What Is The Perfect Customer Experience?

I recently ran across a definition of “the perfect customer experience” in probably the perfect place to find it: The Perfect Customer Experience blog. Dale Wolf, the author, does a really nice job on the blog — you should check it out. His definition of the perfect experience was:

The perfect customer experience is one which results in customers becoming advocates for the company, creating referral, retention and profitable growth.

But, I felt like the definition was not quite right. So I posted the following comment on his blog:

The perfect customer experience is a set of interactions that consistently exceed the needs and expectations of a customer. While the outcome of delivering great customer experiences will hopefully turn many customers into advocates, I don’t think an experience is any less great if a customer keeps her satisfaction to herself.

Interestingly, Wolf’s response to my comment describes the differences between our definitions in terms of Net Promoter scores (NPS). Hmmm. I’m not sure that’s the way I would have summed up the differences. The whole point of my comment was to get people to recognize three unique things:

  1. The actual experience (the reality of what happened)
  2. The customer’s perception of the experience (how the customer views it relative to her needs and expectations)
  3. The customer’s reaction to the experience (what the customer does based on the experience)

The perfect customer experience relates to #2, the customer’s perception of the experience. The experience is no less perfect if the customer does not end up becoming an advocate (which is a part of #3 above).

I don’t think that it’s valuable to define the world of customer experience in terms of NPS. It’s not that I dislike NPS, I just want companies to think about it in the context of an overall voice of the customer program.

The bottom line: In terms of figuring out the perfect definition of perfection, I think Yogi Berra said it best: “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

6 thoughts on “What Is The Perfect Customer Experience?”

  1. vHi Bruce,

    Interesting post.
    I agree with you that the perfect customer experience does not require active advocacy.

    You make the (correct IMO) connection between the perfect customer experience and the customer’s perception of the experience (second point).
    Interestingly, a customer’s perception of the experience could changes with time and be influenced by social and emotional factors. Therefore, what may have seemed as a mediocre customer experience at the time of interaction could be perceived as the perfect experience some time later and vice versa (e.g. strong positive feedback from other people; marketing activity reinforcing brand values etc.).
    I hear (from friends) that the iTunes application isn’t the best music application out there.
    Yet if our perception of Apple as a cool brand and of the iPhone/iPod as excellent products is reinforced by people around us and the Apple branding activity then there is a possibility that our perception of the customer experience with iTunes may be altered.
    As suggested by Gerald Zaltman in his book How Customers Think, our memories are not constant but evolving. The environment around us could alter our memory and perception of a past experience.
    The point I’m trying to make (possibly not very successfully) is that our perception of the perfect experience could evolve even if we have no further direct engaged with the site/company following the first interaction.
    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks,
    Micheal

  2. Michael:

    I agree with your assessment. Since customer experiences (from perfect to poor) are based on perceptions, they can be altered by customer pre-conceptions as well as by how they are remembered (which may be different than what customers actually experience — see my post called “Seth Godin, Colonoscopies, And Lasting Memories”).

    Think about how you react to a friend when they say something stupid versus how you react when someone you don’t like says the same stupid thing. One of those experiences might make you laugh while the other one might make you angry.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Great dialogue! I am not at all sure that I disagree with the flow of thought here.

    When I put my definition to the perfect customer experience, it was an attempt to avoid the notion that such an experience required perfection. At the same time, I wanted to take the definition beyond mere satisfaction. We all know from experience that many satisfied customers leave for competitive products. So pushing this to a higher level seemed important to me.

    Where I agree with this dialogue is that a customer might have an experience that was beyond satisfaction and that such a customer might be hard to pry away by competitors … from the marketer’s point of view and the customer’s point of view, that would be, well, PERFECT!

    Advocacy pushes the concept even further. This experience is so perfect that now I am willing to go out and tell others.

    We are deploying a marketing automation technology called Eloqua where I work. A partner to Eloqua is doing the deployment and for the past month the people at Astadia have been amazing me at how they have kept us on schedule (actually ahead of schedule) so that we are getting value from our investment well before I thought we would. That is certainly a “perfect customer experience” but not one that I was running out in the street and telling people about it.

    But then this past week, Astadia sent in a trainer (Heather Foeh) to give the “user team” two days of hands-on training. She was magnificent. And then on the third day, we brought in all the various marketing managers, creative team and sales process managers for a day of “best practices” that made Eloqua more relevant to everyone in the company who was going to be impacted by this technology. Heather had us eating of her hands. She made it all make sense and showed us how to become better at our jobs. She handled fear, uncertainty and doubt with a calmness and grace that convinced even the skeptical that we had made a brilliant purchase.

    I sent her entire senior management team a note of appreciation, and I told everyone in hearing distance about our experience. I was getting ready to blog about it on my blog (www.perfectCEM.com), when I came across this dialogue on Customer Experience Matters.

    Eloqua and Astadia are now a perfect and personal example of what I mean when I define the perfect customer experience as I have on my blog. The perfect customer experience, for me, is one that changes the rules because it is beyond expectation. Because it surprised me! It was not delivered with perfection, but it sure as hell was a perfect customer experience.

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