For customer experience and UX, time for in-the-moment feedback

'Having a digital experience isn't enough; it has to be easy, seamless, and exceed customer expectations.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Every company wants to up its customer experience (CX) game, and by extension, user experience (UX) game. There's a lot of common ground between between the two, to the point where they are interchangeable -- to an extent. For more perspective on the long race among companies toward the goal of superior CX and UX, we turn to Janelle Estes, chief insights officer at UserTesting

Photo: Joe McKendrick

Q: Please provide a definition of customer experience and user experience. What should a superior CX or UX look like?

Estes: Customer experience and user experience share many of the same principles, but they aren't the same. User experience is about a particular transaction or interaction with a specific product or experience. Customer experience is made up of all interactions that a single customer has with a company.

A good example can be seen through a customer's relationship with a hotel chain. An example of a user experience includes booking a hotel stay through their website or app or perhaps even calling the hotel and booking over the phone.

The customer experience is the compilation of all interactions the customer has with the hotel chain over time, including booking, checking in, room quality, property amenities, earning rewards, interacting with staff, and the meals they may have during their stay, ongoing offers and communications from the hotel chain, and even how the bill is presented in the email inbox after they depart.

Q: How "digital" is CX and UX delivery? How much is not digital?

Estes: Digital can certainly be part of the user and customer experience delivery, but it's not a requirement. Many interactions that customers have with a company can be physical or real world -- and sometimes a combination of both.

Imagine your experience with an airline. You may book your ticket online, but during the day of travel, you speak with an agent to check your bag and show your boarding pass to the gate agent as you board. When you're on the plane, you may order a snack through the console that sits on the back of the seat in front of you, but a flight attendant delivers it to your seat. And when you land, you may receive a survey in your email inbox asking you to evaluate your experience. Throughout your experience with an airline before, during, and after your day of travel, you are moving between digital, physical, and a combination of both -- which is often referred to as "phygital."

Q: What are the issues that get in the way of delivering superior CX and UX? Are they technical, organizational?

Estes: Successful UX and CX starts at the foundation of an organization. Companies with the best user and customer experience are built focused on the customer from the ground up. They have strong executive alignment on the importance of customer experience, a clear vision, and the right technology and processes in place to deliver it.

When companies don't deliver superior CX and UX, it usually boils down to a few factors. First and foremost, there is no top-down support and buy in. Without executive commitment, companies cannot deliver consistently superior experiences. Secondly, executives may be aligned, but the right processes and technology are not in place for teams to deliver a great experience. And finally, there may be exec buy-in, a great tech stack and defined processes, but little to no governance around the adoption of CX and UX best practices. Without governance and accountability, teams aren't required to adopt customer-centric practices--and in many cases, they won't.

Q: How close is the relationship between CX and UX? Are they one in the same? (Should they be?)

Estes: The definitions of UX and CX can be polarizing; some experts believe they are the same and others believe they are different. Instead of arguing over definitions, I recommend teams think about this from the customers' perspective as they don't care about industry definitions or different teams within an organization. At the end of the day, the CX and UX teams are both driving towards the same goal -- to deliver an exceptional experience.

Q: What are the methodologies -- or mindsets -- enterprises need to adopt to deliver superior CX and UX?

Estes: As mentioned above, for superior CX and UX, enterprises are best to start with a customer vision from the outset, and ensure the entire enterprise stays laser focused on that vision to best serve customers.

The methodologies and mindsets team use fall into two buckets: Standard CX measures, such as CSAT and NPS and in-the-moment feedback. CSAT and NPS are tried-and-true metrics that most enterprises have adopted as a key way to measure the experience they provide. While they are widely adopted, these are lagging indicators as they are capturing feedback on existing experiences. Relying on this feedback alone puts the team in a reactive state; they are addressing issues as they arise and can never truly get ahead.

In-the-moment feedback consists of conversations with customers or user testing as you ideate and create experiences. By integrating customer feedback as you build an experience, you catch and address issues before they are exposed to your entire customer base. In many cases, you are able to avoid poor NPS and CSAT ratings by taking action on the feedback that is captured while the experience is being created and before it is launched.

Q: Do CX and UX require the same tools and methodologies?

Estes: CX and UX teams can certainly rely on some of the same tools and methodologies to better understand customers and deliver exceptional experiences. For example, both teams may use a survey platform. The CX team may use it for CSAT or NPS surveys, and the UX team may use it to gather more detailed feedback on a specific interaction.

While they can use the same tools and methods, these teams are typically capturing feedback at very different times in the lifecycle of a provided experience. In general, the CX team is measuring existing, live experiences via CSAT, NPS, or Customer Effort Scores, and the UX team is able to capture feedback as the experience is created and built. This type of feedback allows the team to iterate on an experience before it goes live. This results in an optimal experience at launch -- which the CX team then continually measures through NPS or another measure.

Q: How did Covid-19 change enterprises' approaches to delivering CX and UX?

Estes: Almost overnight, companies were faced with a challenge that many have never experienced. Businesses had to adapt quickly to ensure they could first survive, and then figure out how to best grow. The smart companies immediately shifted their focus to re-learning their customers and then delivering against their new needs.

Yet, even as companies deliver against these unprecedented needs, customer expectations continue to be as high as ever. This is particularly true for digital experiences, as most consumers moved primarily to digital channels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a digital experience isn't enough; it has to be easy, seamless, and exceed customer expectations. As consumer behavior continues to shift and change as we start to re-enter the world, companies have to keep tabs on their customer needs and expectations to stay relevant and deliver experiences across the right channels.

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