There was a time when the customer experience wasn’t exactly a high priority. Showing up late to appointments, leaving customers on hold forever, forcing customers to jump through hoops for the privilege of making a purchase – these used to be fairly common practices.

Today, customers won’t stand for such nonsense. About half will walk away from a brand after a single bad experience and seek out an alternative, according to Zendesk. After more than one bad experience, four in five customers will abandon brands. With so many options, there’s no justification for sticking with a company that doesn’t meet expectations.

That’s why 81 percent of organizations now believe customer experience is a competitive differentiator, according to Dimension Data. Forrester reports that customer experience leaders outperform competitors by almost 80 percent. Capgemini found that 81 percent of customers would pay more for an improved customer experience.

While organizations are now prioritizing customer experience, most have yet to master customer experience. Research from Temkin Group revealed that just 38 percent of organizations received a “good” or “excellent” rating for customer experience in 2018.

Customer experience, according to Gartner, is “the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.” Forrester’s definition is a bit simpler – “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.”

The two key components of customer experience are the interactions between customer and brand throughout the customer journey, and the perceptions that result from those interactions. For example, you might have an outstanding website that’s easy to navigate and has helpful information, but if your customer service offerings fall short, the overall customer experience will suffer. Organizations that succeed in customer experience study and optimize all interactions at various touchpoints instead of addressing each interaction individually.

As the data indicates, customer experience is a competitive advantage. Customers reward brands that offer an exceptional experience with their loyalty and their wallets. They’re more likely to try a brand’s new offering, refer the brand to others, and even forgive the brand if something goes wrong. All translate to higher customer retention rates and higher sales.

Delivering the kind of customer experience that creates loyalty and drives sales requires more than a commitment. You need a comprehensive customer experience strategy that makes it possible to understand and meet the expectations of your customers.

To develop a customer service strategy, create and segment customer personas based on purchase history, interests and preferences. Identify how your customers interact with your brand – website visits, Google searches, phone calls, social media, purchases, customer service, inquiries, reviews, etc. Document factors that influence activity and sentiment at each stage, positively and negatively, and map interactions across the customer journey. All customer data should be centrally stored, integrated and analyzed to help optimize the entire customer experience.

The key is to deliver consistency and strengthen the relationship with each interaction. In the eyes of the customer, there is no brand X website, brand X customer service department and brand X Facebook page. There’s just brand X. Your customer experience strategy should focus on how customers view your brand because the goal is to shape those perceptions in the most positive way.

IPC offers a comprehensive suite of consulting services and customer experience technology that is designed to advance your customer experience initiatives. Let us help you develop the right strategy and implement systems and technology solutions that enable you to optimize the customer experience, increase loyalty and become more competitive.