Customer experience (CX) has gained unbelievable cachet in recent years. But it’s proven more meaningful in theory than practice, as anyone who has purchased a product or service can probably attest.

There’s still a gap — make that a chasm — between good customer experience and what most customers regularly receive. And yet, we’re told, this is the Age of the Customer.

Useful, Usable & Enjoyable

Way back in 2010, Forrester defined customer experience as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.”

Good experiences are useful (deliver value), usable (make it easy to find and engage with the value) and enjoyable (emotionally engaging so that people want to use them). Simple, right?

But for all the talk about customer-centricity, few sellers of goods and services seem to believe the customer is always right. In fact, based on recent highly publicized corporate missteps, there seems to be an assumption the customer is always wrong.

The Allure of Brand Experience

ARKE CTMO Chris Spears thinks it’s time to give up on customer experience.

More specifically, Spears wants businesses to walk away from their fractured, fragmented views of CX. Rather, he suggests, it’s time to commit to a bolder, more comprehensive initiative around brand experience.

Brand experience encompasses all of the touchpoints a company has with its customers as well as its employees, partners, distributors, vendors, and all other stakeholders. Supported by the customer journey, physical and digital channels, and strategically important technology, it sets the priority as the quality of every user’s experience.

His vision shifts the focus from the customer to the experience, expanding the vision to every stakeholder with a connection to a brand.

It’s an evolving and emerging view — one rapidly taking root.

According to a recent Gartner insight report, being competitive now requires enterprises to embrace a bigger view of experience. It’s time, Gartner suggests, to adapt more quickly to the collective experience of customers, employees, and users.

The ‘Exalted’ Status of Experience

In the words of Gartner Analyst Ed Thompson, “Experience is the watchword of our age.”

He continued:

“Leaders across every part of the enterprise are claiming to place experience at the center of their strategies. But talking is not the same as doing. A growing subset is taking action and reaping the rewards. Businesses that fail to do so risk falling behind their more savvy competitors. Those who are successful in improving the customer, employee and user experiences are being disproportionately rewarded. And those who are missing the mark are being disproportionately punished.”

Thompson said experience gained this “exalted status” from the growth of information technology, which “changed the fabric of business and society.” Technology has shifted power away from companies, delivering it instead to customers, employees, suppliers, vendors, and other stakeholders.

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Understanding that shift is fundamental when thinking about the future of experience, Thompson said.

Defining Experiences

Like Gartner, Spears recognizes that every interaction a company has — whether with customers, employees or users — generates an experience.

Whether intended or accidental, positive or negative, each experience generates feelings. The goal of excellent brand experience is to make sure every interaction at least meets the expectations and desires of users.

Customer experience is just the beginning.

Moving forward, “the next generation of technologies that enable a better customer, employee or user experience will provide the biggest opportunities” for businesses. Gartner analysts explained:

“The war for talent and customers is changing. Hiring the right talent or acquiring the right prospects isn’t enough — delivering experiences that earn customer loyalty and advocacy is key.”

Gartner The Future of Experience

Gartner: The Future of Experience

Spears concurs: Marketers today need to influence far more touch points than ever before. That makes a strategic plan an essential first step because optimal brand experience is built on a foundation of strategy.

How is your company capitalizing on experience? How are you making sure every interaction with your company enhances your brand values and mission?

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Noreen Seebacher is the content evangelist at Arke, where she researches, writes and continues her long career in news reporting as a brand journalist. Noreen lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her husband, her dog and four formerly homeless cats.