defining digital | 8 Minute Read

What is Digital Customer Experience?

Digital customer experience is the sum of digital interactions between a customer and a company and the resulting impression that a customer walks away with.

Digital Customer Experience vs. Customer Experience

The broad umbrella of customer experience (CX) can cover anything from traditional customer service channels to new digital interfaces that people use to interact with companies. Digital customer experience (DCX) focuses on the latter, including both front-end services and back-office process optimization that ultimately benefits customers.

Because both concepts are intensely focused on meeting customer expectations, they overlap as often as digital and non-digital do in today’s world. It may be more useful to clarify what digital customer experience isn’t, so that companies can make sure they have the right mindset in their approach to DCX strategy.

Common Misconceptions About Digital Customer Experience​​

  • Customers care about digital. In fact, customers don’t think of their experience in digital and non-digital categories. They want to access companies in the most convenient way possible, regardless of channel.
  • DCX is about technology and strategy. Culture outweighs strategy when it comes to DCX. Companies with the right technology still need to embrace a customer-centric view of their business in order to successfully improve digital customer experiences. Most discussions of digital transformation hit on this crucial point in greater depth.
  • DCX is about sales and marketing. According to Forrester analysts, most digital experience platforms focus most of their resources on sales, marketing and commerce while neglecting customer service, retention loyalty and engagement functions. This could lead companies to associate good DCX with sales and marketing, but creating experiences that apply to the entire customer lifecycle is a critical part of business today.
  • DCX is limited to digital-only brands. All businesses need to become digital businesses if they want to participate in the current digital economy. Forrester describes the importance of “digitally-based customer experiences rooted in operational excellence”, emphasizing that using digital technology as a basis for all customer experience can drive revenue and growth in most businesses, not just digital-only brands.

Managing the Digital Customer Experience

Given that DCX and CX so often overlap, some have asked whether managing the digital customer experience is even relevant. There are two approaches to consider:
  • Focus on the holistic customer lifecycle, giving equal attention to the way digital and non-digital experiences complement each other and optimizing both. This approach treats DCX as just one part of the overall customer experience strategy.
  • Focus primarily on digital customer experience. An article in the Harvard Business Review asserts that “this isn’t merely a subset of customer experience, and a good customer experience strategy doesn’t equate to a good digital customer experience strategy.” It goes on to argue that online and offline consumers have different needs and expectations, which is what makes a focus on better DCX so important — companies can’t assume that their work to improve customer experience will translate well to digital experiences. However, it also assumes that there is a clear line between online and offline, which is increasingly untrue as channels merge and intersect throughout the customer journey.
Both approaches have value, depending on your audience and the maturity of your digital touchpoints. If your customers are primarily digital, but your digital services are below standard for your industry, an initial focus on DCX will get you up to speed faster, whereas a more mature digital business may want to take a holistic approach in order to keep its CX strategy unified.

Either way, customers have high expectations for quality of service, which makes it crucial for businesses to improve their ability to deliver great digital customer experiences. Inconsistency in this area frustrates users and erodes loyalty, which will impact overall customer experience whether you manage it separately from DCX or not.
Separating digital customer experience from customer experience overall, in a world where digital and physical ‘merge’, would be meaningless if we look at it as a ‘real’ separation. The customer is one, regardless of channels and devices.

Where to Start

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to beginning a digital customer experience strategy. Customers are individuals, after all, and your approach will depend on your target audience. Forrester has put together an assessment worksheet to help companies gauge how mature their strategies are.

Consistency is a key goal in improving digital customer experience. Technology systems that are cobbled together piecemeal make it difficult to deliver the kind of unified experience customers expect. The result is poor experiences, such as when you begin filling out a form online, want to continue on your mobile phone, and find that you have to fill out all of your information again.

Consistency takes integrated IT and consolidated internal processes, often with the use of a digital experience platform or another solution that is specifically developed to break apart data siloes for more unified management.
Source: The Foresee Experience Index, 2014 US Retail Edition

Examples of Digital Customer Experience

Despite its terminology, DCX isn’t exclusive to customer-based businesses. It applies to every industry that provides services to external users (patients, students, citizens, etc.) as well as employees, partners or other users that interact with a company internally. What unites them is the use of digital technology to facilitate the interaction.

Automotive - A new car sends diagnostic information via an API for a customer to view on a mobile app or online dashboard, along with service reminders and product recall notices. He can also view his financing information and track bill payments.

The customer sees the automobile brand as an expert resource for taking care of his vehicle.

Banking - A customer opens a new savings account via his bank's mobile app. He uses the bank's budgeting tool to set goals and save automatically, giving him a balance of what is safe to spend, taking into account bills, pending payments and goals.

Once a month, the customer receives a text with an update on the status of his savings and a report breaking down spending habits. The resulting impression of the bank is a friendly, helpful advisor.

Education - A student connects to her university portal to access digital lectures and textbooks. Her learning is tracked with quizzes at the end of each module and suggested content is provided based on demonstrated struggle with certain topics.

She's able to chat with professors or set appointments with teacher aides through the web or mobile interface. She sees her experience as personal, and the university as understanding and supportive.

Government - A city employee monitors vehicular and pedestrian traffic via bluetooth-enabled sensors located along the streets. She is able to share the information with other departments so they can address congestion issues.

If traffic is due to a needed street repair (such as a broken light), she is able to set up repairs through an online scheduler, and track workers' locations and status.

Once repairs are complete, she can share the information immediately through social media. The resulting impression of the agency (from an internal perspective) is tech-savvy and efficient.

Healthcare - During a doctor's visit, a patient sets wellness goals to help manage her health. Between visits, she uses an app to monitor her vitals, food intake, exercise and prescriptions.

There are also interactive learning materials and an online community, where she can learn and be encouraged by others working on the same goals. Her health improves over time, reducing the need for visits and lowering the hospital's cost. The resulting impression is professional, personal healthcare.

Retail - A local bookstore also has an online community where customers can save reviews of their favorite books, join online discussion groups and participate in virtual events or ones held at the store.

A customer can pick from recommended titles based on his past order history that are then prepared for him at the store. He can sit at the store with a coffee to skim a few of the titles, and choose which ones to keep. The customer feels like the bookstore is a simple, enjoyable way to manage his reading.

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