What is Customer Experience (CX)?

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Today, there’s a lot of talk around customer experience. However, customer experience has been around for decades, even centuries. Now, customer experience (CX) is a key component of a brand and business strategy. An improved customer experience leads to increased brand perception, product sales and customer loyalty. This overview of customer experience is meant for curious newbies or seasoned professionals looking to improve, kickstart or better understand this thing people call customer experience.

What we’ll cover:

Customer experience in a nutsell

Customer experience (also shortened to CX) is the holistic perception of a brand or business through multiple interactions. These interactions happen along the customer journey, from the first impression on social media (as an example), to coming back in-store for support or advice. To make it even more fun and difficult, every customer journey is unique, which means every experience is unique as well.

A customer journey includes different brand touchpoints, or interaction moments. Examples of these include talking to a staff member in-store, trialing a product or joining an exclusive event. But it’s the customer’s perception of these interactions that is key. Customers are humans (usually?), which means they are full of complexities. Their feelings, thoughts, expectations, doubts and vulnerabilities all affect how they will perceive an interaction, and thus your brand or business.

The term ‘CX’

A term invented decades prior, ‘customer experience’ or CX continues to expand. CX outgrew its advertising, marketing and customer service shell, as global brands emerged. Today, every brand can be a global brand. With competition and customers increasing, customer experience is as important to branding as your logo. This is why customer experience worked its way up the ranks to sit aside brand strategy.

Next to customer experience (CX), we also have user experience (UX) and even guest experience (GX). The confusion usually lies with CX versus UX, as GX pertains to hotels specifically. So we’ll put GX on hold for another article. The relationship between CX and UX changes depending on who you talk with and the company’s core product. UX deals with user experience around a digital interface or feature. This can be with a website, an app or even a product (but not all products). A short example - Apple headphones is UX, while the Apple store is CX.

Why it’s important to all brands & businesses

A brand or business only exists because it has an audience, which we either call a customer or consumer (for the sake of this article, we’ve been sticking with customer). These customers buy services or products, and hopefully come back time-and-time again. Better yet, they might even bring a friend or family member along to join the party.

Your brand or business attracts customers in multiple ways. This can include personal recommendations, marketing channels, social media, organic searches or an experience in a physical location. However, it is an actual IRL experience that is the most powerful. When a customer is able to interact with your product, talk with staff and experience your brand’s vibe they feel more connected and confident. This builds trust and a relationship, while deepening their identification with your brand.

An in-store or IRL experience leads to greater customer loyalty and online sales, as customers understand your brand (including its personality, mission and vibe), as well as your product or service attributes (including quality, fit, usage and value). Connection and confidence combined leads customers to recruit other customers, becoming a brand or business advocate. When they become an advocate, your customer will also create content for you via social media.

Getting started with customer experience (CX)

We’ve touched upon two key components of CX, customer journey and brand touchpoints, that you probably heard about. But there’s more. A customer experience lives across multiple channels, thus multiple teams. Due to organisational complexity, the key components can create alignment and clarity.

CX strategy
This is a vision with key, actionable principles to achieve a desired business result. This can be used and measured against by the C-suite and different organisational teams.
Customer persona
An overview of a key customer type created by insights and research. These can either be detailed or concise. They usually cover demographics, goals and motivations.
Customer journey map
Visualising a customer journey, either overarching or for a specific customer persona. It includes the phase of their journey, touchpoints, painpoints and ideas.

Let’s summarise

  • Customer experience (CX) is the holistic perception of a brand or business
  • The term expanded its scope and importance over the last decade
  • A successful customer experience leads to customer loyalty
  • Customer loyalty increases online sales and recruitment of new customers
  • Customer experience (CX) is a cross-functional pursuit