What is 'Customer Experience (CX)' and what does it actually mean....

Customer Experience is a hot topic. It appears it’s the talk of the town. But much as trends such as ‘Digital Transformation’ (and many others) have passed before it, I’m not necessarily convinced people truly understand what it means (although that doesn’t necessarily stop them dropping it into discussions - me included!!).

With that in mind I spent some time discussing Customer Experience (or CX for those in the know…) with our Head of CX & UX practice, Andy Wilby. The intention? To demystify CX.

Is Customer Experience, or CX, the next in a long line of industry buzzwords?

Absolutely not. It’s a concept that challenges businesses to do something, which whilst sounding simple, is difficult; put their understanding of their customers, and the interactions they have with their business, at the heart of everything they do.

It’s something which should have been in the mainstream consciousness for a number of years, however it’s mainly been, until recently, the domain of industry leaders such as Apple, Google and Amazon. The irony of course is that we’ve all most likely benefited from incredibly well designed customer experiences, without challenging the status quo of our own environments.

The basis upon which competitive advantage is gained and maintained has irrevocably shifted. To compete on price isn’t efficient or maintainable. Customer experience is about delivering the right product/service at the right time, and providing an experience that feels simple, engaging, effortless and rewarding. Long after an interaction with a company, a customer may have forgotten the price of a product. What they won't have forgotten is how the experience made them feel - delighted, frustrated, or anything in between.

Give me your elevator pitch of what CX really means?

CX is about all businesses fully understanding the complete end-to-end customer journey to deliver an engaging, innovative and consistent experience across multiple touch-points. This includes offline & online, for example how a user seamlessly starts a journey via a desktop, moves to the mobile app before completing in-store.


CX is the means by which a business understands their customers, their needs and wants, their emotions, the context of why want to engage at each touch point and what they consider valuable. It informs how businesses should engage with their customers on a much more informed basis at the right time.


This granular understanding of the interaction between the customers and the business is key to shifting organisations to adopting truly customer centric strategies.

Is the concept of CX a new one?

Not really, no. CX is borne from Service Design, which, has been around for a number of years. Service Design focuses on the mechanics of consistent service across digital and human interactions. Consider a customer thinking about booking a hotel stay; They book a room via their mobile app, they arrive at the hotel and check-in via their mobile (with a QR code sent via whatsapp) and then use the mobile to open the hotel door. Service design would deliver the mechanics to join the dots, not the experience the customer has in the dots being joined. Great service design is an enabler to great CX.

The reason why I believe Service Design didn’t appeal to masses was down to the labelling. It felt too complicated. It represented technical jargon. It’s definitely not had the same exposure as CX within such a short space of time. Adoption will absolutely grow as businesses see demonstrable benefits through delivering great experiences., and they start to clearly identify the differences between CX and UX.

User Experience (UX) has been a hot topic for a while now. How does CX differ from UX?

Firstly, I must emphasise that UX is not ‘over’! UX can, will and should have a place in businesses as the digital evolution continues. Simply put, where CX focuses on the ‘macro’ or holistic view of the relationship between a business and it’s customers, UX focuses on the micro, project specific deliverables.

It could be that a business is looking to refresh a mobile app. The project will utilise the CX strategy (based on research) to understand the ‘Why?’ for the mobile app, setting the project context. UX design will focus on delivering the best possible app, in terms of usability and intuitive features/functionality.


UX operates within the context of, but in isolation of, CX. As such, UX can, in the absence of CX practices, still deliver absolute value for businesses within project deliverables. The two skill sets compliment each other when implemented successfully.


Why is CX emerging as a strategic focus? What are the drivers for the shift?

To reflect on my earlier point, customers are inherently transient. Achieving sustainable competitive advantage, and therefore customer retention, is becoming increasingly difficult. Differentiating factors between businesses are going to come down to the quality in customer experiences offered, and how these are perceived by customers.

Customers expectations are shifting in line with the constant evolution in offerings from the likes of Amazon. Businesses are being forced to look at themselves and how they interact and maintain relationships with their customers. The simple fact is that it’s more cost effective to retain customers than it is to acquire or win back customers. The best way to do this is through innovative customer experience.

Is CX the realm of startups / disrupters? What are the considerations more ‘traditional’ companies need to address, organisationally and technically?

No - but there is more evidence of it in startups / disruptors, primarily because these are businesses which have been formed with absolute focus on the customer. Focussing on the customer informs the strategic decisions which shape the decisions for organisational growth. This is where innovation and disruption truly flourishes.


The challenge for established businesses is how to look to ‘retrofit’ CX into both strategy and the day to day operational running of businesses. Without question it’s incredibly challenging, Often businesses are siloed, which means the view of customer journeys and the touch points within those journeys is inherently siloed. Successful CX strategies demand truly cross functional interaction.


Those businesses looking to invest in CX should start to look at dedicated CX teams, which cross cut the traditional ‘verticals’ in businesses. No small undertaking, granted - particularly when UX has only just (after many years) become recognised as organisationally important.

A key importance for businesses going forward is ensuring one function (such as a CX team) has responsibility for ownership of the complete customer experience, with strong support and input from design, product, marketing and exec teams.

Given it’s moniker, is CX a B2C concept?

No. Absolutely not. The expectations customers have in the B2C and B2B worlds are converging, there is no question. Customers expect them be understood, and to benefit from personalised interactions which deliver value for them.

There is no industry or sector in which CX wouldn’t be applicable. It’s agnostic of the digital environment. It’s about how you engage with the customer at the right time, and in the right way.

And finally... what are the top three reasons CX can’t be ignored?

  1. Businesses need to deliver clear and consistent experiences across online, offline channels, and multiple journeys and touch points.
  2. Understanding customers is critical to informing customer-led strategic decision making.
  3. In the face of disruption, businesses need to be prepared to react. Understanding customers enables business to recognise and exploit areas for innovation and opportunity.

 

In recent months we’ve started to shift conversations with our clients towards understanding and shaping their complete end-to-end experience - beyond delivering usable and intuitive solutions within isolated programmes of work.There have been many common themes within these discussions. As a result we’re going to start sharing our experiences in a series of blogs.

Want to hear more?

If you want to hear more about how our CX and UX expertise can help your business to deliver great experiences for your customers then contact our Principal UX Consultant, Andy Wilby, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 07595 878876.

About the Author...

Rich heads Answer Digital Retail, delivering world class solutions to clients including Costcutter Supermarkets Group, FCUK, Arcadia and Ramsden International. Richard has a passion for retail and the transformational impact technology is having on customer experiences.