Customer experience is the summation of all of your personal interactions with a company across every conceivable touch point. It’s the feeling you walk away with after browsing your way through a company’s website, for example, or after interacting with a member of its sales team. It’s also the impression you get after seeing its advertisements, using its products or services, or speaking with its customer service reps. Interactions like these, and your feelings about them, are important. They help to shape your opinion about the company and play a big role in whether you’ll build a lasting relationship with that company or not.

Not surprisingly, customer experiences have to be carefully managed and cultivated. It’s about putting your customers first at every stage of their journey with you. The companies that do so well are able to turn the experiences they create for their customers into a competitive advantage by converting their target audiences from casual consumers of their products and services into loyal repeat customers. Meanwhile, the companies that don’t are at risk of getting left behind.

By the Numbers: Some Facts About Customer Experience

To help put the importance of customer experience into context, consider the following statistics:

  • 86 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Yet, only one percent of customers feel that their expectations for good customer experience are always met. (Source: Oracle)
  • Maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential to increase revenues by 15 percent, while reducing the costs of serving customers by as much as 20 percent. (Source: McKinsey & Company)
  • 89 percent of customers say that they will stop doing business with a company because of a poor customer experience. (Source: Oracle)

What’s more, according to Gartner, by 2017, 50 percent of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations. The question, however, is two-pronged: What does that actually mean, and how do you go about creating better customer experiences?

How Customer Experiences Start to Take Shape

The fact that customer experience can be influenced by virtually any interaction your customers have with you is a pretty daunting realization. At the highest level, what it means is that you have to:

  • Understand the customer journey. There are many steps between prospects discovering who you are and how you can help them solve a particular problem they are facing, and becoming loyal customers. It’s important to map out what each of the steps on that journey is so that you can identify ways to improve customer experiences along the way. In the process, keep in mind that customer journeys are rarely, if ever, linear. So you need to be sure that each step of the journey provides a positive experience independent of the others.
  • Identify all of the potential touch points. As you consider each step of the customer journey, think of all of the different places where your customers may be interacting with your brand. These interactions can be formed around your website and marketing materials, your social channels, your advertisements, your sales or customer service calls, your guest content that appears on third-party websites, and at events or during other live engagements with your staff. The list goes on and on. The important thing here is to know what all of those potential touch points are so that you can start paying attention to the experiences they’re creating for your customers.
  • Reengineer with your customers in mind. Every experience your customer has with you should be easy, efficient, and ideally a pleasure. Any that don’t meet that criteria need to be fixed. That often means removing unnecessary steps to streamline processes, using the information you already know about your customers to tailor experiences specifically to their needs, and treating your customers like the people they are.
  • Drive consistency. According to research from McKinsey & Company, consistency is the single most important factor when it comes to customer satisfaction. Specifically, McKinsey cites the need for customer journey consistency, emotional consistency, and communication consistency. Consistency is so important because customers’ impression of your business are typically formed from interactions at lots of different stages of the buyer journey across many different touch points. When those interactions are consistently good, it raises overall customer satisfaction.

While there are plenty of other factors that drive customer experience, the four above are a good place to start. And, so is one more: content.

How Does Content Fit In?

If you’re wondering why we’re blogging about customer experience, it’s because content has an important role to play in shaping customer experiences. After all, content is often a critical part of most of your customers’ interactions with your brand. If that content isn’t effective — in other words, if it doesn’t communicate key messages clearly and in an engaging way — you’re inhibiting your ability to create great customer experiences. Similarly, if your content isn’t consistent — if it doesn’t adopt the same style and tone of voice, or if it uses different words and phrases to say the same thing — your customer experiences will be less effective.

I’ve written more about this topic — the role of content in customer experiences — in a follow-up blog post that you can find here.