2016 was a riveting year for those involved in Customer Experience (CX), with 86% percent of companies wanting to excel at customer experience but only 27% qualifying as good in Forrester’s 2015 CX Index.
According to a Walker study, by the year 2020 customer experience management will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator – and 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience.
It’s obvious to any manager that CX is a big movement and it’s attractive because it’s compellingly straightforward as an idea. For example, Forrester’s definition of CX is very simple: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
That word ‘perceive’ is crucial. It obviously means companies must collect, analyse and correlate voice of the customer data in order to understand how to improve their CX perceptions and to see what’s working.
The Journey Experience is about interactions
Current customer experience management practice mostly focuses on the consistency and quality of interactions. We’d call this the Journey (or Interaction) Experience.
It’s about the customer view of the success of interactions/encounters/touchpoints (they’re all the same thing). Common practice is to do some of these things:
- Map out the customer journey, touchpoint by touchpoint
- Pulse customers after important encounters (e.g. Net Promoter Score)
- Identify signature encounters which stand out from the rest, where you really want to focus and make a difference
- Identify problem encounters and take action to resolve those.
The big assumption in CX is that managing interactions will add up to something for customers. There’s no doubt it does in some cases, especially disruptive new experiences designed from the ground up (e.g. Uber; Airbnb) but in most cases we believe current CX practice doesn’t work very well.
An absolutely pivotal point that few managers think about is that customers can have a sense of experience with very few, or possibly no interactions (remembering that experience is as perceived by them). For example, a client feels like they have an ongoing experience with their law firm, even though they haven’t required their services for many years.
The Relational Experience may not be about interactions at all
To understand this ‘Relational Experience’ you must regularly ask people to step back from the day-to-day interactions and ask them for their perceptions of their (relational) experience overall. Not only will you get the customer-perceived big picture of their experience over time, but you will also see which interactions, if any, have really impacted their overall experience.
What’s also regularly ignored is that companies cannot fully control experiences. That’s because experiences inevitably involve perception, emotion and unexpected behaviours on the part of individual customers, not to mention expectations that differ from person to person. No matter how well we craft an experience, customers may not perceive their encounter exactly as we hope.
Personalisation is the new wave
That said, companies cannot afford to throw up their hands and give up in the face of individual unpredictability. Personalisation/ individualisation is a new wave which recognises that experiences are a very individual thing. Individualisers realise that they need to cater for individuality and prepare to be responsive at that level when considering the experiences they want to create and deliver. The focus is on single solutions and personalised experiences. The only way you can do this is to follow individuals to tell a personal joined-up story of their experience perceptions over time.
The surprising power of unexpected factors
What might surprise you is the power of unexpected factors. For example, our research tells us that 50% of dissatisfaction with an experience isn’t to do with the quality and delivery of it at all. It’s actually to do with what was promised (or what they believed to have been promised) to the individual in the first place. If expectations are unrealistic or unclear prior to an experience, no manner of customer experience design is going to overcome that. Best to put energy to managing promise making as well as interactions.
So to really manage CX properly, managing experiences means getting personal.
- Read more about how to manage promises better in Reg Price’s book ‘Reliability Rules‘
- Download our whitepaper: Introducing Experience MirrorWave