The word "customer" has made its way into countless phrases—think customer relationship management and customer experience management. Indeed, the customer is getting top billing. So what exactly is the definition of customer experience? Why does it matter? And, perhaps more importantly, how do companies weave it into their existing marketing strategy? Before we tackle these questions, let’s get back to the basics.

Defining 'Customer Experience'

While the definition of a customer hasn’t changed—in its simplest form it refers to your buyer—the phrase “customer experience” has certainly evolved. Traditionally, measuring customer experience was pretty simple. It could be as basic as evaluating your ability to address prospects’ queries and move leads through the sales funnel efficiently. In addition, the experience was typically siloed, taking place across one chief platform, such as in-person store events or trade show booth visits.

Today, however—thanks to the Internet, third-party databases, and customer reviews—defining the experience has become more nuanced. That’s because the customer experience can take place across a myriad of platforms, from social media to virtual events. While multiple industry pundits attempt to define customer experience, Avaya offers a 21st century definition: “the discipline of managing and treating customer relationships as assets with the goal of transforming satisfied customers into loyal customers, and loyal customers into advocates of your brand.”

In other words, customer experience is all about the journey and ensuring standards of excellence every step of the way.

Why the Journey Matters

A stellar customer journey will not only result in happier customers, it will also yield a richer bottom line. That’s because excellent customer experience pays in the amount of lead conversions, retention, and referrals. In fact, when it comes to building a brand, customer service is second only to value for money in importance, according research shared by Avaya. Multiple industry pundits confirm that not only does customer experience matter, but it matters a whole lot more than in past years. Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling reasons why, as aggregated by Salesforce in a recent blog post:

  • 92% of companies reported a decline in customer satisfaction
  • 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly
  • A customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service-related, versus price- or product-related
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated

So with the numbers not in your favor when it comes to customer satisfaction, what critical steps do companies need to employ to safeguard their clientele?

1. Define Expectations: It’s hard to measure the effectiveness of your customer service if you don’t have definitive objectives in place. To begin getting a process in place, list out all your customer touch points—think call center, social media, webinars, etc.—and set realistic expectations as to how to address existing and new queries. Once you have these guidelines you’ll be able to evaluate success.

2. Become the Consumer: To figure out how to treat consumers, brands must become consumers. This means pinpointing how they want to be talked, marketed, and sold to as well as identifying potential pain points. Best-in-class companies never lose sight of the fact that thinking like a salesperson—instead of a customer—keeps your feet in the wrong shoes.

3. Pay Attention to Shifts: Be on the lookout for deviances in patterns, whether it’s a sudden spike in customer complaints across social media, a dip in the number of gated asset download forms, or a decrease in the number of participants at your next trade show. The changing of the tide can give you great insight into how successfully—or unsuccessfully—you’re appeasing customers.

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