What Is Customer Experience?

by Jeannie Walters

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Customer experience is not always easy to define.

  • In the early days, it was often described as the perception the customer had of your brand.
  • Others define it as the buyer’s journey.
  • Some use the term customer experience interchangeably with customer service or customer success.

Customer experience is about the end-to-end experience your customer has, with each touchpoint, interaction and experience with the brand. Your customer has emotional responses to these experiences, all based on whether the perceived experience is failing to live up to expectations, meeting them exactly, or exceeding those expectations. Customer service is part of this journey, as is customer success.

Even if you’ve never thought about the definition or spent any efforts around CX in your organization, you still offer a customer experience. You just might not know what it is or if it’s good or not.

But here’s the secret – your customers do know. They are making those assessments whether you ask them to or not.

I’m often asked about specific parts of customer experience, like customer journey mapping, service blueprinting, or employee experience. I hear from leaders who have been asked to take on a challenge and want to start with the best practices around how to deliver on it.

My first questions are always around how the leader and their organization are defining customer experience. Not just in general, but at their organization, for their brand and most importantly, for their customers. Without starting with a clear vision, an understood definition, and aligned best practices, customer experience can get defined as a short-term goal.

For sustained success, customer experience must be defined and approached in three ways:

  1. As a mindset.
  2. As a strategy.
  3. As a discipline.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to three tools that can help you create a foundation of Customer Experience Success.

Introducing Year of CX

To help leaders achieve their customer experience goals, my team and I are dedicated to consistently developing a library of tools and resources for you, based on the work I’ve done with clients. These resources are completely free. Sign up here and you’ll get new actionable resources twice monthly, as well as access to the complete library of existing resources.

We’re calling it The Year of CX.

Our goal is to help CX leaders and change agents create an action plan to achieve more for your organization and for your customers. We hope it brings you Customer Experience success like you’ve never seen before.

(Note to Jeannie: Add YoCX mention here: “Learn more and sign up at YearofCX.com.”)

Three Tools to Help You Create a Foundation of CX Success

Create a CX mindset with a Customer Experience Mission.

A Customer Experience Mission is a guiding statement for your organization around what the experience should be for each customer, every time. It provides a consistent purpose around what the experience should be to your employees, whether they’re interacting directly with customers or not.

Every employee in an organization has to understand their role in delivering this ultimate customer experience. Magical experiences aren’t magical at all. They’re missions.

If your organization doesn’t have a clear customer experience mission, you’re asking employees to make a best guess on what the experience should look like. Your customer’s journey will be filled with inconsistencies.

Some in your organization may ask: “Don’t our Corporate Mission, Vision, and Values statements already serve this purpose?”

While some get close, most fail on how to deliver.

Related: Why a CX Mission Matters — And How to Create One

Many corporate vision statements sound something like this:

“To be recognized as an industry leader, earning higher profits for our stakeholders and loyalty from our customers.”

This type of statement is aiming for customer loyalty… but how will they get there?

That’s where a Customer Experience Mission can help.

Get your free Customer Experience Mission Statement Workbook here (note from David: Link pending) , or bundled as part of our free Year of CX package here .

Correlate CX Strategy to larger objectives with a CX Success Statement.

A customer experience mindset is part of the foundation. But then what? Without a strategy, it’s easy for CX to become a “nice to have.” A Customer Experience Strategy helps set the course for the actions, behaviors, and processes you’ll need.

Many organizations have great intentions, but CX success requires more. Without understanding what CX success should look like, how it should tie into larger goals, and the ways in which it should be measured, we put ourselves at a great disadvantage.

That’s where a CX Success Statement can help.

Related: Want Greater Success? Create a CX Success Statement

At its heart, a CX Success Statement is simply a few sentences which define what CX success looks like in your organization. A CX Success Statement identifies:

  • What specific outcomes will be most meaningful to your organization
  • How those specific outcomes tie back to larger organizational goals and leadership goals
  • The metrics you’ll use to measure success

Our CX Success Statement Workbook guides you through what you need to create a Success Statement. This can help you set goals, request resources, and plan.

Get your free Customer Experience Success Statement Workbook here , or bundled as part of our free Year of CX package here .

Create Disciplined Goals with the SMIRC Methodology.

Customer Experience is a business discipline. You can’t achieve strategic success unless you back it up with daily actions, defined behaviors, and goals that are well-aligned with the overall strategy.

CX as a discipline shows up in lots of ways. Here are just a few of them:

  • A business discipline is seen as important to the organization, even after a disappointing quarter or a misstep. Can you imagine a CEO announcing that the company will no longer invest in sales as part of the business because they didn’t hit projections one year? Of course not, but this happens to CX teams because they haven’t treated customer experience as part of how they do business.
  • CX as a discipline means there are recognized best practices and expertise. CX leaders provide guidance to other leaders and teams around the customer experience.
  • Goals are well-defined and tie in with everyday behaviors and actions of employees throughout the organization.

It’s hard to create the right tactics if goals are seen as vague or “soft.” Be nice to customers isn’t a complete goal. Leaders at every level of CX need to create and communicate goals that are well-aligned with the CX Success Statement, as well as help each employee understand how to measure progress.

Related: Use SMIRC Goals to Define Customer Experience Outcomes

Our SMIRC CX Goal framework helps you think through each goal to understand if the goal is:

  • Social: CX Goals need to support everyone’s success. CX outcomes must relate back to your overall business and leadership goals.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be measured to determine progress. How do you know if you’ve achieved success?
  • Inspiring: Customer experience is human experience. To deliver the best outcomes, we can’t forget that. How does each goal take our customers from their “before” state to their ideal “after” state?
  • Relevant: What’s most important to your customers in reality? What results do they want to achieve? What’s realistic about the market? Big goals that aren’t based in reality don’t last long. Confirm your CX goals are relevant to your customers, the market and your leaders realistically.
  • Contextual: Sometimes goals need to be viewed in the lens of the beholder. Your Chief Financial Officer might not see the value in creating an ideal journey, but she might understand how one of the outcomes is lower costs for the organization. Provide context around these goals for the leaders and your customers!

To help create SMIRC CX Goals, use our SMIRC Goals Checklist.

Get your free SMIRC Goals Checklist here (note from David: Link pending), or bundled as part of our free Year of CX package here .

What Tools Do You Wish You Had?

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be releasing other tools to help you move beyond the foundation and create a customer-centric culture, develop customer journey maps, and much more.

Sign up for Year of CX to get these tools delivered twice monthly for free.

(Note to Jeannie: Add YoCX mention here: “Learn more and get your resources at YearofCX.com.”)

What tools, workbooks, and guides would you like to see as part of Year of CX? Let me know .

(Note to Jeannie: In the above link, you can say “let me know at experienceinvestigators.com/contact.”)

And thank you! Your willingness to learn and do the work means you’re creating better days for customers, and that’s no small thing. Keep up the great work!

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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