Do you know where your customer experience starts and stops?

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Colin Shaw

CX expert and blogger Colin Shaw says that the experience your customers have starts long before the initial direct interaction, so how do you optimise the journey from that very first moment?

Customer experience is a process customers go through during their interaction with your company. It begins long before any direct contact has taken place and finishes long after it has ended.

If someone is looking to book a hotel, for example, they may first seek recommendations from their friends or through online reviews, before choosing which service provider to use. When they arrive at the hotel's website, part of their subconscious judgement will automatically be formed by its quality and design.

Every step they encounter between the time they decide to go on vacation until after their return will be part of a complete and cohesive experience.

Part of the problem organisations face, is believing their processes are their customer experience when they are in fact two separate things. For example, a hotel may think a customer experience begins when a guest first enters the lobby when it actually began when they first considered taking a holiday. This limited definition can prevent businesses from securing repeat clients, as they are only focussed on one small component of an overall experience.

SEE ALSO: How travel and hospitality companies can thrive through CX

So, where does the customer experience begin?

One way to think about customer experiences is a series of moments. An experience begins when a potential client considers interacting with a company, not once a direct interaction has begun. In the case of a booking a holiday, it may start when they instinctively look online to research special deals, customer reviews or relevant websites.

To attract potential clients towards your company, it's important to implement a smooth transition process to guide them through each individual step. In the case of a hotel, highlight on site resources and local amenities to allow them to make an informed choice. By creating a cohesive customer experience from the beginning, the stage will be set for more confident and optimistic interactions in the future.

Enhance the direct customer experience with extra services

Once a customer has arrived at their destination, you would hope the company would go out of its way to court their business and win a positive review. This is one area where companies have a great degree of control over how they're perceived.

To differentiate themselves, organisations are extending where their experience traditionally starts and stops. For example, grocery store rental car companies such as Enterprise are now offering to collect people from their homes and bring them to stores. In doing so, they have successfully extended their customer experience and given themselves an advantage over their competitors.

These services not only provide extra value, but they also add an element of caring and convenience that shows how much the company ‘gets it’, benefiting both them and the customer.

These extensions form pivotal moments of your customer experience. If the complimentary grocery store service is to take the bags to a person’s car and this is undertaken by a caring and friendly associate, this is likely to be seen as great service and may be the highlight of a store visit.

This makes it essential to map out the customer experience from beginning to end. Knowing exactly what the company provides, and documenting exactly what is expected of them, will allow things to run as smoothly as possible.

This preparation can also allow you to accommodate for errors and unforeseen circumstances. What if the rental car agent can't find the customer's home and ends up being late? What if a shuttle is down for maintenance or is running behind schedule? Things like this are bound to happen, and companies that plan accordingly will be able to handle these situations without sacrificing a customer, or their overall positive experience, in the process.

Use a moment mapping tool to plot the perfect customer experience

For the best results with new and existing customers, it may be beneficial for companies to utilise a service such as Moment Mapping. Services such as these are designed to help create a robust and emotionally engaging customer experience from start to finish. By using an abundance of complimentary services, friendly faces, and other devices that can create positive memories and associations, you are increasing the likelihood of them telling others about their experiences and subsequently expanding your client base.

Understanding where your customer experience starts and stops is essential to the success of your business. By considering the entire process, you can increase the quality of your customer experience and successfully expand your client base.