TechnologiesInformation ManagementCustomer Experience

Customer experience vs. customer engagement

What matters most?

Imagine you have an annual budget of $50,000. Do you spend it all on customer experience or customer engagement?

The question is difficult because the two overlap and seem very much alike.

Let’s start by thinking through the definitions. Customer experience is the customer point of view. It is their perception and relationship with the company or brand based on the sum total of all their interactions. Customer engagement is the company or brand’s perspective. It’s all the communication and interactions the company creates to connect with customers, influence the journeys, drive more sales, increase customer participation and loyalty.

Achieving excellent customer experience is difficult. With all our marketing prowess and customer data, we assume that we know what a customer thinks or feels about our company or products. But the customer always has the final say. It’s their experience. Think of all the interactions, information and variables marketers try to control throughout the customer’s lifecycle. As relationships go, it’s complicated.

Here’s my personal customer experience example. A trillion dollar company named after a popular red fruit has a stellar reputation in customer experience. When my daughter lost her device, we expected to simply replace it since we paid extra for loss and theft insurance. Not so simple. You had to have the ID and password used on the device and, of course, she couldn’t remember her password. So, we had to start the password recovery process. Due to their policies, we couldn’t get a password reset until after a 10-day wait period. Even after 10 days, we had to spend hours with chatbots, agents, etc. until we finally got the reset. The company’s partner insurance carrier had a clause buried in the fine print with a 30-day claim window. Of course, we missed the window, and our claim was denied. After many more calls, I discovered there was no appeals process other than writing a letter to the corporate office.

My personal perception and relationship with the company is certainly tarnished. At several points it could have been better—they could have empowered and trusted their front-line people to resolve the situation and they could have allowed transparency and maybe some leeway with the contract (perhaps a 45- or 60-day window).

A company can do a stellar job at customer experience, but it only takes one misstep and it all comes crashing down. And it is often not just one customer affected by these little missteps. A poor policy, broken process or training lapse will affect every person it touches. And a fail in customer experience also impacts customer engagement. Every subsequent interaction to connect with that customer is now much more difficult.

So what do we do with the $50,000 in our thought experiment of experience vs. engagement? Clearly, the budget would be better spent improving customer experience. While we can successfully engage and attract customers with some clever, well-done marketing and help our marketing reports look great, that doesn’t mean we have a happy, successful customer. When we continuously connect with customers in relevant and meaningful interactions, we can’t help but build stronger relationships with them. We know how to market, and there are tons of resources, people, applications and vendors willing and able to help. But it is not just about marketing. Every organization interacts with prospects and customers at multiple levels in every department, touching and influencing a customer’s experience. Companies should strive for congruence with holistic customer experiences that are under their control – the people, policies and processes that drive profit also impact customer experience and the overarching goal is found in relevant and authentic ways to influence a relationship that both parties will value.

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John Price

John is a product marketing manager primarily focused on Customer Experience Solutions. In today's consumer and customer oriented culture, organizations and brands with relevant, strategic and on-message communications and marketing content win the day. Clearing the path for your customer's journey leads to greater success and rewards.

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