I was recently interviewed for a FirstWord Report on ‘Customer Experience in Physician and HCP Engagement‘. Customer Experience (CX) has been a ‘hot topic’ for a few years now with the inevitable buzzword bingo that goes with it. The increase in dedicated ‘Customer Interaction’, ‘Customer Excellence’ or ‘Customer Experience’ roles and titles that have been established in companies across sectors is testament to the growing importance of having a truly customer-centric organisation and fusing CX design into the DNA of our people.

Customer experience is now the brand

What is Customer Experience?

However many companies are still just paying ‘lip service’ to the customer experience. In fact if you start to ask people about customer experience (as I did), you’ll struggle to get a common understanding of what it is we’re talking about.

Forrester define customer experience as: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” 

Wikipedia defines it as “the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction includes a customer’s attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of a service. It is measured by the individual’s experience during all points of contact against the individual’s expectations.”

From this definition the importance of customer experience should be clear. Customer experience is everything. Essentially, customer experience is now the brand. It is shaped throughout the lifecycle of your brand or your company. It transcends channels. It merges online and offline. Most importantly is constantly evolving because it is based on the needs of our customers – needs which are always evolving and expectations which are always increasing.

So true customer experience design and customer centricity requires more than lip service and titles. It needs a long term strategy and, to be honest, a lot of hard work in an organisation. It is central to getting more time with, and being more valued by, customers. Therefore investing in customer experience is investing in the future of your company.

The four pillars of a customer experience strategy

In my opinion there are four pillars you need to focus on in order to shape an effective customer experience which I discuss in the report. You need to be…

1. Accessible

Accessibility across devices and locations is key to customer experience

Being available when your customer is seeking information has never been more important or more complex. We have moved far beyond sales representatives, meetings and phone lines. Today any customer can be in need of information at any time of the day, from anywhere. There is an expectation that in this ‘always on’ world, you can do a quick search online and get exactly the information that you need. We need to consider the micro moments of need throughout a person’s day (for all target audiences) and make sure we’re delivering relevant content and resources and that they’re accessible at any time, from any where and on any device. If we don’t do this, chances are that information will be sought and found elsewhere and we won’t be in control of that experience.

2. Personalised

Personalisation has been an important trend in marketing for some time now. If you read the recent report, ‘The Path to 2020, Marketers Seize the Customer Experience‘ you would know that the trend will continue for many years to come.

Personalisation is not simply sticking a customers name at the top of a generic email.

True personalisation means tailoring each piece of content, each experience to the individual is a massive challenge for any business. It requires marketing technology and harnessing customer data from across channels. It is not something you click your heels together three times to achieve. But you can already deliver a stronger customised experience if you consider the needs of different customer types in different situations – this results in content and resources that are valuable to the customer, meeting their needs in that moment and therefore it seems more personalised to them.

Personalisation is central to the customer experience

3. Consistent

In any company people move, budgets ebb and flow and enthusiasm for projects peak and wane. However, consistency is a cornerstone of the customer experience. You need to be dependable. A ‘project mentality’ prevails in many companies which counteracts any long term CX strategy. There needs to be buy-in and support for customer engagement initiatives in the long term to ensure that if you are ‘there today’ you can be relied upon to be ‘there tomorrow’.

4. Seamless

Similarly siloed thinking creates a fragmented customer experience. Within companies you are organised into teams and departments but your customer sees only one brand, only one company. Customer experience strategy needs to be cross-functional in order to ensure that wherever the customer ‘meets’ you, they get that consistent and connected experience. Whether on- or off-line, everything now needs to be connected. For example, you should be able to go to an event, hear something and know exactly where to go to easily get more information. You should be able to sign up for a relevant email alert, view social media discussions on the topic, connect with an expert online or arrange a face-to-face meeting. There are many possibilities but it begins with us starting to break down the walls internally to organise ourselves around our customer’s needs.

The full report is available here