What is customer experience?

The most common question we get asked about what we do is “What’s customer experience then?” So here’s an overview of what it is and why it should matter to you.

Image of a happy customer shaking hands

In my experience, the best definition of customer experience is by Bruce Temkin, who describes it as “The perception that customers have of their interactions with your organisation.”  It’s often abbreviated to CX, CE, CEX or CUX.  We use CX!

Customer experience has demonstrable ROI. Here are a few examples:

  • Revenue increases over 3 years from a moderate improvement in customer experience for companies across a range of sectors by an average of +77.5% (source: The Temkin Group, 2018)
  • Engaged customers buy 20% more products, recommend to 46% more friends and family, and are 9x less likely to churn (source: MaritzCX, 2016)
  • Customers that are extremely likely to recommend an organisation have a lifetime value of between 6x and 14x that of those that aren’t likely to recommend (source: Bain & Company Inc, 2015)

What you intend your customers to experience may or may not be how they have interpreted their experience with you. It’s a personal reaction based on how they feel and what they think.

Your customers interact with your organisation in lots of different ways as they go through a process of realising they need something, looking for options, researching the best one, buying, using, getting support, and telling others. All of these interactions add up to your customer experience. This process, whatever it entails, is, in a broad sense, your customer journey.

It may be that they move along the stages of your customer journey and it’s an entirely positive experience.

It may be that they don’t get past the first couple of steps because they’re not finding what they’re looking for – it isn’t there or it’s too hard to find or what you offer and how you offer it isn’t connecting with them.

It could be that a couple of interactions along the way don’t reflect the rest of the customer journey and tarnish your customers’ experience.

Take a moment to think about an organisation you would recommend to others. Why would you?

Now think about an organisation that let you down – what did they do to make you feel that way?

Customer experience management (or CEM) is about looking at your customers, their customer journeys and where they interact with your organisation with a view to creating a positive experience that enables your customers to do what they set out to do, easily, quickly and leaves them feeling favourably towards your organisation. You can document the customer journey, use metrics to analyse what’s working and where improvements can be made.

You need to understand your customers and what they want to achieve. What you learn should be shared across the organisation in a way that will help others in their day to day work, whatever that is, keep the customer front of mind. You need to understand how what you offer in terms of products and services affects what they want to achieve. Empathy is really important and this understanding of your customers will enable you to see their experience from their perspective, and do something about it that will make a positive difference.

Imagine you run a business that sells products your organisation makes directly to customers and wholesale. You also run courses so that people can learn how to make these products themselves. Straight away there are some different types of customers here:

  • people buying for themselves,
  • people buying gifts for others,
  • people buying in bulk for their employer and
  • people finding out about and booking courses.

Can they all do what they set out to do, easily, quickly, in a way that leaves them feeling positive towards your organisation and perhaps themselves too?

If you have different customers, you’ll also have different customer journeys.  All your customer journeys should give a similarly positive experience. Positive experiences are important because they generate advocacy! What we hear and read about organisations influences our choices, so positive reviews are hugely important.

You need to look at all the ways your customers interact with your organisation. Each of these interactions are a touchpoint. These touchpoints can be digital, human, printed and so on. Your customers might…

  • first encounter your organisation on a search engine’s results page,
  • click through to land on a website page,
  • click through a couple more pages,
  • interact with some of your content – perhaps they watch a video,
  • hopefully they go on to purchase through your secure payment process,
  • get an order confirmation email,
  • get an email or an SMS to say when to expect delivery,
  • speak to a friendly and efficient delivery driver,
  • open the well packaged item and physically interact with your product,
  • get an email to say delivery’s been made,
  • get a follow up email asking for feedback,
  • read the instruction booklet,
  • visit the website help section, use the search function and read some content,
  • call for help using the product they ordered and speak with customer support who resolves their issue first time,
  • get an SMS survey about their experience on the phone,
  • tell their friends, family and work colleagues about your product and service.

It doesn’t end there – chances are they’re now seeing your organisation in their Facebook feed and in remarketing ads on other sites they visit. So is the sum of these touchpoints providing a positive customer experience? Are they all consistent? Do they all reflect your organisation’s brand and everything it stands for?

Your brand should be reflected in everything you do and across your touchpoints. If you and a competitor offered the same product at the same price, across the same channels and with a high level of service, it would be your brand that makes the difference. Your brand values should be evident, whether it’s in the design of a website page or the human interaction between your customers and your team.

People can make a real difference to your customers’ experience. Employees should be motivated by the brand’s values and be working together to achieve the organisation’s goals. If they feel they’re adequately compensated (pay + benefits), part of something bigger, working towards a common goal and are being recognised for the work they do, they’re more likely to be engaged. Engaged employees connect with customers and engage them in turn, creating advocates for your organisation. Not only that, but your engaged employees are likely to tell others how great your organisation is too!

This is where your organisation’s culture comes in. What it’s like to work for your organisation is reflected in your customers’ experience. Many people talk about customer experience being an ‘inside out’ strategy and this is why!

To make all of this work you’ll also need great leadership. The leadership team, however big or small, need to reflect the brand values, push the organisation towards their goals, communicate to everyone what the goals are and what progress is being made, make sure everyone knows their value and how they’re helping to achieve these goals, celebrate success and do all of this consistently. The leadership team need to be aligned, they need to share the same vision for the organisation and be seen to be working towards it.

The vision or mission statement needs to play a central role. It needs to be something that everyone can get behind and every year get closer to achieving. Often seen as a bit of ‘fluff’ that’s popped on the ‘about us’ page of a website, pasted into corporate documents and seen as something that you have to have but is never referred to, the vision statement can be a powerful tool when used the right way. It should inspire and influence. It should be the north star that guides your way. It doesn’t have to stay the same forever, it should be checked to make sure that it still reflects the direction the organisation wants to go in. If it is changed, you also need to make sure that your employees find it inspiring, otherwise it can herald a bigger change than you might have anticipated.

Customer experience is the sum of your customers’ reactions to their interactions with your organisation. What goes into it is an holistic plan that runs through everything your organisation does and stands for. It isn’t a quick solution, it’s a process of continuous assessment and improvement. It’s change, it’s becoming customer centric. You can’t be everything to everyone. Not everyone you employ will be a great fit. Listen and understand what your customers are telling you. Listen and understand what your employees are telling you. Tell everyone what you stand for and why. Make changes that will move you towards providing a positive experience for everyone that comes into contact with your organisation and you’ll be starting a rewarding journey.


Find out how we can you help you take your first steps by emailing us at [email protected].​