Smiling person depicting a positive Customer Experience

My initial plan was to write a blog about emerging marketing trends to pay attention to in 2023. I read articles and case studies, combed through survey results, and skimmed enough “Top Ten” lists to last me a lifetime (or until the next blog). While we can expect further advancements in AI and marketing tech, a surprisingly simple theme emerged from all this content:

The experience people have with your company is the most important thing.

And by people, we’re referring to two main groups at the heart of this experience: employees and customers. The first directly impacts the second. Not only should your employee and customer experiences be at the forefront of your marketing strategy, but they are, in themselves, your strategy. Experience trumps all. Arguably, it’s more important than anything else.

 

Experience is the new luxury

A collection of little moments make up the experience that your employees and customers have and while they differ, they run parallel to one another. From an external perspective, your customer’s experience starts when they learn about you from word-of-mouth or a Google search. Interacting with the bot on your FAQ page or having a conversation with an employee are small but critical moments and opportunities to influence the Customer Experience. The same can be said about moments that form the employee life cycle. From the moment they learn about your company and apply for a job, their experience begins.

Your employees’ interactions with your customers play an important role in the Customer Experience. How your employees interact (with customers and one another) depends on their experience. Employees that have a positive experience with their company are usually going to provide a positive experience for customers.

It’s impossible to talk about one experience without the other as they are intrinsically tied. Let’s start by breaking down the definition of Customer Experience.

 

What is Customer Experience?

Wikipedia defines Customer Experience as:

“The totality of cognitive, affective, sensory, and behavioural consumer responses during all stages of the consumption process including pre-purchase, consumption, and post-purchase stages.”

This definition tells us that there is no single proven ‘thing’ that is the Customer Experience. It’s the sum of all the parts. Nearly 80% of consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive Customer Experience, whereas elements such as charitability, automation, fun and design aren’t as important.

Two of the four most important elements of a positive Customer Experience depend entirely on the living, breathing people in a company. Enter the Employee Experience.

 

Excellent Customer Experience starts with a superior Employee Experience

Employee Experience can be defined as: 

“The set of psychocognitive sentiments about the experiential benefits of employment.”

Simply put, the Employee Experience has to do with how your employees feel about your company, its culture, and their role within it.

Why is the Employee Experience critical to the Customer Experience?

  1. Employees are the driving force behind a good (or bad) customer experience.
  2. Human interaction is not a lost art. Despite the rise of automation and marketing tech, customers still want to interact with real people, not bots.
  3. Nearly 60% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of Customer Experience.

 

Empower your employees to create a powerful Customer Experience 

It’s time for a real-world example. 

Every single employee at the Ritz-Carlton is empowered to “right” a situation for a customer, to the tune of up to $2,000 per incident. By removing the barrier of having to “call a manager”, employees at all levels can positively impact the customer experience on the spot. 

The luxury hotel chain ends up spending far less than $2,000 per incident. However, the goodwill it creates among employees knowing they are trusted with an amount that large is invaluable.  

 

Why is Customer Experience important? 

Consumers have come to expect an experience, one that makes them feel something. An experience that offers connection or community. An experience that feels like it was created just for them (did someone say customer segmentation and personalization?).  

Expectations are high, arguably even higher post-pandemic, and simply having the best product or service at the best price isn’t going to cut it anymore. Customers want to be included more. They want opportunities to provide feedback and offer suggestions. They want their feedback to be taken seriously. They want to talk and have the company actually listen. How can you include the customer more in the Customer Experience? 

In 2023, companies can’t afford to have a reputation for bad Customer Experience. Consumers have more choices than ever before. Loyalty is still something to strive for but it’s important to know that customer loyalty is more fragile than ever, likely because of the plethora of choices available at people’s fingertips. In fact, according to the PwC Customer Loyalty Survey 2022, more than half (55%) of respondents said they would stop buying from a preferred company after several bad experiences. And 32% say they will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.  

 

Connecting the Employee Experience to the Customer Experience 

So how can businesses incorporate an experience-first marketing strategy in 2023? Industry experts highlight the need for innovation and equipping employees with technology and the information they need to best serve consumers.  

While I can appreciate the benefits that the latest tech could bring employees, I truly believe that any company – big or small – can create an Employee Experience worth raving about without having to upgrade tech or shell out a bunch of cash. That could entail boosting relevant training for employees or a streamlined application and onboarding process. Maybe that becomes mental health support and a flexible work schedule. Small actions will have big impact here.  

At the end of the day, when a company can focus on fostering a culture of empowerment, your employees, by default will contribute to the creation of a positive Customer Experience in ways you couldn’t imagine.

“Take your protein pills and put your helmet on…” David Bowie // Space Oddity

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