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Glossary Index

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Glossary Index

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Glossary term

Customer experience

Quick definition

Customer experience is the holistic experience of a customer with a brand, including every interaction, whether in person or online.

Key takeaways


●     Because customer experience is just a general term for how customers interact with a brand, it’s important to actively manage your company’s customer experience to ensure customer satisfaction.

●     Key metrics to measure great customer experience include revenue, growth, customer retention, and lifetime value.

●     The key to successful customer experience is personalization and showing your customers that you know them by marketing to them correctly.

●     A negative customer experience can permanently sever a customer’s bond with your brand, but you can learn from the negatives to improve for other customers..

Jeremy Wold has been a group product manager for Adobe Experience Cloud for almost 6 years. His team manages customer experience strategy for Adobe Experience Cloud, which includes CMS enhancements, web experience strategy, cross-channel demand engine, content, optimization, and personalization. Jeremy has 15 years of marketing experience, 6 of those years spent with Adobe. His passion is building and managing effective marketing programs and digital products tailored to fit user needs.

Q: What is customer experience (CX)?

A: As a more general definition, customer experience is the holistic experience of a customer with a brand. This includes anything from the first interaction through the entire relationship with that brand, whether these are in-person interactions, online interactions, or a mixture. But it’s important to remember that the term customer doesn’t necessarily mean an individual person. It can mean that at times, but a customer could also mean an entire company, like in the case of B2B.

Q: How have customer experience expectations changed over time?

A: The biggest shift that we have seen in customer experience has to do with personalized customer experiences. Things like personalized offers, or something like the “You may also like” feature on e-commerce websites used to be a pleasant surprise. Even things like ads used to be non-personal, as companies didn’t have the technology to collect that type of data. Now, with the emergence of amazing data platforms and capabilities like those Adobe offers, deeper types of personalization are expected at the customer level. Good customer experience isn’t just about making the customer happy, it’s about making the customer feel like companies actually know what they want on an individual level.

Q: What is the difference between customer experience and customer service?

A: If CX is the holistic customer journey with a brand, then customer service is a touchpoint in that journey. Customer service is part of customer experience because it is another type of interaction that customers can have with a brand.

Just like good customer experience, good customer service should make the customer feel understood on an individual level. If the customer support side of a company doesn’t know about a customer’s previous experience with the brand, that personal experience is lost. In fact, bad customer service can damage your CX, even though it’s just one touchpoint of many.

Q: What is customer experience management (CXM)?

A: CXM is how you ensure good customer experience. It means actively managing your CX and adjusting accordingly when needed. Without active customer experience management, CX would only mean the progression of customer interactions with a brand. But if your company strategizes your CX, and plans the specific touchpoints within a customer journey, you’re more likely to optimize your customer experience, because you’re planning it that way.

Q: How do you start managing your customer experience?

A: For a company that is just starting, but wants to ensure good CX, a good first step would be to establish all touchpoints of your company’s own customer experience. What will the entire journey look like, step by step? What are your customers' expectations? Examine those key touchpoints, and then determine what data you can draw from them. These data can come from a variety of sources, like from customer relationship management (CRM), sales data in an in-person store, online data, or even monitoring customer behavior. From the data you gather, you can connect the dots to create key customer profiles. Those customer profiles will help you truly optimize your customer experience, ensuring brand loyalty.

Q: How do you know that you're providing positive customer experience?

A: Measuring successful customer experience varies with each company. For example, some common key performance indicators (KPIs) for an e-commerce company could be sales or revenue per person. But for a different type of business, such as a B2B agency, KPIs will be different. Some common ones are revenue, growth, customer retention, and lifetime value. Depending on your type of business, you will choose which ones make the most sense for your particular customer journey.

Besides KPIs, there are a few more ways to know you’re on the right track with customer experience, and those are through your content, channels, and use of AI technology. Content produced for your customers should be relevant and timely, and should promote trust in your brand. Cross-channel capabilities — or being able to market across several different channels — are a must, especially in-person and online. These are two huge touchpoints that should both be optimized. Finally, try to use AI capabilities as much as possible to make sure you’re gathering the right data and that you’re using it correctly.

Q: What’s the difference between customer experience and user experience (UX)?

A: While CX refers to all interactions and experiences that a customer has with a company, UX refers only to online interactions, like on websites and apps, and how to remove friction — or frustration — from those interactions. Removing friction is a big key for user experience, but ensuring a smooth interaction with online content doesn’t focus on the entire customer journey. This is where customer experience differs from user experience, because customer experience focuses on the holistic customer journey with a brand.

Q: Does an organization require a data analyst to optimize customer experience?

A: The need for a data analyst depends on how sophisticated an organization is. For smaller organizations, CX and CXM are more an evolution of marketers and IT. For larger organizations, more and more roles for customer experience management, like chief marketing officers and chief digital officers, are emerging as CX and CXM evolve.

Q: Besides using data behind the scenes, how else can organizations have superior customer experiences?

A: Companies can directly address customers' needs while they are interacting with a brand. For example, let’s say a person books a room at a hotel. The hotel could use location data from their mobile app to recognize when their customer is inside of the hotel, pinging a notification with a virtual room key to their phone. The customer is pleased that they can walk right into their room without even having to check in at the front desk. Connecting with a customer in real time makes the customer feel like that brand knows who they are. And more seamless, positive customer interactions like this help the customer trust your brand and keep coming back for more personalized interactions.

Q: Is there a way for a company to redeem for negative customer experiences?

A: Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect way to answer this question. From a sales point of view, if you have very poor overall customer experience because you’re not connecting the dots to get to that personalization — or, even worse, you’re encouraging things that the customer has expressed that they aren’t interested in — then you most likely won’t get a sale from them. But you could also cause a bad experience after they’ve bought something, which could prevent them from returning and make them question their advocacy for you. If you don’t aim to optimize customer experience both before a sale is made and even after, you can lose that customer permanently.

If you do lose a customer, most likely, you won’t be able to get that customer back. Perceptions do linger, so a negative experience with your company can color that customer’s entire perspective on your brand’s integrity. The best thing to do when this happens is to capitalize on the negative experiences to figure out what’s not working — and focus on the positive experiences to figure out what is.

Q: How will customer experience continue to evolve?

A: Most likely, customer experience expectations, especially for the speed of experience delivery, will become higher and higher, which means companies will deliver faster to ensure customer loyalty. For instance, at Adobe, connecting to data for Adobe Creative Cloud has gone from taking 72 hours to only taking 14 seconds. Connecting disparate platforms — or potentially disparate platforms — at a very fast rate is challenging. But getting quicker and quicker at understanding your customers will only benefit your company.

Some companies have started to push the envelope between in-person interactions and online interactions. It’s become a goal to blur the line between these two types of experiences, solidifying them as one smooth interaction. Most likely, limits will be pushed further in many different ways that have yet to be discovered.

Adobe can help

Put this knowledge into action with Adobe Experience Cloud.