In order to meet the evolving demands of customers in an ever-changing marketplace, organizations must also evolve to provide the experience that customers demand. To do that, companies must stop treating customer experience as the exclusive function of a specific department, and understand it as an unrelenting focus across the organization.
A good place to start is by defining customer service, customer experience, and customer centricity. These are three distinct concepts, and using the terms interchangeably does a disservice to your customer-related strategies and initiatives.
Customer service is the exchange that happens between the company and the customer at the front line. Usually handled by sales, marketing, customer service, and customer support, the interaction can be in person, on the phone, or through digital channels like web chat, email, social media, apps, and so on.
Excellent customer service is crucial to the success of any company. In fact, one survey found that 73% of customers fall in love and remain loyal to brands because of good customer service. Another reported that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases from companies that provide excellent service. And of course, it’s no secret that people love to tell stories about customer service – especially if it is either exceptional, or not so great – so the impact of good customer service goes well beyond any single transaction.
In order to provide good customer service, companies must provide the training and resources that are necessary for front-line staff to exercise good judgment to meet or exceed customer expectations in the moment.
Customer experience includes customer service, but it doesn’t begin or end there. As you might expect from the term, it is the sum of the customer’s experience with – and exposure to – your company and your brand, and the impression that experience leaves with them. It includes every aspect of your brand across the entire customer journey – from your website, social media, online reviews (and your responses to them), news stories and PR, to the purchase process, fulfillment, customer support, billing, and any loyalty and referral programs and other post-purchase touch-points.
With today’s informed and empowered customers, organizations will be most successful when they implement a deliberate strategy to create and manage the experience their customers expect from businesses like theirs. In fact, according to a Walker study, customer experience is expected to overtake both product and price as the key factor in customer decisions in the very-near future.
Customer centricity is an organizational value and corporate culture. In a customer-centric culture, the customer, rather than the product, is at the center of every decision, process, and strategy. Every individual takes ownership of the customer experience, regardless of their individual role or job title.
A culture of customer centricity is nothing less than a complete paradigm that impacts the business in multiple ways. Consider these key findings from a recent report:
- 84% of companies working to improve customer experience report an increase in revenue and profits
- Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies that are not focused on the customer
- 86% of buyers say they would pay more for better service
- When companies improve their customer experience, they also experience increases in employee engagement
With benefits for customers, employees, and the bottom line, adopting a customer-centric culture seems like an easy decision. But it may take more than a shift in mindset to implement – it could take a complete culture transformation. Having said that, as customer expectations continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, not only will customer centricity be a key differentiator, companies that don’t make the shift could get left behind.
Customers are becoming more empowered and their journey is becoming more complex. They expect more from businesses, and providing a world-class customer experience is quickly becoming crucial to organizational success. Transforming to a culture of customer centricity may seem like a huge undertaking, but once the change is made, the customer experience becomes part of the fabric of the organization. By differentiating yourself from the competition, you will ensure that your company is the industry leader in customer experience, and not the one playing catch-up.