The Common Misconception About Customer Experience

By Rami Haffar

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way around.”

-Steve Jobs

In the world of business consultancy, we see many organizations that think of customer experience (CX as it’s also known) as little more than answering questions, handling complaints, and serving with a smile. While undeniably important, these elements represent only a small slice of the whole CX pie.

The misconception that customer service equals customer experience is all too common.  This type of thinking holds companies back by continuing the cycle of product centricity – where the product is the focus of business at the expense of the customer.

It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

The first thing to understand about CX is that it is not just about one experience.   Rather than a single sale or answer to a query, CX is a journey made up of every interaction the customer has with a brand.  The journey begins when the customer is looking for a product or service.  First, they research their options, then they compare features and pricing and finally they decide to buy.  After purchase they operate the product or service and, if all has gone well, they develop brand loyalty.  On the other hand, if they have been disappointed by any of these interactions, they may decide never to use the brand again and advise all their friends not to either.   According to research, up to 25% of customers leave a brand after only one bad experience.  Every interaction counts.

Organizations that are customer-centric do just that – put the customer in the center of everything they do.  In this way, they increase the likelihood of the customer returning and recommending the brand.  In other words, they create customer loyalty.

A Brave New Word of CX

Technology has completely revolutionized the way we do business, and with it, our thinking about CX.  Not too long ago, large corporates had much less to worry about.  Product development was slower, organizations were more rigid, and physical channels like shopfronts or branches were the main mediums where the customer could interact with a brand.

The world as we knew it shifted rapidly with the advent of the internet.  Customers suddenly had more options, more searching power and for the first time ever, geographical location lost its importance.

Customers were no longer satisfied with the status quo and suddenly CX became the new battleground for businesses.

To keep up with this major shift, companies began moving away from being product-driven, to becoming more customer-centric. Today a growing number of companies focus on building relationships with their customers, no longer treating them as numbers but instead as individuals.

Understanding Different Customers

As companies began redefining their relationships with customers, several obstacles came to light.  CX is all about emotions – a problematic concept in the world of organizational science.   What makes things especially tricky is the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to the customer.  Customers act and feel differently depending on who they are. Tech-savvy millennials have different expectations from seniors.  Millennials, if given the choice, rarely want to visit their bank branch and prefer to use online banking on-the-go or from home.  Seniors, on the other hand, often like going to the branch because it provides them a feeling of comfort when they see that their money is stored in a physical location.

With this in mind, CX professionals are moving away from traditional customer segmentation (geographic, demographic, and purchasing behavior) to micro segmentations including psychographic and behavioral attributes.  Customer-centric organizations create ‘Personas’, or fictional characters with specific attributes (demographic, ethnographic, and behavioral) that represent a share of the customer base.

A Final Word

For companies to succeed in our brave new world, they must first move past the idea that customer service and customer experience are one and the same.  As the saying goes – “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Lace-up your shoes, it’s time for a (customer) journey.