Regardless of if you work in Marketing, IT, Customer Service, Operations, or even another department, you have likely talked about customer experience, or CX, at least a few times in the past year. This industry buzzword extends beyond department lines, and sometimes even blends multiple departments together. This often creates the challenge of deciding as an organization how to define and improve the customer experience, because many different parts of the business want to own or influence it.
Some companies focus on customer service and look to apply CX best practices where possible, specifically with customer service representatives or call centers. For others, CX initiatives hone in on their customer-facing digital solutions. The reality is, CX is relevant across departments—it is an all-encompassing trend.
At WillowTree (formerly Dynamit,) we define customer experience as every touchpoint a customer has with a company, online and offline; before, during, and after purchase or using your service. The combination of these touchpoints amounts to the defining sentiment your customer has toward your brand, influencing their buying decisions perhaps even more than the product itself.
Customer experience has mattered for as long as humans have been able to make a purchase. Emotion and the way that a customer feels about your brand has always impacted purchasing decisions. So, why have we only begun to hear about customer experience in the past decade or so?
Businesses have been using customer experience as a competitive differentiator since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the mid 1700s. Just like customer relations management or account-based marketing, we named the term customer experience and began to analyze it as it grew in scope and became more complex.
At each moment in history, companies have needed to innovate and find new solutions to create the best possible customer experience. Solutions providers have noticed and aligned myriads of products with CX, which has, at times created confusion.
Our CX Timeline describes how these solutions have changed over time:
Up to this point in history, a business’ CX solutions were human-centric. The answer to creating a memorable customer experience was to hire helpful, service-oriented individuals to smile at the customer or answer the phone, supporting the customer as best they could.
Because humans were so central to the customer experience, emotion was already a factor, and a winning factor at that, as brands hired lots of kind and compassionate individuals to fill their stores and call centers.
In the early 1980s and 1990s, however, CX solutions began to shift as new customer access points, powered by technology, rapidly became a significant part of the customer experience. Digital technology adds more touchpoints for the experience, making CX more complex and something that needs to be owned by more of the company than just an associate in the store.
What is Today’s CX Solution?
Today’s CX solution may seem more challenging to achieve because there are many more touchpoints than there were at the beginning of our timeline. A lot of the more recent touchpoints are digital, so it’s easy to assume that CX is all about your digital solutions.
However, CX is much more about the alignment of your digital solutions with call centers, with in-person experiences, and with all other touchpoints throughout your customer’s journey.
Like we said above, there are many more touchpoints available to customers today than there were in the past, and many of the digital touchpoints can offer a better experience that is either less reliant on human interaction, or improves human interaction by reducing friction between the company and the customer. As customers have become accustomed to these improved interactions, their expectations of every company they interact with have elevated, and continue to elevate.
Digital technology can certainly be a strong differentiator when it comes to CX, but it’s not the entire solution. Focusing only on technology and neglecting other important aspects like people, processes, and measurement will severely limit the amount of ROI you can get by improving your customer experience.
By aligning your people, processes, technology, and measurements, you will be able to deliver a consistent experience across touchpoints in a way that not only increases the value your customers get from interacting with you, but also has significant business impact.