Customer Experience: What It Is and Is Not


by Roy Atkinson
August 2, 2017

Customer experience isn’t something that happens in isolation. It is part of a continuum that includes the applications, the equipment, and all the services we provide to our customers and end users.SupportWorld 2013

The customer experience—the sum total of customer and user reactions to all the touchpoints with an organization over time—can be scrutinized, analyzed, and strategized about, but ultimately, it belongs to the customer. (And here we use the word customer in the broadest sense; it includes people often known as end users in technical support circles.)

The customer experience, ultimately, belongs to the customer.
Tweet: The customer experience, ultimately, belongs to the customer. @HDI_Analyst @ThinkHDI #custserv

Don’t Confuse Customer Experience with Customer Experience Design

Design is an integral part of how your organization can make the customer experience better, but it is not customer experience. Usability, navigation, eye appeal, button or link placement—all of these things play into the way your customers will perceive your applications and your web pages, whether they be external or internal. But there is more at play.

Making a better design—and then incrementally improving that design—involves change. If you work in an organization whose culture happens to be change-averse, you may produce as many negative reactions as positive ones, for example.

In day-to-day interactions, the elements an organization designs can backfire. Say, for example, that your design includes always having an outgoing announcement on your telephone system alerting people that you are aware of and are working to resolve an outage. Having an outgoing announcement on your telephone channel regarding that particular outage may simply annoy those not affected. The message reminding people about your self-help site may create friction with those who have just visited the site, only to come up empty handed.

In order to design better experiences, you need to understand how, where, when, and why customers are using your systems.

Don’t Confuse Customer Experience with Customer Experience Management

In order to understand the interactions between a customer and the organization, you must have processes—and usually technology—to track those interactions over time and to make continual improvements to those interactions. This is the place for customer experience management.

In this post, Julie Mohr shows how customer experience management can be seen from the perspective of ITIL®.

Technology can enable better results. Being able to track customers across your site, make heat maps for individual pages, understand where and when they left the site—or abandoned the call or chat session—and then using analytics to discover usage patterns can help you make decisions about what changes you can make to reduce the friction customers are feeling when they interact with you.

Even the simplest of tools, like customer journey maps, can be of great assistance in finding pain or friction points and illuminating opportunities for improvement.

Customer Experience Doesn’t Take Care of Itself

Consider one change in customer experience that could have a business impact: the dreaded password reset, which is repetitive and costly if not automated. (Read this post to get an idea of the financial toll in a large organization.) Some customer experience options might be:

  • Allow passphrases that customers would be better able to remember
  • Require that all applications be compatible with one password or identity tool to eliminate multiple passwords
  • Put a password reset button front and center on your intranet page
  • Eliminate passwords entirely and move to biometric ID systems

Would one of these changes delight your customers, or would they be leery of using fingerprints or retinal scans? Would the complete elimination of resetting passwords reduce overhead and improve the general functioning of your organization and make your customers happier?

Improving the Customer Experience Is Not a Project

Projects have end dates, and, like service management in general, customer experience is an ongoing way of doing things. If your organization truly wants to make the customer experience better, you will need to consider:

  • What is the contribution of the effort to the business overall?
  • What is the contribution to IT? (Are more satisfied customers a justification for the expense and effort?)
  • Which senior leaders in the organization will act as the champions?
  • Who among your customers will advise you and contribute to the ongoing effort?
  • What organizational change will be required, and how will it be managed?
  • What enabling technology already exists in the organization and which needs to be purchased?
  • Where will the funds come from?

Yes, there’s a lot to it, and any gains will vary from organization to organization and culture to culture. When you hear someone in your organization talking about customer experience, ask them to describe what they mean and how committed they are to change.


Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): supportworld, customer experience, customer service

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