Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What is Customer Experience?

Photo by ANDRIK ↟ LANGFIELD ↟ PETRIDES on Unsplash
In the two years I've been at Gartner, I've had hundreds of calls and meetings with clients about customer experience (CX), and I am regularly struck with how misunderstood it remains. CX is a hot topic in business today, which is evident not just from the many articles and blog posts you see but because 61% of marketing leaders now report their companies have a CXO (Chief Experience Officer) or an equivalent role (although most do not report into the CMO).

I have shared Gartner's definition of CX in the past, but I think the issue is that so many people get lost in the tools, processes, and execution. I think a metaphor might help here: You can run for all sorts of different reasons, and how you plan and evaluate your running will depend on your purpose. If you are a sprinter you will plan, evaluate and execute your running effort differently than if you are a marathon runner than if you are merely running to improve your health or lose weight. In other words, everything--your gear, goals, metrics, and plan--is determined not by the running but your reason for doing so.

In the same manner, companies already do many (perhaps all) of the things often associated with CX. Your organization already has people dedicated to improving acquisition and awareness, to increasing sales, to responding to customer needs and to developing products, so why does it also need people dedicated to the discipline of CX? You cannot answer that question unless you first understand what customer experience really is and what it does. In other words, everything--your gear, goals, metrics, and plan--are determined not by the activities but your reason for doing so.

So, let's review that definition again, but this time, focus not on the process but on the why. Customer experience management is “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.” Every part of that definition is important, but the most critical part is the reason why--to lift customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

Like the running, what defines CX is not the processes--since you can use personas, journey maps, voice of the customer data, and customer insight to achieve all sort of different business outcomes--but in what you wish to accomplish and how you intend to measure. If you are not investing in, focusing on, goaling, and measuring your effort against customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, then you are not really doing CX.

To understand why you must focus on the customer before the experience and how being customer-first/company also drives long-term business results, please continue reading this blog post on