Picture the scene: Summer is just around the corner and with it the perfect time for a night-time barbecue with friends and family. But first the perfect grill has to be found. At this point, many now sit down with their computers and use Google to search for the best reviews of various barbecue equipment. But stop! Why not simply check the latest flyers or adverts? After all, there is a wealth of offers at this time of year. Because, quite simply put, customers believe other customers more than any message in an advert.
Every day, we are bombarded by countless adverts: In almost every magazine, on the radio, by television advertising and even sometimes directly in the TV show itself. Almost every day you will come into contact with various products, offers and information. We cannot evade advertising and yet, or especially because of this, pure advertising is no longer sufficient to anchor a product, a service and thus an actual brand in people's minds for the long term.
Nowadays, it is important not to see the customer as an economic goal, but as an emotional human being. The key word here is customer satisfaction. This, along with emotion, is a crucial purchasing factor. When a company manages to link their brand to positive emotions, a sale is practically guaranteed. To do this, customers must always have an authentic brand in mind from the first contact point with the company, all the way through the route to the end. In marketing, this is called the “Customer Journey”. The overall customer experience, consisting of interactions that the buyer has with the respective brand, is summarized in marketing under the term Customer Experience (CX). In the German-speaking world, this is sometimes referred to as “Kundenerlebnis”, whereas the English "Customer Experience" is much more common.
The emotional motivation and satisfaction of all the interested parties are fundamental to the Customer Experience. All interactions with the company must be included and observed. Customer Experience refers to the period before, during, and after purchase. It therefore includes all the experiences that the customer has with a brand. It forms the overall impression that the customer projects onto the respective brand. This can be positive, which is desirable, or negative, which would lead to an urgent need for improvement in marketing.
Within the customer experience, the individual contact points with the brand are of great interest. These sections are the so-called Brand Contact Points. Hardly any of these Brand Contact Points stand-alone; usually, they are closely linked and embedded into the Customer Journey, in elements such as the website, newsletter, print advertising or even social media channels. The customer experience is thus fed from individual experiences based on different Brand Contact Points. Since the Customer Experience and customer satisfaction are the focus, customer needs must be satisfied, or even better exceeded, at every point. This creates a positive CX.
This also means that at each of these individual points the brand must be authentic and tangible, otherwise this ultimately weakens the CX. After all, the customer experience and thus customer satisfaction is ultimately determined by the weakest contact point. Therefore, the strategy must be implemented as appropriately as possible at each Brand Contact Point. For this to succeed, it is essential to clearly articulate the goal of the customer experience. This is the task of the marketing department and management, amongst others.
From the point of view of marketing and management, the goal is crystal clear: brand loyalty. The goal is therefore to increase customer loyalty. If you build on customer loyalty, not only will the attachment to your brand be increased, but customers will also become true fans. This is the real goal behind the Customer Experience: Authentic fans who carry the message out into the world attract and win you more customers. Many studies show that satisfied customers independently recommend brands; this cannot be achieved by advertising alone.
The degree of opportunity this offers now seems to have been realized by most companies. A 2018 study shows that the CX is seen among the marketing experts surveyed as the most important task in companies.
Online, there are many areas where a company can optimize Customer Experience. Classic, tried and tested methods include:
Of course, personal communication must not be overlooked. Many customers find it appealing if they have access to a permanent advisor. This communication option can also be used to pass on personal offers to customers. Here it is then essential to only make those offers that are actually relevant for the respective customer. Otherwise, this has a negative effect on the respective CX.
A holistically successful Customer Experience means a great competitive advantage for every company. Conversely, you need to be aware of what a negative customer experience can mean for the company and its products. Therefore, the CX must not be neglected under any circumstances but instead constantly controlled. To do this, a company needs Customer Experience Management.
All measures, processes and strategies relating to Customer Experience must be developed and implemented in-house. To do this, each company needs Customer Experience Management, also called CEM or CXM. This is usually part of the holistic marketing strategy and Customer Relationship Management, also known as CRM.
As a rule, the marketing department holds the power over the CX firmly in its hands and develops it further to the customer's benefit. However, the focus should go beyond the marketing horizon, because the CX is not only a marketing strategy, but should be a fundamental part of any corporate strategy. To do this, it is necessary that all employees of the company themselves know what the brand stands for. There seem to be major fluctuations here, as a study by ESCH shows: 22% of employees do not know what their brand stands for. Here, the marketing department should ensure that all employees are first trained and provided with extensive information so that they can adequately represent the brand to customers. After all, your own employees can and should become brand ambassadors.
Once all the preparations have been internally completed, the next step is to identify all the sectors playing an important role in CX. These include, but are not limited to:
The following rule applies: every area that comes into contact with customers is part of the Customer Experience. Marketing must therefore take care to integrate the most important departments, such as customer consulting, into the CEM. Here, staff should be particularly well trained to be empathetic towards customers and to represent the brand positively. This guarantees a comprehensive implementation of sophisticated strategies in order to make CX positive. All this should be taken into account so that the Customer Experience strategy can be implemented across-the-board. If only one point is ignored, it weakens the whole. Therefore, basic tips that lead to successful CEM are worth their weight in gold.
Have the marketing department and management actively engaged with Customer Experience, and are now in the business of developing a goal-oriented CX strategy? If so, very good - you can orientate yourself with the following points:
1. Focusing on customers
The customer should be placed as the focus with his cognitive, emotional, sensory, social and behavioral reactions and this should be taken into account during CX analysis. This is the only way to emotionally and rationally bind the customer to the brand.
2. Identifying customer needs
For this connection it is necessary to know the needs of your customers. Only companies that know their customer’s wishes and needs in detail can really expect to respond to them. Customer requests can be tracked using various surveys, polls, and tools. These include, for example, the persona concept or empathy maps.
3. Capture the status quo
First, you should perform an analysis to record the actual state of the company based on the customer's point of view. These include existing structures, dealing with customers, customer orientation in the company, dealing with complaints and other areas. Next, the target state is recorded; i.e. where action is needed and where there is still untapped potential.
4. Identify brand contact points
In order to authentically reproduce the brand message throughout the Customer Journey, the Brand Contact Points, or Touchpoints, must be identified. This is done, for example, by means of a Customer Touchpoint Map, which shows the important phases of a Customer Journey purchase process as well as all contact options.
5. Making improvements
Under no circumstances must the company rest on the laurels of its developed CEM, but must constantly strive for improvement. This is achieved through an elaborated complaint management system, which responds to the needs of the customer in order to create improvements in the operation. Based on this continuous process, the strategy will continue to expand and optimize.
However, one must not be unsettled under any circumstances, because the respective customer experience management varies from company to company. After all, it is based on the individual leitmotif of the company. If Customer Orientation is already the basis for this, it is easy for the marketing of the respective company to integrate the CX as well.
The Marketing and Management Department have done it: the touchpoints are identified, the strategy developed and implemented. Now the management of the company is eagerly waiting to find out if these measures bear fruit. But how can the customer experience be captured and measured in the first place?
The Net Promoter Score® or NPS® serves as an important indicator. Among other things, this can be used to determine customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. The NPS® is based on a simple question:
"How likely is it that you will recommend [Brand X] to a friend or colleague?"
The answer is based on a scale and can therefore be easily evaluated because the calculated scores show clear trends. In order to be able to use the NPS® with all its possibilities, the company has to deal with it in detail and practice the calculation and interpretation of the NPS®.
It may all sound well and good, but some companies are doing the wrong thing to improve the Customer Experience. A study by the management consultancy Brain & Company shows this quite impressively: Eighty percent of the companies surveyed thought they were delivering a successful CX; only 8 percent of the respective customers were of this opinion. Where does this enormous difference and the distorted self-assessment come from?
The answer: In good faith, management listens to outdated knowledge.
The result: The strategy shows no discernible successes and, in the worst-case scenario, all efforts around CX will be crushed. To prevent this, we present three of the most common myths surrounding the Customer Experience:
1st Myth: Big vs. small breakdowns – which is more damaging to a company?
Based on instinct, many would think that a major brand breakdown does more harm than many smaller ones. This view is understandable, but wrong. The reason lies in the nature of man: We are looking for patterns. In other words, we perceive a unique catastrophe, but the uniqueness means that we lack the connection to ourselves. Therefore, we take note of them, but ignore them in our individual decision-making process. This is different when breakdowns occur more frequently. The human urge to search for patterns equates these many breakdowns with an ongoing event and draws consequences for itself – and these are mostly negative for the company.
2nd Myth: Are customers migrating to the competition?
Many entrepreneurs fear that customers will switch to the competition in the event of a negative experience. However, this is not the case, because according to experts, customers shy away from the effort. Thus, if the customer is faced with higher barriers that make change more difficult, he remains with the company despite negative experiences. However, customers leave when they have worthwhile alternatives. This also applies to satisfied customers! Therefore, these also need to be comprehensively looked after so that they become loyal customers, because fans remain loyal to a company.
3rd Myth: Innovation is better than existing solutions
Even in CX, it is rarely worthwhile to constantly chase the latest trends and innovations. The tried-and-tested has its appeal and can strengthen CX. These include such well-known measures as well-maintained social media accounts, sympathetic customer service and contact options that are as inclusive and barrier-free as possible.
These myths also show the general uncertainty in management with the comprehensive topic of Customer Experience. All the better for those who are not immediately deterred, but rely on expert knowledge and their own innovative marketing strategy. Only with a lot of commitment and know-how can a well-thought-out strategy be developed to optimize the customer experience.
The grill with the best reviews has landed in the shopping cart and will be delivered in the next few days. It will be the culinary focus of many evenings in the coming months and if it performs well, the customer will be happy. The customer will recommend the product widely, purely under their own steam and on request – and thus change from a satisfied customer into a loyal one. He has now become a brand ambassador for his beloved grill; and will purchase other products from the brand that has so delighted him. Of course, he will recommend these – a lucrative cycle for the corresponding brand and an example of successful customer experience.
But this requires more than just tweaking a few knobs in the company: All departments – including operational management – with direct or indirect customer contact must adapt to the CXM strategy. This is the only way to make all Brand Contact Points on the entire Customer Journey a positive experience and lead to a good Customer Experience. As part of a detailed CRM, smart Customer Experience Management can be the decisive competitive advantage to turn satisfied customers into fans of the brand. And that's an invaluable advantage in a flooded marketplace!