7min read

What *REALLY* is Customer Experience?

by Article by Molly Rigatti and Brigette Fahl Molly Rigatti and Brigette Fahl | January 17, 2023 at 7:20 PM

Quick Takes: 

  • CX can drive brand loyalty and advocacy and greatly affect revenue and reputation.
  • When CX is done well, there is a direct correlation between employee happiness and productivity.
  • Internally, CX creates customer-centric processes to ensure your brand promise is kept over and over again no matter when, how, why, or with whom interactions happen. (RevOps has entered the conversation.)
  • Externally, CX is the holistic perception of your brand and the delivery of your brand promise from stranger to advocate and everything in between.
  • Customer Experience (CX) is more than Customer Service because CX includes the support you give during pre-purchase (marketing), sales, and post-sale.
  • Customer Experience is more than UX (User Experience) because CX is collective over an entire customer journey with your brand.

Let’s dive in. 

CX starts with a promise. Your brand promise.

Your brand promise unites your internal team on how you build trust and purpose to your audience and announces to both strangers and customers your intention. The muscle behind your brand promise being fulfilled is your CX strategy. 

It gives your brand promise credibility. It helps you differentiate (for real). It makes your promise more than words.

What is customer experience?

Internally, CX is a set of customer-centric processes to ensure your brand promise is kept over and over again no matter when, how, why or with whom interactions happen.

This requires a RevOps mindset to map your teams’ and your Buyer’s Journey and Customer’s Journey to engineer overall processes that dazzle.

What is customer experience?

Externally, CX manifests as the holistic perception of your brand and the delivery of your brand promise. 

It’s a feeling people have when they first interact with your brand and the way you reinforce that feeling with each interaction after. From strangers to advocates and everyone in between (yes, even those you may have lost in the sales process), the people you engage with and their impression of your brand define your customer experience. 

Customer experience interactions can present in a variety of ways: 

  • The purchase process (online portal/form, sales rep, store display, etc.) 
  • Satisfaction (or lack thereof) from the product or service provided 
  • Marketing emails (frequency, added value, alignment with brand promise)
  • Customer service representative interactions

While customer perception of your brand has always existed, the philosophy of CX is more prevalent now because brands have the tools and the need to be more intentional about their actions that contribute to their customer experience.

Customer Experience vs Customer Service

“Customer experience” isn’t just a new name for Customer Service. 

Customer service is the support you give post-sale to current customers, whereas CX includes the support you give during pre-purchase (marketing), sales, and post-sale. 

Customer Experience vs User Experience 

User experience looks at a single product and how it helps the user achieve a specific goal or complete a task

Example of UX: Apple delivering on their brand promise in-product with AirPods that pair with multiple devices but connect to the device you are currently using OR Apple’s copy/paste functionality, photo sync, and texting between iPad, iPhone, and iMac

Customer experience uncovers opportunities to delight customers and exceed expectations for their every interaction with your brand as it aligns to your company goals.

Example of CX: Apple delivering best-in-class experiences for purchasing devices, accessories, and services online through guided device setup through the Tips app on your device and hands-on skills labs at the Apple Store. 

Customer experience is the overall feeling or impression your brand (not just one page or app or product) delivers to potential and existing customers. This feeling or impression is not singular, but rather collective over their entire customer journey with your brand.

Why does customer experience matter?

Customer experience can drive brand loyalty and advocacy both positively and negatively. By consistently delivering a positive CX, a brand is more likely to exceed business goals and increase recurring revenue because customers and employees are happy, excited, and fulfilled. 

According to a 2022 report from Emplifii, “Nearly half of UK consumers and more than half of US consumers left a brand to which they were previously loyal, due to bad CX.”

Not only that but customer experience is motivating and fulfilling for all the people involved (more on that in a bit).

But who powers customer experience?

This is where our perspective (as directors of the customer strategy team and sales and marketing team for our own company) may differ from other CX ideas floating around out there. 

We believe your key stakeholders in your customer experience and perception of your brand are: 

  • Your customers
  • Your potential customers (aka strangers/prospects in your ICP)
  • Your partners (referrals, resellers, affiliates, influencers)
  • Your employees

When building experiences and the processes, messaging, documentation, education, and more that powers these experiences, being customer-centric and providing the right amount of information and friction at the right times is critical. 

But there is another side to that coin — your employees. After all, your employees are not just brand ambassadors but are customers of your brand. You provide them with the tools and procedures that build their experience working at your company to provide the interactions you lay out in your CX strategy. 

Customer experience is not just about how people feel when interacting with your brand, but also about how your people are able to deliver those interactions.

Furthermore, studies have shown a strong and steady relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

Who on your team is involved in creating and delivering your customer experience?

Who are the people that create and deliver brand promises? 

That’s you — and your marketing leaders and their teams + sales leaders and their teams + product/development leaders/teams + operations/customer success leaders/teams. 

You need all of these people working together to create a unified experience that delights.

  • Marketing opens the door for a strong first impression and sets the expectation for the brand promises to be met down the funnel.
  • Sales make further personal promises with 1:1 interactions through listening and problem-solving.
  • Customer success/operations must continuously deliver on your brand promise to customers through your products and services.

What can you influence in your customer experience?

In your customer experience strategy you can’t control what people think or say but you can control how you engage, interact, and communicate. 

Document and plan your: 

  • Marketing, sales, and operational/customer success processes set for creating touchpoints with customers
  • Flow/journey people take between these interactions
  • Technology and how it enables and empowers your people to sell and deliver goods/services
  • Consistency in follow-up and follow through 
  • The way your brand responds when your experience doesn’t meet customers’ expectations

You can be intentional: 

  • Deliberate, planned interactions create a meaningful and fulfilling connection between the people that make brand promises and the people they engage with. 
  • If your brand promise is to empower, each interaction you have should empower. If your brand promise is to educate, each interaction you have should teach. 
  • These are not isolated interactions, but ALL interactions. From pre-purchase to purchase to post-purchase interactions across all mediums and all relationships, brands that value CX create an intentional environment that delights all people who interact with their brand.

CX with the best intentions sometimes fails. 

Documenting and planning for your customer’s journey and how you want to provide a specific experience gives you a detailed road map to follow even when you don’t meet customer expectations. 

You can’t always assume a customer will have a good experience even if these teams deliver their best. 

Mistakes happen. Expectations on both sides can sometimes be misaligned. Certain circumstances can simply be beyond our control. 

You can however turn the CX around by having processes established to counteract any negative experiences a customer might have.

CX planning means being proactive vs reactive.

Where to Get Started with CX Strategy

For an organization to become a customer-centric and CX-focused company, it must start with auditing its existing CX landscape — think customer satisfaction (CSAT) and employee feedback (especially from sales and CSMs).

Once the gaps and opportunities are defined, establish goals to work towards and ultimately a form of ongoing measurement.

Our latest special project is a notebook designed to help you do just that. Your CX planning and eval notebook will help you connect your brand promise, your buyer’s and customer journey, your tech stack, and more.