Customer experience is a familiar term that is present in almost every line of business, more so in the service industry. In the modern age, it has become one of the most important factors to consider when selling any product or service – one that can make or break an entire company.

In the early days, a customer’s experience was driven solely by in-store or direct interactions. When you buy at a store, coffee shop, or bakery, every interaction you receive from the moment you step into the store, the point of purchase, and exiting is considered part of the customer experience.

Today, the customer experience has evolved from in-store experiences to encompass all customer interactions, from first contact to becoming a loyal customer, across every platform available. It’s safe to say that customer experiences will continue to evolve in the coming years because new technologies and emerging forms of interactions will shape the customers’ new experiences.

So how has the customer experience evolved into what it is today, and when exactly did it begin?

Customer experience and its origins

The concept of the Customer Experience or simply CX can be traced back to the first marketing and consumer theories of the 1960s to the 1990s. It was developed from the increasing commodification of services, which gave the need to provide value through more than just price and availability to build customer loyalty and keep them coming back

Lewis “Lou” Carbone is credited as the man who coined the term “customer experience” and is widely regarded as the father of the experience movement. His 1994 Marketing Management magazine article titled “Engineering Customer Experiences” is seen as the beginning of the customer experience discipline.

As more and more businesses started to become more commoditized over the years, customer experience became the differentiating factor that made consumers choose one company over the other. A report by PwC that surveyed 15,000 consumers found that 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.

The age of information

The years between 1990-2010 became a turning point for CX. The information age created a role reversal for businesses and customers. Instead of businesses having all the power in selling their products, new technologies such as the internet gave consumers the ability to find whatever they were looking for online. It also paved the way for customers to engage in open conversations and vocalize their experiences, good or bad, through online forums and discussions.

During this time, customers could share some information with each other, but not in real-time, and it wasn’t organized enough to make real impacts on businesses. On the other hand, companies were using the internet to analyze customer feedback but weren’t leveraging it as a marketing tool to acquire customers—yet.

The age of the customer

According to two studies regarding technology management and competitive strategy that Forrester published in 2013, we’ve entered a new age of business called “The Age of the Customer.” Even business leaders, researchers, and marketers dubbed 2010 as the end of the “Age of Information” and the beginning of the “Age of the Customer.”

Since the start of the Information Age, people have digitized nearly every aspect of the human experience, translating it into different media such as data, pictures, videos, and more. The advent of this new experience age focuses on the sum of these parts in building holistic digital experiences for all customers.

Additionally, rising social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter gave consumers a way to talk to each other about their experiences with different brands. Additionally, this gave people a platform to reply to marketing messages in real-time and post their own content on a brand’s social media page, leveling the playing field as customers can now openly share their experiences for everyone else to see. Even if just one customer receives a bad experience, other people can share it until it becomes viral, which can place companies in a difficult spot simply based on one opinion.

The idea of customer experience is quickly transforming. Thanks to new developments in technology, each customer action can now be tracked, analyzed, and acted upon. Businesses need to make sure that they’re leveraging the best possible ways to deliver an enhanced customer experience from start to finish while improving ROI, building brand loyalty, and solidifying their relationship with their customers.

What makes a good customer experience?

According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 80 percent of customers feel that the experience a company provides is just as important as its product and services, and 57 percent of the same group say they’ve stopped buying from a company because other competitors provided a better experience. One thing is for sure: to deliver a positive experience, you have to know your customers better than ever before.

Creating a great customer experience for your business requires more than just good customer service. Knowing your customers, investing in longer-term relationships, and providing personalized experiences across the customer journey are all essential factors to consider. There is no single framework to follow in guaranteeing a great customer experience. Each type of business is unique, and so are customers. To create positive customer experiences, drive sales, and fuel brand loyalty, today’s businesses must find the right digital tools.

The future of customer experience

The global COVID-19 pandemic was just one of the more recent disruptions that caused a drastic shift in customer experiences. It gave way to a next-gen customer experience that needed to seamlessly connect brands and their customers by way of transitioning from physical to digital means across the customer journey. This, in turn, bolsters brands’ ability to maximize revenue while building lifelong relationships with consumers by communicating what they really care about and in a voice that resonates.

The emerging technologies of today will empower the customer experiences of tomorrow. Groundbreaking developments in technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud technology, augmented reality, voice assistants, and upcoming innovations in customer support will continue to shape the standards of customer experiences. There’s no shortage of new ways to connect with customers and the future looks bright for industries that invest in CX Transformation.

Sudhir Agarwal is the Founder and CEO of Everise. Everise’s digital experience platform called exage® combines cloud technologies with artificial intelligence to automate ordinary customer interactions and deliver personalization at scale on any channel. With exage®, the brands of the future can achieve the digital transformation they need to evolve their customer experiences and lead into the digital experience age.

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