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What is customer experience (CX)?

Each and every interaction a customer has with your business – from the first moment they land on your website, to talking to a sales rep, to onboarding and using your product, to contacting your customer support team when they have a problem – all add up to create an overall customer experience.

This customer experience is the lasting impression a customer has of your brand. It’s the combined result of their experience with your people and products across multiple touchpoints, and it directly impacts whether or not customers will want to keep doing business with you. According to research, 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services, up eight percentage points from 2020.

It’s clear that customer experience is a key concern for customers – and a competitive differentiator for businesses. A great customer experience doesn’t just help you to stand out from your competitors; it also has a vital role to play in helping businesses to reduce customer churn and improve retention rates, build brand loyalty and trust, and grow your revenue.

So it’s fair to say that creating great customer experiences should be a top priority for businesses. But where should you start? Read on to learn everything you need to know about customer experience: what it is, why it matters, and how to get it right.

Learn how Intercom can help you deliver seamless, personalized customer experiences at every stage of the customer journey

What is meant by customer experience?

Customer experience, also known as CX, is the sum of every interaction a customer has with your business.

From initial brand awareness right through to using your products or service, every interaction with your business’s people, products, or service contributes to their overall customer experience.

This means that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to engage and delight your customers throughout their journey – but unfortunately, that means there are just as many opportunities to get it wrong or miss the mark.

“Creating a positive customer experience isn’t just one team’s job; it’s every team’s job”

Today, customer expectations of these experiences are higher than ever: our research showed that a whopping 83% of support teams are seeing customer expectations increase this year, up from last year’s already high 75%.

This is why instilling a customer-centric mindset across the entire business is so important. Creating a positive customer experience isn’t just one team’s job; it’s every team’s job. From product to marketing to sales to support, every team can help to create more impactful, personalized customer experiences that drive increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention – and boost your business’s bottom line.

What is a digital customer experience?

If customer experience is the sum of every interaction a customer has with your business overall, digital customer experience refers specifically to those touchpoints that happen digitally. Examples of these touchpoints include:

  • Your website
  • Mobile applications
  • Platforms or services you provide or use
  • Social media channels
  • Chatbots
  • Live chat
  • Online customer support interactions
  • Email communications
  • Marketing messages and advertisements
  • Digital forms customers need to fill out

For modern customers, digital customer experiences are an integral part of their overall customer experience. As a result, it’s more important than ever to deliver digital customer experiences that measure up to customers’ needs and expectations, regardless of channel or platform.

“Seamless, integrated solutions can help you to deliver better CX at scale”

When it comes to creating an impactful digital customer experience, technology should help – not hinder – your efforts. Slow, disconnected tools; poor user experiences (UX), such as hard-to-navigate websites or glitchy apps; and unhelpful chatbots can all damage the customer experience.

On the other hand, seamless, integrated solutions can help you to deliver better CX at scale, allowing you to leverage bots and automation to deliver fast, efficient, personalized customer experiences without needing to log more hours or add extra headcount.

What is an omnichannel customer experience?

An omnichannel customer experience is a cohesive, integrated customer experience that’s synchronized across multiple channels. It elevates the entire customer journey by connecting every possible touchpoint that customers 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 can meet the customer 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 on desktop, mobile app, or even an in-store kiosk. Customers can chat with a bot, reach out via email, or connect through a virtual live chat function, and all three will feel like part of the same continuous conversation – instead of three separate, siloed interactions.

“85% of customers say they expect consistent interactions across departments – but 66% say they often have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives”

With omnichannel, 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 customer history and provide even more tailored communications.

Today’s customers expect omnichannel customer experiences, and anything short of this leads to friction, frustration, and missed opportunities. According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 85% of customers say they expect consistent interactions across departments – but 66% say they often have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives.

For businesses that can meet these omnichannel expectations, however, there are numerous benefits. Salesforce’s research reveals that 83% of customers are more loyal to companies that provide consistency across departments. This loyalty drives higher retention and revenue, leading to sustainable business growth. Not only this, but businesses with an omnichannel customer experience strategy are also able to collect better customer data, which in turn empowers them to continuously optimize their CX and deliver greater value to their customers.

See how Rebag unified its online and in-store shopping experiences to create delightful, cohesive customer experiences with Intercom

What is personalized customer experience?

Personalized customer experiences are any experiences that have been tailored to a customer’s unique preferences and history.

“89% of support leaders say personalized support is a key competitive differentiator”

The growing demand for personalization shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, our research revealed that 89% of support leaders say personalized support is a key competitive differentiator – and teams that deliver personalized support are two times more likely to report increases in customer satisfaction and retention.

By collecting and leveraging first-party customer data and triggering next steps based on actions users have taken, businesses can create relevant, targeted customer experiences that are more personal and engaging.

For a B2B software company, for example, once you know your customer is in a certain industry, you can use targeted messages to share industry-specific case studies or other content that is more likely to resonate with their unique needs.

Or for an e-commerce business, this personalized experience might look like sending them a reminder of the items they left behind in their cart – with a personalized discount code to help get them to the checkout.

Customer experience vs. customer service

You might be wondering: how does customer experience differ from customer service?

Customer service is the support you provide to your customers and potential customers throughout the customer journey. It is usually a specific interaction or series of interactions, such as when a customer reaches out to your support team and gets assistance.

“Customer experience includes customer service interactions, but is not limited to them”

Customer experience is the sum of every interaction with your business. It includes these customer service interactions, but is not limited to them. It also doesn’t necessarily involve another person (or chatbot); things like navigating your website or engaging with your product are all part of the customer experience, but aren’t examples of customer service.

The importance of customer experience

Seamless, personalized customer experiences don’t just create happy customers – they create significant opportunities for business growth. Here are four key benefits of customer experience that highlight just how important it is.

  1. CX improves key loyalty behaviors
    A global report from Qualtrics XM Institute found that customers who received excellent experiences were 3.6 times more likely to recommend a business, 3.3 times more likely to trust a business, and 2.6 times more likely to purchase more from a business than customers who received poor experiences.
  2. CX boosts referrals and brand reputation
    According to Forbes, US consumers mention a good experience to an average of nine people. Conversely, but just as importantly, they’ll talk about a bad experience to 16 people – and that’s not even accounting for a poor online review or tweet, which can reach many, many more.
  3. CX increases retention
    A study in Harvard Business Review revealed that customers who have had positive experiences are likely to remain customers for five years longer than customers who had negative experiences.
    On the other hand, PwC found that 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.
  4. CX drives revenue growth
    The same Harvard Business Review study discovered that customers who had positive past experiences went on to spend a whopping 140% more than those who had the poorest experiences – meaning that customer experience is a major driver of future revenue.
    PwC’s study also found that customers are willing to pay a premium for products from brands that offer a better customer experience.

Designing customer experience

One of the challenges businesses face when it comes to delivering an omnichannel customer experience is how to ensure they’re delivering cohesive, consistent experiences across so many touchpoints. It can be tricky to maintain it all, especially when you’re working across multiple channels and trying to balance personalization and engagement without over-messaging.

If you’re not sure where to start, the emerging discipline of customer experience design can help. By borrowing a few best practices from CX designers, you can create optimal customer experiences for every stage of the customer journey.

Want to see what it looks like to get customer experience right? Watch a demo

Measuring and analyzing customer experience

How can you understand if your existing customer experience is meeting customer needs and expectations?

Using customer satisfaction metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) or a customer satisfaction (CSAT) score can help you to get a simple picture of how happy your customers are with your business and services.

NPS and CSAT are measured on numerical scales, which is useful for quick pulse checks, but behind these numbers are a wealth of further insights. To create the best CX programs, you need to talk directly to your customers, listen to their pain points, and gather their feedback.

A voice of the customer program can help you to collect and act on these insights, allowing you to measure and analyze your customer experience. Don’t have time for a full VoC program? Surveys are a quick and easy way to get real-time, actionable feedback from your customers, without disrupting the customer experience.

Examples of great customer experience

When it comes to delivering great customer experiences, what are customers actually looking for?

According to research from PwC, the things that people value most in their customer experiences are:

  • Efficiency
  • Convenience
  • Knowledgeability
  • Friendliness
  • Human interaction
  • Personalization

As the factors with the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, these are areas you should look to enhance at every opportunity in order to quickly boost your CX.

Here are some examples of how you can incorporate all of the above to deliver even better customer experiences that tick all your customers’ boxes.

1. Empower customers to self-serve

Customers want fast, efficient answers to their problems. One of the best ways to provide this at any time of the day or night? Allow them to self-serve.

By creating always-on self-serve resources such as help centers or knowledge bases, you can enable customers to get almost-instant answers, without even needing to contact a member of your team. This creates a speedy, effective customer experience for them, and keeps your team free to focus on more complex queries that need a human touch.

To create an even more efficient customer experience, combine these self-serve resources with a Custom Bot to help troubleshoot and triage questions, then use machine learning to deliver up the perfect content for the situation at hand.

Boxes ticked:

✅ Efficiency
✅ Convenience
✅ Knowledgeability

2. Deliver personalized experiences

Today’s customers expect personalization as standard. To meet – and exceed – these expectations, look for a tool that helps you to both collect and act on first-party customer data. By gathering information such as name, company, industry, role, and more, you can use this information throughout the customer journey to tailor it to each customer’s unique needs.

To get even more from your customer data, integrate key tools, such as your customer service platform, with the other apps in your tech stack – like your analytics tools, CRM, or e-commerce platform – to connect your data securely across tools and enhance your personalization even further.

Boxes ticked:

✅ Efficiency
✅ Friendliness
✅ Personalization

3. Support customers right where they are

For CX that goes above and beyond, you need to create seamless, friction-free customer experiences that meet customers exactly where they are. With in-product messaging, you can reach and support customers right when they need it most, without needing them to switch channels or devices.

Not only does this save customers time and create a better experience for them, it also enables you to guide them through your product based on their specific goals, helping to unblock them in the moment – so they can get back to what they were trying to do, with as little disruption as possible.

Boxes ticked:

✅ Efficiency
✅ Convenience
✅ Personalization

4. Use bots and automation to do the heavy lifting behind the scenes

Nothing ruins the customer experience like being asked to repeat the same information over and over again. Avoid this pitfall and provide faster resolutions by using bots and automation to powerfully collect all the necessary information, then route communications to the right person on your team.

By leveraging automation, you can reduce the need for your team to manually review, tag, and assign conversations, while still ensuring that all queries go to the most relevant point of contact. Once the team member is ready to jump in, they’ll already have all of the customer information they need upfront thanks to the bot’s qualifying questions, so they can quickly dive into the query without needing to go back to the customer.

All of this allows you to streamline and optimize your workflow to improve efficiency and provide faster resolutions – but to the customer, it just feels like one seamless experience.

Boxes ticked:

✅ Efficiency
✅ Convenience
✅ Knowledgeability
✅ Friendliness

5. Stay human at scale

No matter how much a customer loves to self-serve, there are times when only talking to a human will do. Not every issue requires one-to-one support, but for particularly complex or sensitive issues, it’s important that customers know they can reach someone if and when they need to.

Luckily, Intercom allows your customers to get the best of both automation and human support. It helps you to unlock efficiencies by using chatbots, automation, and powerful AI tools to take care of time-consuming, repetitive tasks, such as summarizing customer conversations before handing them over to teammates.

These efficiencies free up valuable time for your support reps, saving hours that can then be invested back into value-adding tasks, such as troubleshooting tricky technical problems, communicating with empathy, and other impactful ways of building long-term customer relationships that only real humans can do.

Boxes ticked:

✅ Efficiency
✅ Friendliness
✅ Human interaction
✅ Personalization

Create better customer experiences at every stage of the customer journey with Intercom

When it comes to creating customer experiences that build trust, improve customer satisfaction, and grow revenue, it’s clear that customer-centric, personalized, omnichannel approaches are the key.

Ready to turn your customer experience into a competitive differentiator? Learn how Intercom can help you create personalized, engaging customer experiences at every stage of the customer journey.

Customer Service Trends Report 2024 - Horizontal

Frequently Asked Questions about “Customer experience”

Answer: Customer experience (CX) is the sum of every interaction a customer has with your business, from navigating your website to chatting with customer support. It is the combined impact of all of these touchpoints – including interactions with your people and product – that creates the overall customer experience.
Answer: Customer experience is important because it has a significant impact on key brand loyalty and business metrics such as trust, recommendation, retention, and revenue. Creating positive customer experiences can have significant business benefits. On the other hand, getting customer experience wrong and delivering poor CX can result in churn, negative brand sentiment, and lost revenue.
Answer: To analyze customer experience, you can collect feedback and use a range of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to understand whether your customers are satisfied with the customer experience you currently offer. KPIs such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) can help you to discover how customers feel about your business and the experiences you offer, while surveys give them an opportunity to give open-ended feedback on how to improve your CX.