Are you experienced?
It’s tempting to say that customer experience starts with a sale: you buy something, which makes you a customer. From then on, we can talk about customer experience. While that does sound cut and dried, the problem with this interpretation is that it doesn’t account for initial engagement. Surely finding out about a product and then taking the necessary steps that lead to the eventual purchase are part of the experience? If we’re being pedantic, we should call that ‘prospective customer experience’ or perhaps ‘pre-purchase experience,’ but that would only complicate matters further.
Coming into contact with a brand means experiencing it. Maybe you’ve seen a post on social media or have stumbled across a company’s website - if you like what you see, you’re likely to explore it, and you may eventually become an actual customer.
Sometimes it’s not even first-hand experience that awakens your interest but someone sharing their own experiences with you. If you trust that person, your curiosity will likely be piqued and, once again, your journey to becoming a customer of the particular brand can begin.
In other words: the experience can begin in many ways and in many places. It may be best to conclude that it starts as soon as you have a specific need and you set about finding the brand that can meet that need.
The prospects are good
Let’s just revisit the definition of ‘customer’ in the very first sentence for a moment. We can now see that it isn’t that unambiguous after all - at least not if we consider what we said in the previous section. Someone who is only a prospect now can easily turn into a customer later, provided they find that the experience they’ve had so far has been pleasant or rewarding. In that sense, there’s a fine line between the two, and whatever a potential customer experiences should be just as important as the experience of the most loyal and valued customer. This has some important implications for brands.
Many businesses think of customer service as something that starts when a prospect first contacts them on their website or by phone, but they ignore everything that happened up to that point. This is a little shortsighted because valuable information - e.g. what channels or touchpoints a potential customer interacted with and how that made them feel - gets lost or, at the very least, neglected. Also, if a company does not pay any attention to what a prospect may experience along the way that eventually leads to them “showing up” and inquiring about / buying a product, it runs the risk of not being able to attract potential customers in the first place.
Here is a simple example: customers who primarily use social media to learn about brands are unlikely to show much interest in a company whose social media channels are not engaging or appealing to them. Although most companies today are well aware of the importance of high-quality social media content, there are still quite a few that leave the potential of social media untapped. Similarly, running a website that is not fast or user-friendly enough will make anyone who has found it through Google leave again after only a few seconds.
All of which is to say that companies must make sure they provide excellent customer service with an exceptional level of care and attention to detail at all their touchpoints.
But that still leaves the question: where does customer experience end?
You may have guessed by now that the answer is “Nowhere.” Customer experience is an ongoing process, and it never ends while your customer is, well, your customer. Just because they have bought your product or signed a service agreement doesn’t mean that your work is done, but your job has definitely become much easier: you now know what product or service your customer uses, and you can make sure to continuously improve the quality of those offerings and, as a result, that of customer experience.
Some argue, however, that customer experience does end when a customer decides to no longer do business with you. That makes sense but isn’t necessarily true. Sure, “Once a customer, always a customer” is an exaggeration, and yet, this is what companies should strive for. Losing a customer for whatever reason should not mean losing them for good. You will want to win them back, and you can if you’re willing to improve in order to provide an experience that will simply stop your current clients from walking out on you. And so, we’re back to where we started from: your ex-customer is, again, a prospect for you to reach and turn into an existing customer.
While this may sound like a long, complex process, your business is not left alone. Leading-edge technology like our Customer Experience Management platform can help you guarantee your clients an excellent customer experience.