defining customer experience

It wasn’t long ago that customer experiences primarily focused on the transactional details of purchases. Today the customer experience is far richer and includes many touchpoints prior to a sales transaction and also many that come after.

Those leading towards a sale could include everything from the advertising and marketing that begins to build an expectation in the customer’s mind and starts to form their intent to possibly buy the products or services of the company. It can include information and resources that allow them to research a purchase or learn more about the organization.

Product Experience

Touchpoints after the sale are the most important – the primary one being the actual experience with the product or service. Do the shoes fit and look great? Does the new piece of electronics easily work, and what type of support is available if I get stuck? Do I enjoy using it? Is the food at the restaurant enjoyable? Does the health system get me back to feeling great and help me prevent being sick in the future? In the B-to-B world, does the service meet my needs? Is the new equipment living up to expectations and do the parts work as needed? What happens when something needs to be resolved? The list goes on.

Retail Experience

Some of the more obvious examples of customer experiences are within retail. Customers are often guided through a sales experience that introduces options, educates about product features, builds value for the selection, and measures overall satisfaction. Sales teams are trained to use specific vocabulary and ask well-crafted questions in order to standardize and enhance the buying experience while building value for products and services.

Environment Experience

Customer experiences can also include environments that evoke a specific feeling or impression that can bring life to brands that might otherwise feel inanimate. These spaces are often beautifully and specifically crafted to portray the brand while subtly educating about product and service features through hands-on experiences and interactions with trained brand ambassadors.

Packaging Experience

Packaging is also part of the customer experience and can include everything from the “must-have” shopping bag at the mall, to carefully constructed product packaging from companies like Apple. Customers can feel a sense of specialness without even being in a branded environment. In some cases, I have kept product boxes for years because they simply seemed too special to toss. Certainly, this adds to the impression of the brand and becomes an additive component to the experience.

Online Experience

Online experiences are also becoming more intentionally focused on evoking brands rather than simply offering a space for transactions. Well-branded websites often include a host of product information, interactive experiences, stories about customers or products, and associates ready to chat with you in real time. Customers can often track their purchases through every step of the delivery process, and returns are easy and painless.

Service Experience

Companies that deliver services can also offer branded experiences, even outside of a traditional purchase scenario. Think of a healthcare organization that wants to provide a consistent and personal experience to patients at many different and variable touchpoints – from the hospital ER to a physician’s office to a virtual visit. These branded experiences can include the environments in which the care is delivered, online and virtual experiences, and hands-on service provided by employees who are trained to deliver the brand promise even as they perform routine medical tasks.

Follow-Up Experience

Many brands follow up after the experience to quickly address any issues the customer might have and to offer other products or services that may enhance the initial purchase. They also solicit positive reviews that solidify the brand connection with the primary customer while also generating insights that can be shared with other customers.

All of these examples demonstrate opportunity to carefully design and perfect the customer experience in order to create distinct impressions of the brand that will build emotional connections with audiences. These connections are the key to long-term customer loyalty that will strengthen brands and deliver outstanding business results even in a crowded market full of distractions and competitors.

For a more in-depth look at designing the customer experience, be sure to download our position paper:

Designing the Customer Experience

About Kurt Kennedy

Kurt founded Kennedy Communications in 1988 as a media production company. Since then, Kennedy Global has evolved into the leading internal-external brand alignment agency. Kurt and his team create strategic business solutions that align a company’s external customer promise with an engaged internal culture that generates tremendous results at every level of an organization. Kurt and his team have created strategic programs for some of the world’s most recognized brands including Intel, Nike, Office Depot, Starbucks, Albertsons, Adobe, Dell, LensCrafters, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Unilever and many others. In addition to consulting with clients, Kurt frequently serves as a speaker and facilitator at a variety of business events around the world including strategy sessions with executive leadership teams, interactive workshops and training sessions at corporate summits, and keynote presentations at industry events. Kurt earned his BA in Mass Communications from Walla Walla University. He enjoys traveling in his spare time.