Seconds from Death: What It Taught Me About Customer Experience

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“This might be my last flight, ever.” – I said to myself, flying last month from Istanbul To NYC.

The turbulence was horrible; the plane’s altitude dropped several times, all in portions where people would panic. Babies were crying, people praying. It was quite the experience. It’s not something I’d describe as horrible, as events like these, you don’t think about how horrible it is, you’re just hoping to stay alive.

There was some aircraft failure, and we needed to turn back (half way en route to NYC) and land in London.

It was the worst user experience, ever. However, once we landed, the airline had knocked customer experience out of the ballpark. In fact, before we even landed, they had pre-booked everyone on shorter/direct trips, with tons of upgrades and we had this amazing VIP treatment.

They had a horrible user experience and used customer experience to make sure that the overall experience was good enough to keep a customer.

Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but when I feel life threatened, it’s hard to get me to buy from you again – but this particular airline has managed to do it.

What they really nailed was VIP treatment, from a customer experience standpoint.

Once we landed, we were instantly greeted (the way Brad Pitt is greeted by fans – minus the photos) by some folks in suits which instantly transported us to the hotel (for the ones that couldn’t catch the next flight – which was a good majority), giving us detailed instructions on the next flights – and tons of free upgrades (I got a personal tour from one of the folks, entirely for free).

When you hear the term “customer experience”, what do you think of? People beaming about the free shipping and no-hassle online shopping from your e-commerce site? Rave reviews on social media and local outlets? A strong desire to recommend their friends and family to do business with you?

Yes, all of those things surround the customer experience, or rather, are the result of it. Conversely, you have “user experience”, a term that’s often intertwined with the former, and sometimes used interchangeably to describe how a visitor or potential customer interacts with your site.

But with e-commerce brands seeping more and more into daily life through the use of apps and mobile push notifications, are lines between the two disciplines starting to blur? Let’s take a closer look.

How Customer Experience Differs from User Experience

 

Both customer and user experience have a keen interest in the customer. They want to know what the customer needs and how to both anticipate and deliver on those needs. Many of their strategies overlap as well. Customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) will throw around terms like personas, prototyping, and design/interaction, but that’s usually where the similarities end.

The customer experience focuses on “touch-points”, areas of interaction between the company and the business. These vary on different levels as well as different sources, as shown in this example, from score.org.

touchpoints

Typically, customer experience is a broad, brand-wide mission that ideally should occur at every level but is most often the focus of high-level executives, upper management and CEOs. As you’ll see from the graphic above, the customer is always in different levels of making an informed buying decision. They’re evaluating, understanding, learning and building upon their experience with you at every step.

In order to maximize your efforts from customer experience initiatives, ask yourself the following questions, courtesy of Radiant Brand.

attributes-rbrand

Remember that customer experience isn’t limited to the website (although the bulk of strategies are focused on it when it comes to purely e-commerce stores). It’s everything about your brand – offline as well as online. How fast was the product shipped? How well-packaged was it? What’s the return policy? Can a customer get help if they need it? If so, how? These are all questions that a customer experience team needs to answer and tweak as they strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

How User Experience Differs from Customer Experience

 

User experience, rather than being focused on the result of interacting with the company, is more concerned with how they do it. Although this type of interaction is generally associated with websites, it doesn’t necessarily end there. Some have even stated that UX is a subset of CX, but concerned with fewer channels (such as website and app and social).

User experience generally deals with design, including wire frames and prototypes, user analytics and various processes therein, including checkout, support tickets and so on. User experience typically has a more narrow focus than customer experience, in that it’s centered around the product and the audience’s engagement (or lack thereof) with it.

ux

User experience focuses and overlaps in many key areas. Image source

Keep in mind that oftentimes, user experience is warped to include disciplines such as information architecture (how information is organized), content strategy or product development. Those areas are all equally important, but they’re a piece of the larger puzzle that every business wants to solve – the “understanding the customer” puzzle.

Essentially, user experience draws upon aspects of aesthetics, technology and business, and uses those tools and findings to craft a user-centered plan of action, while analyzing each step and always asking “how can we improve this?” Unlike customer experience, CEOs and high level managers aren’t typically involved in the user experience process, but it does bleed over into customer experience, so knowing how one affects the other is crucial to avoiding customer “disconnects” and brand ambiguity.

Why it All Matters

Of course, brand experience professionals would shout from the rooftops that, “It’s about the customer, stupid!” but the simplest answer isn’t always best. Yes, at its core, user and customer experience are centered around the customer, but you cannot also neglect the emotions that your brand projects upon them.

That means across every channel and department, from product development to the shipping warehouse to billing and customer service, everything speaks to the customer about their experience, and whether or not they’re interested in repeating it or sharing it with others.

The bottom line is that user experiences and how they interact with your brand are not a black and white, easily analyzed set of numbers that you can refine and improve. What could be a fantastic customer experience for one person could be a painful user experience for another. That’s why it’s vital to stay on top of new technologies, business methods and design shifts to create touch-points that the user can understand and interact with at-a-glance – one that creates the intended result with zero fuss, hassle or frustration.

When your company figures out how to do that, bottle it up and sell it! But, as you might expect, the process is different for every business and product, so it’s up to you to analyze your audience, anticipate their concerns, and address them in a way that fosters open communication and goal resolution. That’s neither customer experience nor user experience – it’s just good business sense.

What are your thoughts on the differences between each “experience”? Are they separate specialties entirely or two merged disciplines working toward the same goal? Share your perspective and your own experiences with us in the comments below!

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