separate things, and their technologies do not talk to each other.

While multichannel customer experiences may have been essential in the past, they are no longer sufficient in the present, and anything short of an omnichannel customer experience leads to friction, frustration, and missed opportunities. 

If consumers have to provide the same information to several separate representatives on several separate occasions, it’s increasingly likely that they’ll simply terminate the engagement and take their business elsewhere.

For brands that can break down the silos and the benefits are plenty. Customers are more loyal if they have a more seamless, delightful, personalized experience, and this leads to higher retention and revenue. Brands are also able to collect better customer data, granting them a detailed view of the customer journey so that they can deliver greater value.

What makes a great customer service experience? 

Taking an empathetic, customer-centric, omnichannel approach can help eliminate customer pain points and ensure the entire customer journey is as easy and hassle-free as possible.

By analyzing data, taking proactive and reactive steps to streamline the customer experience, and ensuring all touchpoints and interactions have the customer’s best interests at heart, you can ensure the customer experience is a memorable and positive one that exceeds customer expectations and drives revenue for your business.