Understanding customer experience in the service industry – by Ambar Kakkar

What really drives a customer’s purchase behavior and this emotion is influenced by the interaction or the experience the customer has with a brand

By Ambar Kakkar, product strategy & customer experience analyst at Accenture Interactive*

What is Customer Experience?

Customer experience (CX) is a customer’s perception of their rational, physical, emotional, subconscious and psychological interaction with any part of the organization. This perception affects customer behavior and builds memories, which in turn drives customer loyalty and affects the economic value an organization generates.

Customer Experience Today

In a world where customers are overwhelmed by having to choose a brand or product from the seemingly infinite amount of choices present, experiences are proving to be the key differentiator driving purchase behavior. According to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman, emotion is what really drives a customer’s purchase behavior and this emotion is influenced by the interaction or the experience the customer has with a brand.

Perhaps due to the key role experiences are playing in helping customers make a purchase decision, 67% of customers say that their standard of good brand experiences is higher than it has ever been. Additionally, 66% of customers say that they are willing to pay more for great experiences.

Businesses have identified the importance of a memorable experience, yet, although 80% of businesses believe they deliver “super experiences,” only 8% of customers agree. So why does this gap between business perception and customer reality exist?

Brands often limit customer experience as being the experience that a customer has while purchasing a product. Yet, it is so critical that a customer feels the same way about a brand irrespective of the manner in which they are interacting with it.

For example, let us assume a customer has a great experience in the store while purchasing a product. The salesperson is polite and nice. The checkout line is short and the process is quick. The customer pays through Apple Pay and leaves happy and satisfied. Now, 2 weeks after purchasing the product, the customer has an issue and calls customer service. The IVR options are unclear to the customer. The waiting time is very long. The customer finally interacts with an agent, however, the agent cannot understand the problem and the customer is transferred to someone else… You can imagine how it goes. In a matter of one additional interaction, the customer’s perception of the brand has changed dramatically. It is highly likely that the customer will ask themselves twice before purchasing anything from the brand again. In fact, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for 1 negative experience.

What should brands in the Service Industry focus on to improve CX?

CX in the service industry is driven by many critical factors. Below, I have listed and briefly explained the factors I believe have the highest impact upon CX in this industry.

1. Ensure a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints

Based on the above example, it is critical that a customer receives the same experience if they are buying a product or speaking to a customer service representative. If a customer believes that a company is only focused on the sale and nothing else, it will leave the customer with the perception that the brand only cares about money and this perception can lead to a drop in brand trust.

2. Personalize the experience

Personalization is a buzz word that is often thrown around. However, very few companies actually personalize the customer’s experience. Personalization does not mean simply addressing a customer by their first name in an email. Personalization means understanding the customer’s behavior and actions based on their historical interaction with the brand and presenting them with a product/solution that is tailored to their choices.

3. Save the customer time and effort

According to a paper in the National Academies of Sciences Journal, working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase[7]. Due to the effect of “time-scarcity” customers are looking for purchases that save them time. And what goes into making a purchase? An experience. Provide an experience that is intuitive and optimizes the number of steps in the purchase, and you’ve given back the customer their time. An asset they are unlikely to forget.

4. Be proactive

As a brand if you know that you have made a mistake with a customer’s order/service, try and fix it before they realize that you have made the mistake. Letting customers know that you went and fixed their problem, before they even noticed it, helps in building trust and loyalty, which eventually, improves the bottom line.

5. Guide the customer

Customers do not want to spend time trying to figure how to purchase a product online. They do not want to put in the extra effort trying to understand the IVR options. Instead, they want their interaction to be pointed in the right direction. Brands need to be able to create experiences whereby the customer is guided through an interaction though either subtle or explicit signals.

6. Ensure consistent information across all touchpoints

Brands need to ensure cognitive consistency – providing customers with information that is consistent with the company’s other touchpoints. When information is consistent, it avoids confusion and customers are more likely to complete the purchase funnel[8]. Additionally, consistency of information across touchpoints is reassuring to the customer and develops trust in the brand.

7. Keep the customer informed

Customers often get frustrated when they have an interaction with the brand, but are not informed about the status of the next steps. For example, if a customer raises a complaint with the brand but is not informed about its status – measures being taken to solve the complaint – they are likely to be annoyed further and perceive the brand as an organization that does not care about its customers’ problems.

8. Collect data and analyze it

The maturity of customer experience within an organization is often determined by the data management capabilities of the organization. Data has become the new buzz word amongst professionals in the industry. However, even though organizations collect a large volume of data, very few collect it in a way that is understandable and can be analyzed for the benefit of the organization. Organizations that collect and analyze data in the correct mechanism can quickly identify and address the root cause of gaps in the customer experience. In effect, they can solve problems faster than their competition and contribute to making customers happier and more loyal.

By focusing on developing these capabilities, organizations can increase the overall satisfaction customers have when interacting with the brand. Higher satisfaction contributes to higher loyalty, more purchases and a better profit for the brand.


*These views are solely mine and do not represent the company I work for.