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Customer experience: a comprehensive guide for 2024

Customer experience (CX) refers to all the interactions between a business and its customers. Learn why it's so essential and how you can improve your CX strategy.

By Erin Hueffner, Head of Global Customer Experience, Customer Success Strategy & Innovation

Last updated March 1, 2024

Customer experience (CX) definition

Customer experience (CX) is all the interactions customers have with your company at all stages of the customer journey. Whether it’s a call to customer service, observing an ad or something as simple as paying a bill, every exchange impacts how a customer perceives a business.

The customer experience lives on a spectrum from flawless to infuriating. You’ll always remember the tailor who happily completed a last-minute alteration for an important event. At the same time, you’ll also remember the restaurant staff that unapologetically provided bad service and didn’t bother to remedy the situation.

Customers are starting to expect more of these positive, memorable experiences and the pressure is mounting for businesses to step up their CX game. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023, 81% of business leaders see customer experience and support as growing priorities over the next year, proving that organisations see this as a differentiator in the marketplace.

In this article, we’ll cover CX in detail and give you a blueprint for improving your customer experience.

Why is customer experience important?

A chart showing the importance of a good customer experience and the result of a bad customer experience.

CX is important because every exchange between a customer and a business – no matter how small – has the power to build or damage the relationship. These interactions can be something impactful, like a conversation between a consumer and a support agent, or something as simple as paying a bill or viewing a company ad on social media.

How customers feel about your brand is directly tied to customer retention, lifetime value and brand loyalty. A good CX drives competitive advantage and companies that can deliver an outstanding experience stand out from the competition. According to our CX Trends Report, 60% of consumers have purchased from a brand solely based on the service they expect to receive.

More than half of consumers will switch to a competitor after a single bad experience.

Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023

Companies that ignore the importance of a seamless, effective customer experience can lose business to competitors. According to our CX Trends Report, 73% of consumers will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences. Businesses that fail to prioritise CX can suffer from customer churn and get left in the dust in favour of other organisations.

How to measure customer experience

There’s no single magic metric that measures the customer experience. It exists on a spectrum, so the more data you have, the better. Here are a few methods to gather that data so you can hone in on your ideal CX.

A chart showing five ways businesses can measure the customer experience.

Send surveys

One of the most effective ways to get information on your CX is directly from the source. Surveys are a great way to collect customer feedback on specific touchpoints in the customer journey, customer satisfaction rates and consumer expectations or things your business can do differently.

Several surveys allow customers to rate their experience on a numerical scale and use popular formats and metrics like:

By collecting relevant feedback, you can learn what your customers appreciate and what they wish you would do better.

Analyse measurable data

Analysing measurable data can alert your organisation to harmful (and helpful) patterns, customer pain points and how your customers interact with your business. Look at quantitative data like:

  • Churn rates
  • Customer lifetime value

  • Ticket reopen rates

  • Time-to-resolution metrics

This approach can give you the actionable insights you need to make improvements to your customer experience.

Perform A/B tests

A/B tests are commonly used for sales and marketing purposes, but they can make just as big of an impact on the customer experience. With this method, you can send or display two versions of a web page, email campaign and other customer-facing assets to determine which performs better regarding customer engagement and satisfaction.

A good starting point is to send A/B test emails, targeting CX, to limited segments of your customer base. The resulting information can help you predict how these new CX assets will perform and if you need to make any adjustments before widespread release.

Use your community forum as a focus group

Community forums can be a priceless resource for understanding the customer experience. Customers often use forums to share their thoughts, including product or process pain points, feature requests and the most important or beneficial tools.

Community forums benefit businesses by providing information brands need to understand their customers better and improve the CX.

Talk to customer-facing staff

Besides the consumers themselves, no one knows customers better than the employees who interact with them daily. Customer-facing team members often have valuable information on what customers are saying about their experience with your business. The customer is always right, so collect any feedback and use it to improve and create a better CX.

Customer experience vs. customer service vs. employee experience

A design showing the difference between customer experience, customer service and employee experience.

In the world of consumer interaction, there are three important terms to be aware of: customer experience, customer service and employee experience.

Customer experience, as we’ve learned, is every interaction between a customer and a business. This can refer to interpersonal interactions, like when consumers reach out to support teams, or impersonal interactions, like when consumers see an ad or a social media post from a business. Think of CX as a broad, all-encompassing term for all customer interactions.

Customer service is a subset of CX and refers to the support that businesses provide to customers when they have questions or concerns. Businesses must offer high-quality customer service, especially after delivering an ineffective customer experience. Good customer service is vital to a company’s CX and can be influential in building lasting, positive relationships.

Employee experience (EX) entails every interaction between employees and organisations, from recruitment to resignation. Here’s another way to think about it: While CX focuses on the relationship between businesses and customers, EX focuses on the relationship between businesses and employees. Companies prioritising EX will see more engaged staff and positive employee experience journeys.

What is customer experience management (CXM)?

Customer experience management (CXM) is the process of measuring, analysing and improving the experience you provide customers. CXM looks at the entire customer journey to determine customer pain points and how to resolve them. A few key components of CXM include:

  • Customer understanding: With CXM, organisations gather data and insights about consumers that shape the overall CX. Businesses can do this through surveys, feedback and data analysis.
  • Customer journey mapping: Businesses can use customer experience management to develop customer journey maps – visual representations of the stages a consumer goes through during their relationship with a business.
  • CX consistency and improvement: CXM is an ongoing process that requires a steady stream of consumer data to shape operations. Businesses can evolve and create consistently beneficial customer interactions with the right processes and insights.

CXM is an integral part of providing a comprehensive customer experience and businesses should use this in conjunction with other CX strategies.

Improve your CX with the Zendesk CX Trends Report

Find out what’s driving success in your industry with our personalised report.

Examples of good vs. bad customer experience

What makes a good customer experience depends on the individual consumer. That said, you can implement some basic principles to provide a good customer experience versus a bad one.

Good customer experience examples

A great customer experience makes it effortless for customers to accomplish their goals. Businesses that excel in this area know how important it is for teams to work together to create a seamless, consistent buyer experience. Customer loyalty and satisfaction are less about big ‘wow’ moments and more about businesses being dependable and making things easy for customers time after time.

Some examples of a good customer experience include:

  • Easy-to-access self-help resources: Self-help resources like FAQ pages and community forums can help customers solve their issues quickly and independently. This contributes to customer satisfaction by giving them other options to solve issues rather than calling a helpline.
  • Proactive messaging around known (and unknown) issues: Being proactive is one of the many tenets of a customer-first business or putting the customer at the centre of organisational decision-making. When businesses are proactive, issues can be resolved before they manifest into bigger problems.
  • Comprehensive customer support: Providing helpful support (and short wait times) is key to enhancing the overall customer experience. According to our CX Trends Report, 70% of customers expect anyone they interact with to have the full context of their situation. So, ensuring support agents can easily access customer information is key.
  • Personalised experiences: Our CX Trends Report also indicates that 76% of customers expect personalisation. Consumers are more receptive when website copy speaks to them (the target audience) and feel ‘seen’ when businesses send relevant product recommendations, personalised emails and more.

Two-thirds of consumers who believe a business cares about their emotional state will likely become repeat customers, according to our CX Report, so adopting an end-to-end viewpoint of CX that prioritises buyers’ needs every step of the way is crucial to creating long-lasting business relationships.

Bad customer experience examples

A poor customer experience happens when a consumer feels a business failed to meet their expectations, which can lead to plenty of dissatisfied customers.

Some examples of a bad customer experience include:

  • Lack of or incomplete self-help resources: Having incomplete self-help resources – or none at all – can be extremely damaging. According to our CX Trends Report, 4 out of 10 agents agree that when consumers can’t complete tasks on their own, they become angry. Businesses need to make it easy for customers to solve their problems.
  • Long wait times: Extended customer support wait times are a hallmark of bad customer service. Over half of all consumers feel stressed and exhausted when dealing with customer support, according to our CX Trends Report, so the longer they wait, the worse your CX will be.
  • Lack of empathy from agents: Customers often contact customer support when they feel concerned or frustrated, and customer service teams that don’t show empathy in these interactions can harm the relationship. In our CX Trends Report, 3 out of 4 consumers stated that a poor interaction with a business can ruin their day – and if a consumer’s day is ruined due to your business, your customer experience is suffering.
  • Disregarding customer feedback: Consumer feedback is one of the most valuable resources businesses can use to improve their CX. When companies ignore customer feedback, they miss out on an opportunity to improve processes based on customer wants and needs – a misstep that leads to a poor CX.

Of course, companies don’t necessarily try to deliver bad CX, but a lack of focus on several key issues can result in customer frustration. So, be mindful of the examples above to ensure your business isn’t inadvertently causing poor experiences.

How to improve your CX management in 7 steps

The good news is that you can improve CX, and it starts by putting the customer at the centre of business decision-making. Follow these seven tips to improve your customer experience strategy.

A design detailing seven ways businesses can improve the customer experience.

1. Create feedback loops

Customer feedback loops are when businesses use the feedback they get from customers to improve their products or processes. This can illuminate what’s working well and what needs improvement. Asking for feedback provides valuable insight into customer expectations and how you can better meet them. Acting on that feedback shows your customers that you value their opinions.

Additionally, businesses can create internal employee feedback loops that make it easy for agents to combine and share feedback – actions that can shine a light on any challenges in delivering great customer service. For example, there could be policies or processes that don’t suit customer needs or friction between siloed teams that slow down issue resolution.

2. Build an omnichannel experience

Customers don’t want to tell the same story to multiple support agents. Still, considering separate departments usually handle different customer interactions, it can be hard for companies to avoid this pitfall. The key is to create an omnichannel experience that meets customers where they are and provides a consistent journey.

Context about who your customer is, what they’ve told your team in the past, their shopping history and more is crucial for delivering a seamless experience across channels. Additionally, utilising customer service software with omnichannel routing enables you to direct tickets across channels to team members based on availability, capacity and ticket priority.

3. Offer self-service options

FAQ pages, community forums, helpful articles and other data-driven content can help your customers solve issues on their own rather than reaching out to a live agent. You can also use AI chatbots as a resource to provide quick answers and point customers in the right direction. Make sure your content is accurate and up to date, since an unhelpful article can create a negative experience.

4. Provide personalisation

Personalisation has emerged as a crucial aspect of a good CX. Providing curated product recommendations, sending personalised emails like birthday deals and engaging with customers through their preferred contact method are a few ways businesses can offer a tailored customer experience, ultimately making customers feel valued.

Gather context about who your buyers are – their preferences, personalities and buying habits – and use the information to help agents better customise their support and provide faster resolutions. It may be helpful to conduct user experience (UX) research on your company’s support initiatives to find ways to deliver more personalised interactions.

5. Empower customers through AI and automation

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are features that drastically enhance the customer experience. In fact, the technology is now emerging as standard practice, as 73% of consumers expect more interactions with AI, according to our CX Trends Report.

AI-powered chatbots and other forms of automated customer support can handle quick, repetitive tasks like password resets. Chatbots can transfer the customer to a human agent when they can’t resolve an issue or fully address a question. Bots can also transfer the full context of the situation, allowing the agent to seamlessly continue the conversation.

Additionally, customer experience software is another AI resource that can help create a positive CX by collecting, analysing and acting upon customer feedback efficiently.

6. Deliver proactive experiences

A top-tier customer experience anticipates customers’ needs and stays ahead of problems before they escalate – or before they even happen. Being proactive creates a unique experience that feels personal and helps build trust and customer loyalty.

For example, an e-commerce company might deploy a chatbot on its checkout page to answer any final customer questions right on the page or an internet provider may send a text to notify customers of an upcoming outage. Whenever you can anticipate and respond to future customer concerns, you’re well on your way to developing a better customer experience.

7. Use data and analytics

Data and analytics can pen a novel of consumer information, detailing customer support team efficiency, general consumer satisfaction with business interactions, consumer behaviour trends and more.

Refining your product and processes with the customer in mind starts with interpreting this data and how it relates to your business, helping you understand pain points, needs and future goals. Any collected data can be invaluable to improve the CX.

Elevate your customer experience with Zendesk

Businesses thrive and survive based on their reputations, and your success entirely depends on your ability to attract and retain loyal customers through CX. That’s why organisations that prioritise CX are the ones that stand out in the marketplace.

At Zendesk, we are experts in CX and help organisations of all sizes develop world-class customer experiences for their clientele. In fact, we're G2’s #1 customer service product for 2023. So, if you’re looking for a partner who can help you build long-term customer relationships, look no further.

Start a free trial of Zendesk today to strengthen your CX.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of NICE Satmetrix, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

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