Customer experience is closely related to customer satisfaction, but the two are not the same thing. Where customer satisfaction is a measure of how fully a customer’s expectations were met through delivery of your product or service, the customer experience is the entire sequence of events that happen after the first time a customer comes into contact with your company. Customer satisfaction captures a specific moment, but the customer experience is a narrative that unfolds over the course of his or her interactions with your company.
By examining each step of the customer experience, you can put yourself into the customer’s shoes and better understand not just one moment in your relationship, but all moments.
To help you get a handle on the phases of the customer experience, we’ve listed a few of the key phases below.
The customer experience starts within the customer’s mind. Their initial perception of your business will be set by your messaging and the messaging of competitors, word of mouth, past experiences they’ve had with similar companies, and their own imagination. Inaccuracies may be present in the mind of the customer at this stage, but the goal you should adopt is to try to get customer expectations as close as possible to what you can ultimately deliver. This way, the risk of disappointment is minimized.
Inquiry and research
After becoming aware of your company, a customer may then do research. This can include visiting your website, reading through reviews online at Yelp or elsewhere, and asking their network about their experiences with your company. Your goal at this stage is similar to the expectations stage: you need to help customers understand what it is you can do, and how you do it. That way, when they ultimately use your business, they get what they came for.
Selection and purchase
A customer has decided to use you. They may still have to figure out what products or services of yours they want specifically, and this may also be your first point of direct contact with a customer through a customer service or sales rep. Here, the goal is accurately understanding what the customer wants, and explaining to them the price and terms under which you can provide it.
Delivery and use
The customer is now using your product or service. This is the time most business owners think of when they consider customer satisfaction, but you can see that a lot of events have already occurred that lead to a customer’s perception of your company. At this point, your offering must match what a customer was expecting, or better yet, exceed it, or the customer experience will inevitably go sour.
Issue resolution and support
A chance for recovery!
Even if things aren’t going well, you can often rescue a lost customer by listening carefully and coming through with a speedy and satisfactory resolution. Working through issues is where the “relationship rubber” really meets the road. Get it right, and a customer may perceive his or her experience more favorably than if they had no issue at all.
Line or loop?
Done correctly, all of these things will lead to a loop in the process, whereby customers make subsequent purchases, and the cycle begins again. And done really well, they’ll refer other customers to create entirely new loops.
Done poorly, the customer experience is a line that trails off into nowhere. The customer is gone, off looking for the real deal company that can give them what they need.
So, how’s your customer experience? Is it a loop, or a line?