The concept of focusing on the customer experience (CX) — the sum of all interactions with your brand or product across channels — is not a new one.

Throughout history, companies have recognized that providing customers with positive experiences along with quality, useful products was key to keeping customers and growing their businesses.

Prior to our current digital age, CX was a small segment that marketing organizations in a few companies concerned themselves with as part of their overall branding strategy. However, our younger generations — Millennials and Generation Zhave clearly indicated that they are more interested in owning experiences than in owning things. And, a Walker study found that by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

This is just one of the many reasons that CX needs to be at the forefront of ALL businesses and a focus point for ALL departments. Customer experience is essentially the next stage in the evolution of brand.

Much of what a company offers can be set by the brand. You can craft your brand positioning, write your brand story, and determine your value proposition. And while you own these decisions, it is ultimately the customer who decides whether you delivered on the promise. There’s a lot riding on delivering a positive experience. The race to own great customer experiences is on.

You might be asking yourself the following questions:

• What constitutes great customer experience with your brand?

• What are examples of great customer experience in today’s future-thinking companies?

Here are just a few ways to position yourself as a leader in CX and to transform what’s possible for your consumers.

Get Inside the Mind of Your Customer

It’s not enough to think you know what your customers want. It’s crucial to do research that is grounded in real customer interactions. Usability testing, interviews, market research, and segmentation all help companies learn what customers value, how they consume information, and what they really want to get out of the brand. Creating customer personas, reviewing the landscape, and learning from primary and secondary research is critical for cultivating tailored experiences based on different customer preferences. Understanding and solving for pain points that consumers have with your products, services, and competitors will make your customers more likely to purchase from you.

Based on customer feedback and interest, Overstock.com recently expanded its mobile offerings that allow shoppers to see virtual 3D models of furniture, décor, and light fixtures inside their actual living spaces using augmented and mixed reality. For customers who like a product but don’t know if it would fit or match their existing room design, this easily becomes the tipping point between window shopping and buying.

Provide Emerging Technology Offerings

In my previous blog, I touched on the fact that the technologies our customers crave involve augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, with a future focus on the personalization of these technologies. As the technical capabilities advance, so too does the ability to give customers what they really want — faster and easier.

Some are already charging forward bravely, using these new technologies to provide the best customer experience.

While some people might be concerned about the non-human, inherent machine-quality of technology, I truly believe that these technologies are positively changing how companies interact with customers to break down barriers and connect on a deeper level.

Create Seamless Encounters Across All Devices and Channels

Customers expect the same level of service and interactions from vendors across all platforms and devices. Whether you’re on live chat, phone, or email, the conversation must feel the same. Plus, the data needs to transfer from one to the other, so the customer feels an overall seamless experience. Consistency is key. Nothing is more frustrating than repeating your question or problem over and over and over.

Customers also expect response times to be quick and productive. If they tweet a complaint, companies must respond immediately. Stores used to be able boast that an in-person experience always beats an online one because of the human component, but modern companies are making those experiences as similar as possible with technology in voice.

Allow Customers to Opt-In to Personalized Services with Special Benefits

Recently, Walgreens and other companies made negative headlines for using cameras and facial recognition software in an attempt to guess details about consumers like their age, gender, or mood as they walked through store aisles to target them with real-time customized ads. Valid concerns were raised about privacy, discrimination, and intrusion.

This is why it’s important for CX leaders to allow customers to opt-in to these technologies at their will while also effectively showing them why it is to their benefit to do so.

If you provide fluid, seamless experiences to your customers, you won’t have to work as hard to tell people about how great your products and services are. Your brand-loyal customers will become brand ambassadors, and do it for you.

If you’d like to continue the discussion with me or have questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts.