We are in the age of the customer. Customer experience and customer experience management are hot topics for this very reason. There has been a major power shift: the customer is now directing brands, as consumer expectations reach an all-time high.
There are a multitude of channels through which brands can interact with customers but it is only brands that find a way to really engage the customer that will create the ultimate customer experience.
Managing the customer experience is a good deal more complex than brands might at first realize but let's first remove the customer from the picture and look at what constitutes an experience.
There is evidence to suggest that it is our memories of experiences that matter. Behavioral Economics pioneer and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman believes that we have two selves, the experiencing self and the remembering self, and it is the remembering self that governs our lives.
To illustrate the difference between these two concepts, Kahneman provides an anecdote about a friend who listened to a symphony. The man had listened to many minutes of what he described as 'glorious music' and then, as the music came to an end, there was a screeching sound. As Kahneman explains, this ruined the whole experience for him.
Now this isn't something of an uncommon idea. How many of us have experienced something that we have taken great pleasure in only to find that an event or isolated experience overshadows what had happened previously?
As Kahneman explains in the talk: 'It hadn't ruined the experience. What it had done is ruined the memory of the experience. He'd had the experience. He'd had 20 minutes of glorious music but they counted for nothing because he was left with a memory: the memory was ruined and the memory was all he had to keep.'
This is a very powerful insight when we are thinking about the idea of customer experience. Managing individual experiences is therefore not enough: managing experiences through time is what matters.
Think about the customer journey in relation to the symphony. A customer could spend many minutes happily engaging with a brand through a variety of touchpoints, each experience taking him/her closer to their end goal. However, as happened for the man listening to the symphony, all it takes is one negative experience to damage the memory of the entire experience, which ultimately leads to a disengaged customer.
So, what difference can an engaged customer actually make to your business?
Engaging the customer will serve to increase customer retention. It is vital to create engaged customers who will refer, remain loyal to your brand and, as a result, spend more - leading to revenue growth and a healthier business.
The reality is, it is not enough to manage each individual experience. A holistic view of the entire customer journey is now vital. Aligning the customer's needs with the overall business strategy at every point of interaction and delivering a relevant and personal experience throughout the entire journey should lie at the heart of what your company does.
This will not only lead to a positive customer experience but also the memory of a positive customer experience, building engagement.