One of my marketing mentors once told me that marketing is involved in all five senses, and it's everything that a customer touches. Essentially what she was telling me was that marketing is all about customer experience. So that begs the question, "what makes up a customer experience?" The short answer is that customer experience is how a customer perceives your brand. When you go into a McDonald's restaurant, you can expect certain elements in your visit. For example, when you enter the building, you will likely see a front counter where you place your order and a drink dispensing station off to the side. You will also be able to order a Big Mac and fries with a Coke because those are all elements of the McDonald's brand. The same is true if you walk into a Target department store. You can expect that team members will be dressed in red shirts and khaki pants no matter where you visit Target. And what about Walmart greeters? That's part of the customer experience that these companies have designed to make an impression on their guests.
According to Wikipedia, customer experience, or CX, is the "totality of cognitive, affective, sensory, and behavioral consumer responses during all stages of the consumption process." To break that down, it means that CX makes a customer think, feel, and behave a certain way when they visit their business. Even though I have called out physical experiences, the same is true for online ones. When a business takes a 10,000-foot view of the experience their brand is portraying, they can really dig into customer experience. One of the best CX examples I could possibly think of is Disney.
Disney has perfected the art of customer service and, therefore - experience. They have training academies that teach how they create their magic for guests, and in the book, Be Our Guest, the process is carefully outlined so that others can replicate it for their customers. In the forward of the book, Tom Skaggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, stated, "Creating the best possible experience for our guests to share with family, friends, loved ones, and colleagues is the essence of what we do, and it defines who we are." Disney literally wrote the book on CX, and there are some great lessons to follow from them.
So, how does your customer experience define your business and your brand? Your clients and customers are going to identify with that more than anything else. They are going to remember how they felt working with you. Are you removing a burden from them and making their lives easier by completing work for them, or are you causing additional stress because of the way you are communicating with them? It's a delicate balance and one that employees should constantly be aware of. Customer experience isn't just about the leadership team and how they capture business for the employees to work on. It's about the entire team. It starts with a greeting and ends...well, never. You want your clients and customers to feel welcome enough to keep coming back to you.
So what can you do to make your customer experience the best it can possibly be? Try picturing your experience as a brick-and-mortar store, even if it's not. What does it look like? What do you want your customers to see at the front door? How are they greeted when they walk through the door? Does your employee walk them through their entire shopping process or just offer information along the way? What is going to bring them back? Was their shopping experience memorable because it was easy or stressful? How can you communicate with them after they leave your store? What can be improved about the process?
That last question is probably the most important because you have to remember that customer experience is organic and ever-evolving. If you don't constantly review and change your process, you can't progress it to the point of perfection. When thinking about Disney's process, they definitely have some tried and true practices that are engrained in their program, but they are constantly evaluating feedback and shifting practices to make sure their customers' experiences are the best they possibly can be.
There are some great resources available for mapping out customer experiences, but if you keep these points in mind, you will likely be on the right track.
What is my customer...
How is my customer...
How can we improve?