Customers care more about experience than product
Selling a great product is only one small part of the entire customer experience. Co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, once said “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around”.
But what exactly is customer experience? Often shortened to CX, customer experience is the level of satisfaction a user feels with the journey, services, and products offered by a company. At its core, CX focuses on forming customer impressions.
Paying attention to customer experience is crucial for a number of reasons; it not only improves brand loyalty but also companies’ bottom line. And, in the current business landscape, companies have to meet consumer expectations to avoid rapid customer drop-off - especially because e-commerce has made it easier than ever for customers to switch brands after only one negative experience.
In a highly connected world then, everything from a clunky website to an inattentive support agent could drive a customer to another brand. In fact, studies predict that customer experience will eventually become more important than both price and product.
Why has there been such a radical shift toward CX and away from the product? These are some of the reasons businesses’ should be prioritising the customer experience - as seen from the customer perspective.
Customers expect personalized CX
84 percent of customers say being treated like a person and not a number is important to winning their business. Having a customized CX is no longer a rare treat but a basic expectation among customers. Moreover, this expectation spans across the entire funnel, not merely the first touchpoints that aim to attract new visitors.
At the same time, user concentration is getting shorter. The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds, but by 2015, it had shrunk to 8.25 seconds - meaning companies now have an even smaller window to impress potential customers. Simply using a customer’s name is not sufficient personalization: people want to see real proof that their journey is built for them, and that a brand is deserving of their attention.
Also worth noting is that CX is no longer a need-based activity. A large majority of people shop for an experience rather than necessity. This facilitates a very competitive environment, in which brands who don’t put CX before their product are more likely to fail.
Customers want a ‘culture of connection’
Most prices and products can be replicated, whereas your CX should be unique to your brand only. That said, every CX needs to be designed with the customer in mind. From the first point of contact through to chatbots and support agents, people favor customer-centric businesses that provide real-time responses.
Likewise, CX covers a range of channels: online, email, phone, and in-person. An important feature for many customers is that the journey across all platforms (both digital and physical) is seamless. Customers want a culture of connection, whereby the experience is interlinked and easy to follow.
For example, Starbucks sends customers an email immediately after a person visits their cafe. The email includes a survey asking for feedback about the service they had. For customers, this connects the physical Starbucks stores and employees with the digital brand, and makes them feel attended to both in-person and online.
Amazon’s return policy is another clear example of brilliantly connected CX. All returns and refund information is readily available across the entire website, including top FAQs and a step-by-step breakdown of the process. The simplicity of returns mean customers don’t have to call customer service or wait long periods for a reply from Amazon.
Amazon also covers costs for third party sellers if the product is damaged or doesn’t arrive. By taking responsibility for these sellers, the CX is automatically streamlined through one platform - Amazon.
Customers seek authentic interactions
Consumers are constantly being bombarded with messages from brands, and so naturally, have become more savvy about what they reply to or even believe. This realization means customers are much more likely to respond negatively to a company’s CX if, at any point, the experience feels false. On the other hand, the more authentic the CX, the more likely customers are to buy the product because they trust the brand.
Companies have to be very conscious of the tone, style, and language used throughout CX. Empathy and shared values are vital communication components, so doing in-depth market research around target customers is extremely valuable. Knowing what pain points exist, which processes are too long, and where customers hesitate can help a company adjust its CX accordingly. Most poignantly, it allows companies to interact with customers as human beings.
Brands that are struggling with authenticity in their CX should not only look to their direct competitors for examples of sincere interactions. These days, cross-industry competition is rife, and there’s a lot to be learned from looking at the companies championing the best CX. Airbnb, and Disney are notable players, engaging customers with their meaningful messaging, customer service, quick order processes, reliability, and easy-to-navigate UX.
However, Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand has perhaps perfected authentic interaction. After realizing that many of its customers shopped at Patagonia because the clothes are sustainably made, the company took the decision to promote the cause more strongly. Patagonia now pledges 1% of all sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment, and famously ran a ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ campaign.
What good CX means for businesses
80 percent of companies believe they offer excellent CX, yet only 8 percent of customers agree - highlighting the discrepancy between how companies think they’re performing, and how they’re performing in reality. An easy solution to the problem is to devote time to collecting feedback from current customers about the existing CX and identify areas to improve on.
Optimizing CX not only benefits customers, but companies too. Besides a happy, active, and loyal consumer base, good CX has a real effect on revenue. A report by Dimension Data found that 84 percent of companies that actively work to improve their customer experience report an increase in revenue. Good CX facilitates customer retention, as well as customer acquisition, so companies can boost their users while better catering to their needs - win, win.
Nonetheless, product and CX are not mutually exclusive - companies should not solely strategize one and ignore the other. Focusing on high-quality CX does not mean compromising product quality. Instead, weaving together excellent CX with a great product poises companies to be far more successful.
Put very simply - the more you care about your customer experience, the more customers will care about your brand and product.