In a previous post, we discussed why the customer experience is driving the need for contact center analytics. In fact, nearly nine in 10 participants in a Deloitte survey said the customer experience is a primary focus of the contact center. Analytics makes it possible to not only improve customer service and the quality of interactions across communication channels, but also to better understand and act upon customer feedback.

Of course, the customer experience is more than the contact center. According to Gartner, the customer experience 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.” Website visits, phone calls, mobile app sessions, social media content, use of products and services, visits to a facility, and customer service interactions all contribute to a person’s perception of an organization and help to define the overall customer experience.

While good customer service and support are critical to a positive customer experience, they represent just one part of the larger customer experience. Customer service is more of a reaction to customer behavior, such as a complaint about a product or a request or help. The focus is on dealing with one interaction at a time.

The customer experience is more holistic. It involves a much wider range of interactions and touch points across the customer journey. Each interaction is important, but the focus is on cultivating a long-term relationship. This requires an organization to take proactive steps to enhance each interaction and elicit positive emotions while reducing the likelihood of negative experiences.

Why is the customer experience the top priority for the vast majority of organizations? As we mentioned in the previous post, the customer experience drives customer choice. The primary differentiator for an organization is the ability to consistently deliver an experience that meets or — ideally — exceeds the customer’s expectations.

It’s often expressed as an equation: customer experience equals reality divided by expectations. When the reality an organization delivers is greater than the customer’s expectations, the customer experience is positive.

Customers won’t tolerate anything less, and organizations that deliver poor experiences and develop a bad reputation will suffer. Two forces are at play here. First, the market is saturated with options. Second, it’s easier than ever for someone to identify and research those options and take their business elsewhere when the customer experience falls short.

On the other hand, when customers are delighted by their experiences and see other customers enjoying similar experiences, they’ll feel a stronger connection with the organization. They’ll be more loyal. They’ll spend more money. They’ll share their experiences with others. This leads to increased revenue and reduces the high cost of customer churn.

Increased emphasis on the customer experience and its role as a competitive differentiator have led many organizations to implement a customer experience management (CEM) strategy. CEM is the process for organizing, managing and optimizing customer interactions across all touch points. The goal is to enhance the overall customer experience and create the ideal brand perception in the heart and mind of the customer.

In the next post, we’ll discuss the key components of CEM, the impact of CEM in several industries, and how to develop a CEM strategy.