Customer experience software (CX) has dominated discussions of enterprise technology for the past several years—trying to define, measure, improve, and monetize it. The reason for this is simple: If customers are dissatisfied with their experience of your brand, they go elsewhere. Making it easy and enjoyable to do business with you means customers are more likely to come back, buy more, and tell others about your company or product.
There’s more to CX than customer enjoyment; arguably, the most important part of CX is consistency. Commerce does not benefit from surprises, and customers want to know what to expect from your company. CX and branding go together in this respect. Consistent appearance, processes, and ability to leverage corporate knowledge are more important in the long run than a “wow” moment.
There are products in multiple categories on G2 that directly address customer experience. Not all of them have CX in their names. Most can be found in the sales, marketing, advertising, and customer service categories, but not all of them. We measure CX through reviews, surveys, and other forms of data (write a review if you’d like some idea of how that works), but we don’t have a specific category for CX. This is by design—a feature, not a bug, if you will.
G2 does not define customer experience as a specific field of software competence, and it isn’t addressed in our taxonomy. It is a family of products that aren’t organized by use case the way our categories are, but by the outcomes they contribute. It would be either impossibly broad or uselessly narrow to create a single category for CX--although some software is more obviously CX-adjacent than others--and it may be unique in this regard. Yes, there are products that highlight certain aspects of customer experience, or that offer businesses the ability to craft ideal customer journeys, but they all approach CX from different angles and focus on different outcomes. Besides, anything that a customer regularly interacts with is part of the customer experience. That includes software, hardware, and people. G2’s data set includes customer experience applications; we just keep them in their functional areas as opposed to the general topic of CX.
Greater than the sum of its parts
Below are a few examples of different software that can be part of CX. These highlight the breadth and depth of the customer experience.
Chatbots that pop up on a website when new visitors arrive, or when they linger on a page for too long, are part of customer experience. They may be the company mascot (G2 has Monty, the adorable mongoose) or a human avatar acting as the “face” of the company. The chat system might prompt the user with questions based on the content of the page, or the link that brought them there. Some chatbots conduct simple transactions without involving live agents, or provide self-help information for common problems. Depending on the implementation process, the bot can be great marketing for the corporate brand—or a detriment to it. Either way, it is where the customer meets the vendor, and is a part of the customer experience, but calling it a CX product misses the point.
Interactive voice response systems (IVRs) have a major effect on the experience of customers who prefer to use the phone. This technology is often the first point of contact for customers, especially in an emergency. A poor IVR can be damaging to customer relationships, but one that is quick and easy to navigate is a comfort and an asset in those relationships. IVRs’ effect on CX is a result of its design and use, not its purpose.
Web design is another huge factor in CX. A tremendous amount of effort goes into every image, section, menu, and button; the fact that there are so many truly bad websites out there is clear proof that CX is more of an art than a science.
An e-commerce shopping cart that needs limited clicks and provides maximum clarity is bound to affect customer experience, and so is one that needs a lot of customer attention. (It could be argued that actual shopping carts are part of the CX for brick-and-mortar stores, especially if they have dodgy wheels...)
These examples of products that influence CX show the insanity in trying to group them into a single product category. Even among applications that specifically call themselves CX, there is considerable diversity in form and function. Many are new names for an old technology; a CRM system does not become a dedicated CX software product just by changing its name.
There are intangibles to consider—things that aren’t governed by business technology. Take McDonald’s for example. The fast-food empire grew to its current size through one major factor: consistency. Substitute any other successful fast-food restaurant chain for McD’s and you will find the same thing. Anywhere in North America, customers know that they will get exactly the same food with exactly the same taste, appearance, and presentation. The employees will greet you the same way, prepare your food according to the same processes, and are held to the same performance metrics—and all of this was built around the consistency of customer experience.
Business technology may be more tangible in that we can identify a piece of software and its function within the customer lifecycle, but it can be difficult to measure its specific contribution to customer experience. Tools like contact center quality assurance,sales coaching, and knowledge management software provide allow control over elements more esoteric than the choice of colors and logos for a website. Colors and logos are important too, which is why graphic design, web design, and related applications are important. Everything and everybody with whom a customer interacts affects their experience with the brand, for better or for worse.
Customer experience is a fascinating topic and crucial for businesses to study. It is not a magic formula. The best way for organizations to succeed with CX is to identify their needs, then choose the right products to address them. G2 is here to help.
Marshall is G2’s research principal for sales and customer service applications. This role follows a career as a journalist and analyst covering CRM, customer experience, and social engagement. Marshall's background has led to a deep familiarity with the demands of those markets, as well as the ways other technologies can have a positive effect upon them. His coverage areas include sales, customer service, and contact center.