A customer’s experience with a website begins the moment the customer visits the website. I’m sure you could make an argument for referral sources and how people arrive at the website as a function of that customer experience but that would be like saying the freeway I took to get to the most recent Childish Gambino concert was part of Donald Glover’s prescribed experience for me.
Also, I didn’t get to attend the most recent Childish Gambino concert in my area, I regret it deeply, and I wanted a find a way to pay homage to him so I included him in this response.
When does customer experience with a website begin?
A customer’s experience with a website begins the moment that customer interacts with the website. A customer’s experience with a company often begins well before that customer lands on the website. I’ll take that as the meaning of the opening clause and we’ll run from there.
What’s the biggest mistake companies make when it comes to customer experience and how can they fix it? I believe the biggest mistake companies make when it comes to CX, especially when it comes to technology companies whether well-established, mid-market, or startup and emerging by nature, is that they rely to heavily on technology solutions to business, strategy, and engagement problems. This isn’t a new problem, mind you. My favorite article on the subject is from HBR in 2002 – but the perils referenced here still apply.
Three pillars of customer experience
There are three pillars of customer experience these days:
- People (specifically, Customer Support, Customer Success, Account Management, etc)
Companies tend to lead with Technology. Which explains why we have an explosion of technology solutions focused on some aspect of the customer experience (we’ve all seen the numbers, there were 150 Marketing
Technology companies in 2011, there are over 7,000 in 2018). This proliferation is a result of companies believing that we needed a technology solution to what has been a business structure, business strategy, data management, and lack of organisational will problem. It also explains why a majority of these technologies are only partially adopted by their customers, with only a percentage of features being used (hence the rise of Customer Success and the elevation of Customer Support).
Companies think of design aesthetically, and not functionally. Look at all the washed out design you see in technology these days — as a whole we’ve spent the past 3-4 years flattening the web and making everything appealing on the eye; and what we’ve done in the meantime is make it harder to read, harder to understand what’s a priority, harder to help the user understand what they need to do.
Companies like InVision and Adobe have helped Designers get their due (which, is overdue) but the celebrity of Design, like any other celebrity, cuts both ways. I think we’ll see a trend move progressively forward as investments in these tools and these incredibly important and talented individuals accelerates; a spiral forward that uses the aesthetically pleasing to dramatically and overtly improve functional design (also a precipitate of that first point above).
Finally, companies think in terms of what they do to customers (“I support them”, “ok, well I make them successful”, “sure, but I manage them”, “got it, but I sell to them”, “ok but I market to them” and so on and so forth). All of these disciplines are ripe for a convergence. Organizations are able to operate in this way because of this glut of technologies but as those technologies consolidate so tool will these roles (it’s coming, consolidation is inevitable especially with all the inefficiency we have in the space, where tools are, again, often not being used to their potential, even to a reasonable potential).
What will emerge is an acknowledgement that customers are smarter than ever and don’t want to be sold to, they want to be helped, they want to be educated. All of the roles that we fragment across (support, success, sales, marketing, management) will converge into education-focused roles dedicated to serving the customers.
CX is the new frontier and will be for a few years still, until machine learning and artificial intelligence find greater mass application at which point, we’ll have a new frontier upon which to build. Until then, companies get a lot wrong about CX. Mostly because they talk about how important CX is but rarely, if ever, invest in it or invest in it appropriately.
If you want to differentiate yourself from your peers, downplay technology solutions to business/organisational problems, focus design on being functionally helpful not receiving dribbble accolades, and start investing in bringing your frontline customer-facing people together against one priority — being helpful to the customer in the way the customer desires.