Customer experience or customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction or customer experience - person giving a thumbs up

This week I had three separate experiences with three different companies that all provided poor customer experience. I trust that you have similar experiences weekly as well.

The whole idea around customer experience is to maintain an ongoing deliberate effort to keeping customers pleased with the service they have received so that continuous improvement is something that exists as a real process. Customer satisfaction (CSAT), on the other hand, has a similar intent but has become relegated to binary measures such as surveys that produce a number (e.g. 95%) and often miss the closed loop requirement of getting under the skin of the survey.

Two of the three experiences I had were related to the company employee not knowing the answers to questions about their product even though they were the person responsible to interact with customers and serve them. Not only did they not know simple answers to questions I had about their product, they kept repeating the same wrong answer and ignored any attempt on my part to keep clarifying my initial question. The third experience was related to a global financial services firm that changed my account password at the request of an employee in my firm who was simply trying to get their access to accounts reinstated for the purpose of reviewing. In all three of these experiences I would provide a fairly low customer satisfaction rating if I were asked. That said, I have used the services of all three of these companies for years and have been fairly pleased. The question then is how does recent customer experience rate as opposed to overall customer satisfaction?
One answer to this question is to recognize that customer satisfaction is captured as a point in time measure that relates to a range of time over which a product or service was procured while customer experience is a real time measure relating to the most recent touch point of a customer with your product or service. While CSAT is important for capturing the high level view of “how we are doing”, customer experience provides us with an opportunity to improve in a rapid fashion.

Perhaps this is better explained in the difference between email and instant messaging. Email is a communication while IM is really a conversation. Many of us have used email for both up until the recent explosion of IM platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, texting, etc. These IM platforms have changed the way we talk to each other but have also become increasingly important for companies and their customers to share instant feedback. When a colleague of mine had a poor purchasing experience with a technology vendor, he tweeted about it on that company’s twitter account and got contacted within a day and was offered a satisfactory resolution. This is customer experience in action because the experience of the customer was dealt with in a real time manner vs. this same customer being sent a survey weeks after the purchase. Even if my colleague completed the survey, rated the company poorly and submitted it, chances are when the company processed all the surveys they received back their rating would still be high and this one customer experience would have been lost in the bunch.

In the enterprise space where large companies are providing services to customers via technology platforms the same holds true. The product development lifecycle (PDLC) takes many steps into consideration from the beginning of an idea through it’s production into a working product or service. The customer experience component needs to be at the heart of the PDLC of any product or service. This goes beyond just including various customer audiences to be part of the review process, it also needs to encompass a mechanism for how customers who use the product/service will interact with the company to resolve matters, improve service and build a better experience as close to real time as possible.

An emphasis on customer experience can bring a level of transparency and accountability that forces a decision, embeds a sense of urgency and causes companies to respond and resolve matters instead of burying the bad ones under the rug or letting them get lost in the survey frenzy of traditional CSAT models.

The continued used of technology platforms like IM will help improve customer experience if it is used correctly and is one mechanism for doing this but more importantly, companies need to remove the obstacles and the noise that prevent them from maintaining the heartbeat of their customers.

Customer experience is a conversation and the connection of voice and touch.