According to the 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report from Dimension Data, there’s a wide gap between how organizations view the importance of the customer experience and the current state of the customer experience. The vast majority (81 percent) of study participants say the customer experience is a competitive differentiator. Customer experience improvements result in increased customer loyalty (92 percent), more revenue (84 percent) and reduced costs (79 percent).

Researchers confirmed the direct connection between the customer experience and revenue as nine in 10 fully engaged customers buy more often and six in 10 spend more. In fact, organizations rated as top performers in the area of customer experience double the revenue of organizations rated as laggards.

However, on a scale of one to 10, just 13 percent of organizations participating in the study rate their customer experience delivery as nine or 10. Ninety percent admit their digital business strategy is not optimized.

In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, customer expectations have never been higher. If a customer contacts you, it’s because they either haven’t been able to find the information they need, or they don’t feel like looking and expect answers immediately. If any interaction with your organization falls short of expectations, they won’t hesitate to abandon you and seek out a competitor. Depending on how far the experience falls short of expectations, they might turn to social media to air their grievances or, at the very least, demand that you make it right.

The customer experience is the sum of all interactions between a customer and your organization across multiple touchpoints over the course of the relationship. There are various phases of the customer experience, from initial awareness and discovery, to cultivation, to purchase and service, to loyalty and advocacy.

Interactions that make up the customer experience include all direct and indirect contact before, during and after a transaction. Direct contact is typically initiated by the customer – placing a call, visiting a website or place of business, sending a text or instant message, making a purchase, etc. Indirect contact could involve exposure to your organization through an ad, news story, online review, word-of-mouth recommendation, or an unplanned interaction with an employee. Thanks to technology, direct and indirect contacts are far more frequent that in years past.

How did the customer respond to each interaction? Was that response in line with the actual interaction? What was the customer’s logical, emotional and physical involvement with the organization? The answers to these and other questions determine if the quality of each individual customer’s experience lived up to expectations.

Organizations can improve the customer experience by bringing together disparate interactions at various touchpoints into a cohesive customer journey. All moments leading up to, during and after a transaction are part of a larger customer journey and should be optimized as such. Focusing on the customer’s perspective and the desired outcome, you need to shape interactions to suit customer needs, put interactions in the proper sequence, fine-tune business processes, and mobilize employees to meet expectations throughout the customer journey.

In the next post, we’ll discuss how to develop a customer experience strategy and the role of technology in this process.