Customer experience, or CX. User experience, or UX. You hear the terms and the acronyms constantly these days. But what do they really mean?

The linked article by Rupa Ganatra explores how 1990’s festival culture really introduced the concept of selling ‘experiences’ to consumers and rapidly grew fans and followers. It’s an easy, enjoyable read.  

In the 1970’s, sales and marketing was heavily focused on products. During the 80’s and 90’s, services came to the fore. But it wasn’t really until the mid-to-late 90’s and early 00’s, that experiences began to penetrate marketing and advertising strategy and so influence consumer demand.

You can see the same theme start to weave a lot more commercially and accessibly through the travel and tourism industry at around the same time too. Holidays became as much about experience as time-off. Essentially, ordinary consumers started to chase more meaningful and enriched experiences and began to expect more to show for their annual leave.

It greatly helped that at the same time, travel became more affordable thanks to cheaper airfares and both the internet and subsequently, its mobile accessibility, could readily entice us with information about places we’d previously only read of in encyclopaedias or seen on tv.    

Ganatra’s focus is very much on creating the most appealing millennial customer experience. She points out the need for authenticity and imagination in products or services offered to millennials.

However, the drive towards creating a unique, seamless and excellent customer experience is today prevalent across all target customer segments and all sectors. It has fast become a necessity for most customer propositions.

In fact, whether your customers are businesses or consumers, anything that does not look, feel or sound genuine and uncontrived, is likely to be regarded with suspicion or disdain.

It’s all about the experience…

Ganatra points out that ‘the quest for unique experiences is opening the door to a whole host of new businesses’. In many cases, that new business – and its corresponding share of consumer wallet – is usurping the former champions of consumer preference.  

After all, consumers typically haven’t gotten any richer or less choosey, so these newcomer businesses, offering their unique experiences, are ‘stealing’ business and spend from their incumbent rivals. If the quality of what's on offer is high, then those ‘stolen’ customers will probably stay loyal to the newcomers too, especially if their customers keep experiencing positive innovations – which is exactly what’s kept the festival-goers loyal.   

…but it’s got to be felt

And that’s a key factor. You can’t just promise great experience, you have to deliver it, seamlessly, with all typical customer friction points addressed. 

Marketers and salesfolk should beware spouting clichés or simply repeating old processes and mantras, they lost their persuasive sparkle some years ago.

Don't tell me, show me. Today’s consumer wants…and gets 

Sage recently created a rather neat infographic  illustrating just how critical a focus by businesses on excellent and seamless customer experience will become by 2020.

It’s an interesting read. It clearly demonstrates that businesses not already focused on their customers’ entire user journey and their end-to-end experience of those products/services on offer, are already being left behind. Such businesses should expect to struggle with the competition in the imminent years ahead.  Sage point out that

‘Your customers are evolving. Changes to the consumer landscape and advancements in technology are giving rise to a new age where executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are – customers do.’

When did you last consider what’s unique about what you do?

And how well are you communicating it? 

Are you focused on your customer’s experience of your products or services – from the moment that a trigger for needing those products or services arises, right though to your customers hopefully feeling happy enough to write you a really positive review?  

I asked experienced PR expert, Amanda Ruiz these same questions. 

Described by her clients as ‘the Mary Poppins of PR’, I knew Amanda would have a pragmatic and helpful view on the importance of clearly communicating to your customers what it is that is distinctive about what you do.

Me: 'My sense is that small businesses often fail, in a rather epic way, when it comes to properly promoting themselves and communicating the right things about what it is that makes them special. Is that your experience too and if so, what would you advise them to do?  

 Amanda: 'I totally agree with you. So many people fail at articulating what they do. I have gone to so many networking events where people stand up and say what they do – and I am left still wondering what it is their business is all about! 

'So many times, my eyes glaze over when they are rambling on using industry jargon. You need to be succinct!'

Me: 'I know you’ll have invented something to help your clients to avoid this, Amanda. I’m going to be cheeky and ask what you advise them?'

Amanda: 'It’s not cheeky at all, I’d love to see more people get it right. It’s really important and it will open more doors for them, I promise you!

'I have created a term: ‘To Nail it in 8’. It means, can you clearly explain what you do in 8 words?

'Here are my 8: "I train entrepreneurs how to get press coverage". 

'To expand that a little further, I sometimes add:  "and to get the right attention from their other target audiences", including by using those 8 (or fewer) carefully chosen words.

'I did a blog post on that recently and you can find it here.  

'When you can nail it in 8 words or less and take less than 2 minutes for any more detailed explanation, you can much easier capture the attention of a busy journalist or someone you are chatting to at a noisy networking event. Try it out. It works!'

Me: 'I suspect I know what you’ll say already, but just to round things off, in your experience, how important is offering an all-round great customer experience when it comes to doing PR well and sustaining a ‘stand-out’ reputation?'

 Amanda: 'Customer experience is what can make or break a brand - including when things go wrong. 

'There are many anecdotes of big companies who have swung things in their favour once there has been a big customer mess up. For example, in an online scenario, they didn't block and delete the complainer, but treated them with respect and gave them an experience over and above what they had previously encountered.

'But my take is to try to avoid the complaints in the first place - by over delivering. You will reap the rewards. After all reciprocity is contagious.'