By Matthew Klein

June 18th, 2015

Last week’s Social Shake-Up had social leaders from some of the world’s top brands exploring strategic issues that are critical to their companies’ success. One of the most prominent concerns right now is customer experience. Dan Gingiss of Discover ran an incredibly insightful panel on the topic called “How social media impacts customer experience (and vice versa!)”

While more and more people are talking about customer experience, not everyone stops to say what it is, precisely. Mr. Gingiss, however, laid it out clearly. Customer experience is the result of all of a customer’s interactions with your brand. Crucially, it’s that person’s perception of those interactions, not the idealized version of them that might exist in the minds of brand managers.

And, similarly to how we form impressions of people, our perception of our experience with a company is not based on a rational, point by point analysis of all its component parts. Much of it is based on how it make us feel.

CX is holistic

The experience is the sum of its parts. When a customer walks into a store, what music is playing (and how loud), how clean is it, and how do people to talk to her? Are the products the customer is looking for available, and how long does it take to pay?

On a website, things like the colors you use, the ease of navigation, the tone of voice the copy is written in, really every detail can contribute to user experience.

And just why is customer experience becoming more and more of a concern? Because the companies that do CX well perform better than others by a very large margin. Gingiss cited Forrester, who rated companies on their Customer Experience. Those that they considered customer experience leaders had a higher stock price, higher profits, and a higher recommendation index.

Bain & Company also analyzed the impact of CX on companies’ bottom lines, with compelling results:

"Bain & Company analysis shows that companies that excel in the customer experience grow revenues 4%–8% above their market. That’s because a superior experience helps to earn stronger loyalty among customers, turning them into promoters who tend to buy more, stay longer and make recommendations to their friends. As a result, promoters have a lifetime value that can reach 6 to 14 times that of detractors, depending on the industry."

Social’s role

As customer experience encompasses all consumer touchpoints, social customer experience involves all aspects of your social presence. Social media customer service, for the brands that do it, plays a huge role, since customer service has a disproportionate effect on people’s perceptions of your brand. Social media content and social ads also contribute to the social customer experience.

So what makes for a good experience in terms of social customer service?

The fundamental element of a customer service experience, on or off social, is receiving a response and ultimately the resolution of an issue. Companies need to have a way to pick up on all the customer service inquiries on any channel, and they need to be able to address them all in a timely manner.

Expectations are everything

Gingiss made a great point that applies to most every experience. In large part, experiences are a question of expectations. If you’re expecting the world’s greatest meteor shower, and see a measly 3 meteors? Disappointing experience! But if you’re aimlessly looking up at night, and you see three whole shooting stars, that’s a memorable meteor experience.

So, when responding to queries, work on setting expectations, then meeting or exceeding them. KLM does this super well by displaying the amount of time it takes them to respond to CS queries on the cover image of their Twitter page.

People perceive unknown wait times as 50% longer than they actually are (those signs displaying wait times for public transportation do a huge amount to improve people’s satisfaction). So anything you can do to inform people’s expectations—if not KLM’s live response time updating, letting them know if responses will take longer than normal—will significantly improve your customer’s experience. Facebook very recently rolled out the possibility of showing a response rate and a badge for responsiveness on your Facebook page, which could be big for brands that are doing social CS well.

In terms of interactions, a positive experience can take many forms. Interacting with helpful, friendly, real people will probably result in a good experience. There are few things as frustrating, or as liable to tank a customer’s experience in a matter of seconds, as interacting with someone who doesn’t listen, who doesn’t know enough or isn’t empowered enough to help resolve an issue. An agent who asks you to change to another support channel without a very good reason also makes for a poor experience.


KLM’s Twitter page with always-up-to-date response time


The content component

Content is a key part of consumers’ interactions with many brands, and can play a big role in their experience of them. How does consuming your content make your audience feel? Does it make them laugh, move them emotionally, or appeal to their identity? How does it square with what they want to see from your brand? If they’ve become used to original, beautifully filmed video content, a tossed-off stock photo post with a lame joke might disappoint them and lead to a bad overall experience.

Likewise, clickbait is no recipe for a good experience. You may get more people to click through to your content from Twitter by overpromising with your headline, but when they get there and are underwhelmed by the actual content, that’s a negative experience with your brand.

And content and customer experience works the other way too—great offline social media experiences translate to positive user generated content and general buzz on social.

Go beyond social

Customer experience is only as strong as your company’s weakest touchpoint, so improving the social customer experience will not mean a better overall perception of your brand unless the rest of the experience matches. Those who do get it right across all channels will see CX become a major driver of success. It’s easier said than done, but creating a culture that focuses intently on customer needs in terms of product, experience design, service and social leads to much greater satisfaction and stronger results.

Header image credit: Flickr user Atomic Taco

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