This is the first article in a five-part series for digital marketers who are looking for a clear, concise way to talk about and address the relationship that their customers have both to their marketing-specific efforts as well as to the larger efforts of the organization as a whole. In this series, Greg Kihlström, CEO of digital marketing agency Carousel30, will meet these learning objectives by exploring long-view customer experience.

Introduction to Digital Customer Experience
A customer-centric view of organizations is not by any means a new thing. A long-view customer experience philosophy simply builds upon this by looking at the primary ways that our global audiences relate to our brands, our services and our products and finds ways to engage them in a natural, meaningful, and realistic way.

You will not read the word “viral” in this paper, nor learn how to start such an outbreak with your efforts. In fact, we might prefer to believe no such guide actually exists, though many have written on the topic.

We’re concerning ourselves here with genuine relationships and those that are appropriate to the degree to which a customer is engaged, or willing to be engaged, with our brand. This can sometimes be on a large scale, and at other times can be on a very micro scale, even one-to-one.

What is Long-View Customer Experience?
There is a lot of discussion about user experience on a short-term basis, such as a visit to a website, mobile app, or even a retail store. However, there seems to be less discussion about the user experience of a customer across multiple devices, channels, and the online/offline worlds.

With smartphone adoption growing from 31% in May of 2011 to 56% in May of 2013, it is clear that consumers are serious about taking the Web with them wherever they go. As mobile continues to grow in prominence and usage, we’re seeing much more of a need for a unified view and presentation of information, as well as calls to action and branding across so many different possible touch points with customers. The Nielsen Norman Group notes that there are four primary components of a successful “cross-channel” user experience: consistency, seamlessness, availability and context specificity.

Each of these highlights the fact that users no longer contain their interactions with a brand to a single device or channel, and thus brands must not think in terms of siloed experiences either.

Jon Fisher of Nomensa puts it this way:

When evaluating cross channel services and the construction of a pervasive information architecture the user is often free to drift back and forth between channels as many times as they wish and (depending on the service) over an undefined time period.

Clearly this makes our jobs as marketers challenging, but it is, as they say, the new norm.

Long-view customer experience is not just about cross-channel marketing. It’s also about a customer’s relationship with you and your brand over time. Thus, it’s really a hybrid view of user experience and customer relationship management. We’ll get to our definitions of both of those terms in a little bit.

Quality of Engagement
Success of our marketing efforts is not just about responses and comments, or followers and fans. We need to concern ourselves with the quality of the engagement. In order to do this, we need a basis for evaluating our strategies, tactics and the results we are getting.

Why call it Customer Experience and not Customer Relationship Management?
Both of these terms are used in a variety of ways and it can get confusing, especially now as we are mixing these two terms together. Let’s start by defining a few terms:

User Experience
The term “user experience” (UX) is often used when referring to the creation of websites, software, mobile apps, or other singular experiences that a customer has. Part of addressing and optimizing the user experience includes doing testing on interactive prototypes and creating wireframes and mockup designs. These help to simulate as closely as possible the user experience of the thing that you are creating.

Customer Experience
While some apply the term user experience on a much more global basis to refer to the overall experience that a user has in dealing with a brand, many others instead are adopting the term customer experience (CX) for this instead. So, for instance, searching on your desktop for a product, researching on your mobile phone, then physically visiting the brick-and-mortar store would all be part of the customer experience.

While individual experiences matter, the long view of a customer is that every interaction they have with your brand is a positive one, and one that is catered to their needs and preferences. This is why we’re choosing the term customer experience over user experience to describe our approach in this book.

Customer Relationship Management

What it often means:
Customer relationship management (CRM) has been defined as “the infrastructure that enables the delineation of and increase in customer value, and the correct means by which to motivate customers to remain loyal, indeed to buy again.”

CRM is also known as a methodology that acknowledges that our customers are central to the success of our organizations, and because of this, it is important to put processes and systems in place to ensure we understand them and cater to their needs and desires.

It is also important to make a distinction between the methodology of customer relationship management and software that is referred to as CRM. While tools such as salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics are used successfully to enable organizations to interact with customers, they do not provide guidance on how or when to interact with them.

What it means here:
We will not be referring to specific software or tools in this book and will be staying slightly more abstract when referring to CRM. Thus, the meaning of customer relationship management we will be employing is the methodology explained above. Simply put, “CRM is a strategic methodology that recognizes customers as the core of the business.”

How CRM, UX and CX Work Together
Customer experience is management of the user experience over time, across whatever channels are utilized (or available), and through a process that begins with basic awareness and ultimately ends in a desired set of actions, or what might be counted as a “conversion.” Customer relationship management is the process by which interactions along the customer experience journey are handled from an organizational or brand perspective.

In this way, CRM and CX are really dealing with the same thing, just from opposite views. Customer relationship management looks at things from the eyes of the organization, and customer experience (as well as user experience) looks at things from the eyes of the customer. They both, however, are looking at the same series of interactions with the same sequence.

Conclusion
Long-View Customer Experience is a tool which utilizes customer relations management and user experience to crease a positive interaction between brand and consumer. This is the foundation on which we can maximize marketing efforts to create a loyal customer base. The second article in this series will expand on this premise by introducing the Long-View Customer Experience model which details the specific stages of interaction between audience and brand.

To learn more on the topics covered in this series or the writer, Greg Kihlström, visit Carousel30’s website.

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