A Closer Look at the Concept of Customer Experience & Customer Satisfaction.
The concept of customer experience has taken on particular importance in the current complex economic landscape. In this context, consumers make their purchasing choices much more carefully, carefully selecting the place where they want to make their purchases. This is because the consumer is no longer looking exclusively for the advantage given by the individual products or services offered by the companies, but shows the strong need to live a shopping experience, which also involves him at an emotional level. Companies have to respond to the new needs and expectations of consumers, affected by significant changes in their lifestyles and the increase in comfort and consumption. Therefore, investigating customer satisfaction and experience with the company at every point of contact is essential to build good loyalty: the better the customer experience and the response he receives from his expectations, the bigger the bond that will be with the company. In a market characterized by high levels of saturation and limited customer loyalty, the use of low prices and innovative products is no longer enough. To compete you need to focus on consumer experiences, which are no longer self-generated but induced, and for this reason, in recent years, understanding and improving the customer experience have become critical parts of marketing plans. To better manage the customer experience, retailers need to understand what the customer experience really means.
What is Customer Experience (CX) really about and why is it important?The terms customer experience and customer experience management have received increasing attention in recent years in both academic and managerial literature. Although it has assumed considerable importance in the current economic context, the issue of experiential consumption has already been addressed and studied more than thirty years ago by researchers such as Holbrook and Hirschmann, who could define themselves as pioneers and whose work is considered by contemporary publications as the starting point of experiential marketing. In a new economy like the present one, we have a different type of economic output, goods and services are no longer sufficient. Experiences are events that involve individuals in a personal way, and the value of experience remains tied in the memory of the individuals involved in the event. So the consumer is no longer a buyer of goods and services but a buyer of experience. The customer experience originates from a set of interactions between the consumer and a product, a company, a part of the organization, which provoke a reaction. This experience is strictly personal and implies the involvement of the consumer at different levels (rational, emotional, sensorial, physical and spiritual): who creates a marketing strategy must keep this in mind because the internal and subjective response that consumers have towards each direct and indirect contact with the company. Direct contact generally occurs in the course of purchases, uses, services, and is usually initiated by the consumer. Indirect contact concerns unplanned meetings with product representatives, services, or brands of the company and takes the form of recommendations or criticisms through word of mouth, advertising, news reports, reviews, etc. In a “digital” world, the WOM becomes even more important, as well as micro-moments. And it is worth underlining one thing: the CX involves the whole process of consumer choice, including research, purchasing, consumption and post-purchase. On the consumer side, therefore, it includes his emotional, emotional, cognitive, social, and physical responses to the business. On the company side it covers both elements that can be controlled, such as price, offer, service, staff, atmosphere (if we talk about retail), the website and the experience of the same, and elements that are not under his direct control, such as consumer interactions with other consumers, discussions on the web.
How to analyze the CX and what are the models derived from the literatureThe current economic crisis is leading many companies operating in the consumer segment to try to reduce their service levels while risking a reduction in the levels of satisfaction of their customers, who are now accustomed to claiming customer excellence. Such behavior is very risky, especially in markets with high competition, and the phenomenon is all the riskier when customers are unfaithful and more attentive to purchases (sensitivity to variables). As a result, the need for companies to establish and maintain consumer loyalty is becoming increasingly central and urgent. The competitiveness of a company very often depends on the ability to understand its customers and try to create quality relationships with them. Thus, the study of the customer experience becomes an essential investigative tool to try to detect and disseminate within its organization the opinions that customers have of the company itself and try to exploit this information to achieve the ultimate goal. The aim is to improve the perception that the customer has of the company through the maintenance and enhancement of the loyalty of its customers, primarily through the understanding of the experience. The management of the experience has, therefore, the task of tracking contacts with customers through interactions in different channels, using and contextualizing the knowledge of its customers, maximizing the service and thus providing an experience that creates a bond with the company. To achieve this, it is advisable to investigate in the best possible way what are the main drivers that guide the experience itself, trying to understand them to be able to act in the best possible way. CX is multidimensional, and these are key drivers that together influence the outcome of the shopping experience. In other words, the overall experience assumes the role of a dependent variable whose result is in the function of the different independent variables, the dimensions. The identification and measurement of the latter are undoubtedly fundamental for the achievement of winning customer experience since it is precisely from the study of them that we can understand what aspects that consumers consider most important are. There are many models of analysis of the CX, one that is well suited to different situations provides and that is Ismail, which in 2011 focuses its study focusing on perceived quality and that is also well suited to online in my opinion:
- Perceived service quality
- Brand name
- Core service
Brand at the service of experienceThe brand is increasingly central to having an impact on the CX. It is therefore essential to analyze:
- The perception of the brand (brand perception)
- First impression
- Moderating effect
Price as a communication toolPrice is one of the variables directly linked to the consumer’s shopping experience, as it affects the consumer’s behavior and choices. Literature and studies, as far as the price component is concerned, refers to a large extent to the concepts of loyalty program and promotion. Loyalty programs are continuous incentive programs with the primary goal of encouraging and rewarding the attitudinal and behavioral loyalty of the consumer and therefore, encouraging the preservation and development of the customer quota. Through relationship building, successful loyalty programs foster a consumer to frequently buy from the planned seller, increasing the amount of purchase over time and increasing the portfolio share for the focal seller/brand. Consumers must (formally) become members of loyalty programs to obtain benefits, and this implies that loyalty programs should be membership-based and structured according to collection and refund rules. The basic features of a loyalty program include:
- Long term: it is typically designed to be durable so that it cannot be introduced for just a short period. This differentiates a continuous loyalty program from a short-term program because, in its true meaning, it should be a long period of continuous investment.
- Reward: it is structured in such a way as to reward members for their loyalty based on their past, current or future value to the business, which is usually given by the accumulation of some forms of loyalty programs evaluated according to purchasing behavior. Usually, members of loyalty programs are rewarded with discounts, goods, services, personalized offers, or preferential treatment.
- Ongoing marketing activities: The retailer, for example, should adapt its marketing offerings to program members on an ongoing basis, creating a sustainable competitive advantage and increasing the perceived value for program members.
Assortment for retailers and eCommerceLevy and Weitz define the assortment as “the number of different items in a category of goods”, i.e. the set of goods that a trader sells to meet the needs of his customers. One of the major problems is to define the right assortment, with the right quantities, in the right shops, and when the customer manifests the need. This applies to retailers. For eCommerce the problem is similar, although there are some differences, of course. The variables available to measure how assortment choices affect the customer experience are:
- Product display