Customer experience reigns supreme.
More than ever before, the experiences a business creates for users, employees, and customers are absolutely vital to build loyalty and solidify a company’s reputation.
User experience (UX) gets a lot of attention these days, but it’s essential to zoom out from the users and interfaces and create a positive customer experience as a whole.
Customer experience (CX) differs from UX in one key way:
| UX | CX | | :----------: | :----------: | | Interaction/experience with your product or service (interfaces, workflows, websites, copy, etc.) | Interaction/experience with your services, products, employees and brand as a whole |
This means that UX lives under the umbrella of CX. If the CX isn’t working, better UX won’t always fix it by itself.
There are 7 key dimensions that, when given proper attention, can help any company create a meaningful customer experience that breeds confidence and loyalty in the brand.
The 7 CX Dimensions:
1. Common purpose
These days, it’s not enough to offer a "good" or "functional" product or service. It’s not even enough to have a fantastic marketing strategy, killer customer service, and seamless processes.
What really resonates with customers, and what creates the best possible CX, is a purpose and meaning behind the company that comes through at every touchpoint.
Why does your company do what it does? Why does this matter beyond profit alone? How will your customer and your team feel that purpose daily?
A common purpose will draw in both employees and customers, and will motivate them to help you move that purpose forward by supporting and building your company.
Toms, founded in 2006, delivers more than shoes, eyewear, and other goods to their customers. From the beginning, Toms’ “one for one” model promised to provide a pair of shoes to a child in need, for every pair of shoes sold. This focus on social responsibility has expanded and evolved over the years, but one thing has remained the same: consumers have a reason to shop Toms that goes beyond the actual product, and this purpose has driven the company to thrive.
2. Operationalized empathy
There are two steps to this dimension that are important to understand.
"Empathy" refers to your brand’s ability to understand customers. Companies who do this well utilize research and data to explore and validate what they understand about their customers, and they use these findings to personalize the value they deliver to each and every customer. This creates a customized bond between brand and customer, which helps the customer feel seen and valued.
"Operationalized" simply means that these practices are built into the company’s day-to-day operations. This empathy is created and measured, deliberately and systematically, rather than allowed to happen by chance.
Creating a step-by-step process to discover, build, test, measure and foster empathy helps to create a consistent experience that customers appreciate.
AirBNB has become a world-class CX leader, in part by operationalizing a culture of empathy. AirBNB’s six corporate core values require empathy, and employees are hired based on their ability to cultivate empathy for customers. Their onboarding process involves developing empathy for customers and for fellow employees. Yearly events encourage communication and open feedback among employees, company leaders, and customers/hosts. Ultimately, the goal is empathy, and that goal is reinforced by established operations.
3. Continuous improvements
It’s far too easy for companies to fall behind in their processes, technology, policies, and offerings.
Stagnation breeds CX dissatisfaction and unsubscribes, especially if customers are observing growth and improvements elsewhere in the marketplace.
If a company is focused on continuous improvements, they show (and operate with) a constant desire to improve not only the tools they use and the products they offer, but also the people that work for them. Employees at these companies are dynamic, always working to improve themselves, their teams and their tools so that the value they offer is always fresh and relevant.
Since 1889—yes, you read that right, 130 years ago—Nintendo has reinvented itself at least a dozen times, to not only be relevant, but to be industry leaders. From card games to toys to home video game consoles to apps, the company has focused on continually evolving, improving, and moving forward.
4. Innovation engine
If there’s one thing that most companies are missing behind their customer experience, it’s this: an "innovation engine".
Innovation, like continuous improvements above, allows the company to use imagination to deliver a great customer experience in new and engaging ways.
Too often, we see companies observe other companies, analyze some data, and try to repeat what they think is working, without even trying to tailor it to their needs or the needs of their customers. We see everyone using the same metrics and software packages to measure very different people, products and experiences. We see tools measuring "functionality" vs measuring "delight and meaning".
This breeds mediocrity.
The experience is the differentiating value and should be created and measured as the unique, imaginative, special thing that it is.
It’s tempting to simply adopt what you observe to be working for other people, but the real growth comes from innovation—from trying new things, thinking outside the box, and providing something new... on a regular basis.
For example, as media consumer demands change, media companies should be changing, too. In recent years, Disney has purchased multiple properties (Lucasfilm, Marvel, Fox), but more than that, they’ve applied their own style, storytelling and innovation practices to make those properties unique and grow in new ways.
5. Organizational authority
Another commonly overlooked CX dimension is organizational authority.
What does this mean?
Essentially, organizational authority occurs when employees are empowered, by company leadership, to make decisions and spend budgets that are dedicated for the good of the customer and the customer experience.
Creating organizational authority allows for customers to have more positive interactions with products and employees. Budgets that shoot for "meaningful experiences" vs "functional delivery" look very different and yield what they pay for. When an employee is able to give the customer the experience they are looking for, without the “let me get my manager” spiel, they are able to communicate that the customer is thoughtfully considered and taken care of, by every person in the company.
Ritz Carlton employees have the discretion to spend $2,000 to make a guest happy without asking permission from their manager. This creates a culture of trust between leadership and employees, and communicates to the customer that they are valued by everyone, at every level, within the company.
6. Consistent voice
Consistency breeds trust. This is definitely the case when it comes to creating a strong customer experience through consistent voice.
When an organization’s employees, leadership, and communication channels are consistently aligned in terms of voice, attitude, and message, it communicates a level of quality and attention to detail that earns the customer’s trust. When a tone of voice implies fun in conversation, materials presented, videos shown... the customer will feel "fun" come through. When the tone shifts between different mediums, it breaks the magic of the experience. It's common to see marketing teams communicate one way and software product teams to communicate another way to a customer. Cleaning this gap up elevates the experience. This creates an authentic brand experience that customers appreciate and feel they can rely on.
Example: Pull up to the speaker at your nearest Chick-fil-a drive thru. What will you hear? You’ll hear this: “It’s a great day at Chick-fil-a.” And when you say, “Thank you,” they’ll respond: “My pleasure.”
These phrases are just two examples of the consistent voice used at Chick-fil-a. Customers can count on this at any location they visit. And the food is consistent as the service. This creates an impressive experience for the customer, every single time.
7. Frictionless experience
If there’s one thing we know that customers don’t want to experience in the interaction with a company, it’s friction.
By friction we mean: anything that slows down the process, anything that doesn’t work correctly, anything that "makes you think" or "figure something out", anything that causes anger or frustration, or anything that works against them as they try to get what they need from the company.
Creating a frictionless experience isn’t easy, but rolling out complexity is. Be careful about shipping a product or experience where the process and experience around it hasn't been fully crafted and streamlined. Pushing complexity and decision making on to the customer is a recipe for friction filled experiences.
Invested, dedicated employees can help by synchronizing technology and other touchpoints to work seamlessly in the customer’s favor. Examples include using the same language, same process across all channels. Or providing “assisted moments”, anticipating where customers typically need a little help along the way and providing it in the right moment.
Even when unforeseen friction happens, great CX will result in handling those situations with care and creativity. There are many stories of Southwest Airlines gate attendants who turn an incredibly frustrating situation (a long delay) into something enjoyable for the passengers/customers (dance parties, stand-up comedy, etc). This kind of dedication to a frictionless experience (and, bonus, organizational authority) leaves customers feeling delighted.
Getting CX to work for you
In our years of experience in the CX/UX world, we’ve seen too many companies struggle to put CX improvement plans together, and/or fail to get buy-in from their teams and executive leadership when they try to implement those plans. We want to help companies overcome these hurdles to create winning, meaningful experiences where growth and customer loyalty occur. These seven dimensions of CX can help you get there, but only if you take the time to evaluate where you’re at and formulate a winning plan.
We’ve developed the CXA - Customer Experience Assessment. It’s as small as a two-week process during which we interview your team and customers, allowing us to benchmark where you stand in each of the seven dimensions and set you on a course to CX success. Interested? Reach out to me directly for a conversation (email@example.com).