While the concept of the customer experience certainly is not a new one, the dawn of the internet opened the world’s eyes to the importance of the user experience. This helped shape a new field with significant influence over how organizations deliver value and interact with customers.The experience behind a brand is sometimes its primary source of differentiation and the basis for brand positioning. The Keller Fay Group found that 58% of consumers gave high credibility to information heard by word of mouth, with 50% reporting they were “very likely” to make a purchase as a result of a relevant conversation. In the companies studied, word of mouth drove more than 10 percent of sales volume. And nothing drives word-of-mouth advertising like great experiences.
Brand strategy consultants are emphasizing the importance of delivering an experience that makes brands stand out from their competition. Some are learning the hard way. In 2017, United Airlines had a brand crisis that wiped out $1.4 billion in value overnight when a passenger’s experience went viral on social media. And, you may not have heard about Juicero, a company that made a device for fruit and vegetable juicing. It fell victim to brand crisis when it was discovered the proprietary juice packets needed for its $699 juicer weren’t exactly proprietary. Juicero was forced to drop the price of its juicer to $200, and then ultimately went out of business.
Customer Experience Touchpoints Across the Buyer’s Journey
In its simplest form, customer experience is the sum total of all interactions (touchpoints) that occur between a company and its customers throughout their relationship. Marketers commonly think about the customer experience across three distinct phases—pre-purchase, purchase, and
Pre-purchase touchpoints create awareness of and familiarity with the brand. These include advertising, websites, public relations, sales collateral, and word of mouth. As one would expect, these touchpoints serve to educate consumers, create a sense of interest and preference, and ultimately lead to purchases for the brand’s products or services.Purchase touchpoints vary significantly by industry and transaction type. For consumer products, these touchpoints may take place in a retail store and include things such as point-of-purchase collateral and other merchandising vehicles. In B2B, purchase touchpoints could be sales meetings with customers to approve or sign contracts. No matter what the format, however, the goal is the same: to facilitate a smooth transaction, reinforce the choice the buyer made, and pave the way for ongoing satisfaction.
As in the purchase phase, post-purchase touchpoints vary widely by industry. These typically involve factors such as customer support, repairs, warranties, ongoing maintenance and service, and follow-up communications. Post-purchase touchpoints aspire to reinforce customers’ ongoing satisfaction with a purchase, encourage additional purchases (i.e., remain loyal) and encourage favorable word-of-mouth marketing.
Marketers sometimes depict the customer experience using a customer journey map. This type of map serves as a visual tool that puts the customers front and center in the organization’s conception of experience. When done effectively, maps highlight potential gaps and shortcomings in the experience, especially when compared to the brand promise the experience is supposed to deliver.
The customer experience journey map is just one potential tool to guide the design and development of customer experience. What’s most important, however, is how the tool is used. Marketers must remember to use brand positioning as the foundation and guide to developing the customer experience. Marketers that opt to follow customer research conducted outside the context of their brands and adopt generic industry norms and best practices is an explanation for why brands become monotonous and indistinguishable from one another.