A customer’s perception of an organization is formed from their interaction across multiple-channels. Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with these many “touch points” – advertisements, website, marketing media, sales call, customer visits, package design, instructional material, products, services, support, billing, etc. A great customer experiences creates loyalty, grow sales and increase efficiency. Designing for a great customer experience is a shift from internally focused solutions to externally focused solutions that puts customers at the center of every design decision.
The concept of customer experience was first introduced by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in their 1998 Harvard Business Review article, “Welcome to the Experience Economy”. Pine and Gilmore believed that successful businesses influence people through engaging, authentic experiences that render personal value.
The reality is that “The larger a company’s market share, the greater the risk it will take its customers for granted. As the money flows in, management begins confusing customer profitability with customer loyalty, never realizing that the most lucrative buyers may also be the angriest and most alienated. Worse, traditional market research may lead the firm to view customers as statistics. Managers can become so focused on the data that they stop hearing the real voices of their customers.” [James Allen, Frederick F. Reichheld, and Barney Hamilton, “Tuning In to the Voice of Your Customer,” Harvard Management Update, Vol. 10, No. 10, October 2005]
To create a superior customer experience requires understanding the customer’s point of view, say Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D in their 2008 book Rules to Break and Laws to Follow [Wiley, ISBN 978-0470227541]. “What’s it really like to be your customer? What is the day-in, day-out ‘customer experience’ your company is delivering? How does it feel to wait on hold on the phone? To open a package and not be certain how to follow the poorly translated instructions? To stand in line, be charged a fee, wait for a service call that was promised two hours ago, come back to an online shopping cart that’s no longer there an hour later? Or what’s it like to be remembered? To receive helpful suggestions? To get everything exactly as it was promised? To be confident that the answers you get are the best ones for you?”
Customers are having experiences with organizations regardless if organizations are consciously designing them. Successful organizations are profiting from managing their customer experience while those who don’t are suffering the consequences.