The Customer Experience Imperative

We have all heard the phrase “customer experience” and the importance many organizations are placing on it. But what does that exactly mean? It’s more than just “customer service.” You might be thinking, “We don’t have a ‘customer experience’ strategy at our company.”  Rest assured, every organization has a customer experience … it just might be that yours currently stinks. 

Forrester defines customer experience as how customers perceive their interactions with your company.”  Wikipedia defines it as,  the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.”

Of course, both are correct. At its core, customer experience is how your customers feel about your brand or organization throughout every single interaction. And in today’s digital, social and mobile world, those interactions are increasingly occurring across multiple devices and platforms. Making sure all those experiences are seamless, connected and consistent is priority No. 1. Remember: Your customers don’t do business with your organizational chart. They do business with your brand. And they demand an experience that is consistent and valuable regardless of how they connect.

This isn’t a break-through idea. It’s really quite intuitive and simple. Putting it in practice, however, isn’t easy for organizations not accustomed to collaborating and making their customer the center of everything they do.

In a 2004 Business Week article, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos said, “If you build a great customer experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”  That was well before the rise of social media that gave consumers a powerful megaphone and voice. Innovative technologies have upended the traditional business-to-consumer relationship—flipping the power to consumers. 

A recent study by Forrester showed that “health insurance plan providers” scored the lowest in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index of 14 leading industries. I’d bet the entire healthcare industry would linger at the bottom. For those of us in the healthcare space, it’s not hard to understand why. Healthcare marketers, however, have an incredible opportunity to change these perceptions and surprise and delight their customers.

So where does your organization start in order to deliver a superior customer experience? Here a few key steps to get started:

Know your customer: Do you currently know who they are, where they are, and their needs? Have you actually gotten out of your office to talk with them? Have you mined social, digital and traditional data to better understand them? Knowing your customer and their needs is your first step.

Understand their journey with your brand: You must know their customer journey — throughout the lifecycle — to develop, build and grow a relationship. How do they go about interacting with your brand from interest to discovery to purchase? Know the customer journey.

Breakdown organizational silos: Successful organizations will be collaborative organizations where departments communicate, share data and understand the customer more holistically. The more connective and collaborative, the better and more seamless the experience will be for the customer. 

Deliver a consistent experience across all touch points:  Today, consumers are constantly moving between their offline and online worlds, juggling communications across numerous platforms and devices. Your brand experience must be consistent across every touch point regardless of device, platform or department. 

Personalize the experience: Consumers know you have data about them and they expect you to use it to deliver a better experience. Believe it or not, most people are fine sharing information if the pay-off is more value for them. 

Deliver share-worthy experiences: Remember the Bezos quote above? Word-of-mouth is your best marketing tactic in today’s social-sharing world. Deliver experiences they want and you’ll reap the benefits. Need some examples? See Zappos, Amazon, Southwest Airlines and Apple.

Embrace the data to learn: Organizations must have the technologies in place to capture and understand all the data that’s occurring across traditional and digital platforms. Marketing today is a blend of science and art…and marketers need to be well versed in both. 

Always be learning and evaluating what matters to your customers: Don’t stick your head in the proverbial sand. Constantly measure and learn. Change happens. Don’t be caught behind. I’m not saying jump on every new innovation and technology. But pay attention to the future. Don’t become a Kodak or BlackBerry because you either refused to see or resisted the future.

Marketers today are in prime position to drive their organization’s customer experience. More than any other department they touch the consumer more and often. Healthcare marketers have an incredible opportunity to reinvent the customer experience and make it surprising and delightful across all consumer touch points. Every decision made should have the customer in mind. Make customer experience your imperative for 2014 and beyond.

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2 comments about "The Customer Experience Imperative".
  1. Sam Jackson from Mojo Motors , January 7, 2014 at 1:27 p.m.
    Great point about delivering a consistent experience across all touch points. Most consumers use multiple devices, and the best way to maintain a consistent experience across these devices is to use responsive design. It works for us at mojomotors.com, and it maximizes the effectiveness of our email campaigns, since many consumers check their emails from their mobile devices. Thanks for the advice, Bart!
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , January 7, 2014 at 6:20 p.m.
    This is specifically about Health how ?