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Monday, April 23, 2007

How Do You Define Customer Experience?

Sign in an East Village liquor store originally uploaded by Broolyn Hilary.

Creating a delightful or amazing customer experience matters to us and to our businesses, right? After all, the quality of our customer experience can make or break our success.

But, what do we actually mean when we refer to 'customer experience'?

Stephanie Weaver from Experienceology asks that question, and wraps up a multi-part series with Customer experience definitions: The finale in which the following bloggers offer their perspectives:

Susan Abbott: Customer Experience Crossroads
Adam Lawrence: Work*Play*Experience
Helene Blowers: Library Bytes
Mark Hurst: Good Experience
Sara Cantor: The Curious Shopper
Pamela Slim: Escape from Cubicle Nation
Becky Carroll: Customers Rock!
Marianna Hayes: Results Revolution

Here is my interpretation as captured in Defining customer experience Part 5:

I like to use the image of 'walking in her shoes' to capture the notion of customer experience, because it's all about suspending all of an organization's pre-conceived notions about the customer and truly appreciating or understanding the experience from her perspective.

That would include listening, hearing, seeing, feeling, doing [i.e. asking,searching, buying...] as the consumer would. It would definitely include
removing the irritants.

This holds for on-line as well as off-line, and before the purchase, during the purchase and definitely after the purchase, with the goal being to make the experience so hassle-free that it leads to a multitude of further experiences [i.e. a relationship].

The folks at
Future Now do a great job in their books Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? and Call to Action explaining the conflict between a consumer's purchase process and a buyer's selling process. Their focus is more on websites, but holds equally for an offline experience.

Too often, as business-people we think only of the selling process when we should be thinking about our consumer's purchasing process. Our challenge is to intuitively match up our selling process with how the consumer approaches it and delight them with the ease of our processes. Because we have thought through so carefully what matters to them, we create a wonderful customer experience.

Stephanie also offers a podcast interview with Susan Abbott about the art and science of creating great customer experiences. Some highlights:

Authenticity of communication -as in a blog- is paramount for a succcessful customer experience. Increasingly, customers seek out a truthful, believable, honest voice in deciding who they will do business with. [Reminds me of elements from the Trader Joe's value guide in Trader Joe's: Where Values Drive The Brand.]

Although Abbott appreciates IKEA's integrated branded experience, Weaver objects to the poor wayfinding that the retailer promotes. It's critical to understand consumer's irritants and then address them systematically [Susan ever refers to "walking in customers' shoes" to identify irritants. Brilliant image, Susan!]. The process never ends and eternal vigilance is what sets organizations like the Ritz-Carlton apart.

Abbott - a qualitative researcher specializing in customer experience - touches on several tools of her trade and how those have expanded via the internet: discussion forums or bulletin boards for 1/2 hour over 3 days where people come/go, responding to questions in writing with thoughtful, thorough feedback, shop-a-longs, or even standing/watching [i.e., think retail anthropologists].

Her rule of thumb for research projects is that one should obtain 10x the value as what one puts into the project. For example, if you plan to invest $5,000 into a new display system, you should plan on spending $500 researching that you have the right concept to begin with.

Do listen for yourselves for interesting examples and ideas relating to delivering great customers experiences.

And, if you define customer experience differently, do share!

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