Without question, the term customer experience (CX) is a buzzword these days.  It seems that every industry, from retail to healthcare to tech, is focused on it.  Clearly, it’s important to brands.  But why?  What makes this trend so different from the many that have come and gone before?

We’re in the midst of a customer experience movement.  Companies have always made efforts to take care of their customers, but this time it’s different.  Never before has there been such a confluence of factors that necessitates organizations step up their collective game.  

From near-endless customer choice (regardless of product or industry) to technological innovation (the internet, mobile applications, etc), there are now so many tools and channels with which to reach customers that it can become dizzying for brands.  Companies are in a proverbial arms race to figure out how to profitably serve their customers, all while making the experience unique and memorable.  This is no easy task.

Customer experience, when done well, is a boon to companies.  More than just making a transaction pleasant or convenient, great CX involves creating a one-of-a kind dialogue with the customer.  It’s personal, memorable, and unique.

Here are three reasons why CX is of such value to companies:

1 – It’s the ultimate differentiator

When companies offer an outstanding customer experience, it allows them to stand out from their competition in a way unlike any other.  They’re seen by their customers not just as a seller of a particular product or service, but as a completely separate offering from their competition.

People can get coffee anywhere for less than a dollar, so why are they willing to pay three times that to buy it from Starbucks?  There are many factors at play – convenience, premium products, social mission, etc. – that resonate with Starbucks customers and lead them to frequent the company’s stores.  All of those factors add to and complement the experience of the brand.  Starbucks isn’t just another coffee spot – it’s Starbucks.  It’s become a separate offering within the coffee and breakfast category, due in large part to its intense focus on customer experience.

Every company has the potential to do something similar in its own space.  While there will always be others offering similar goods, the authenticity of an organization cannot be replicated.

2 – It brings customers closer to you

The care and commitment it requires to create a great experience will not be lost on customers.  A great CX program shows customers how much they are valued.  Whether it’s a streamlined mobile shopping experience, responsive customer service, unique product offerings, or one of dozens of other factors, customers will recognize that they’re the priority – and that’s good for business.

If that sounds overly simplistic, just think about the last time you slogged through a negative interaction with a brand – and how it made you feel.  Not very close, right?

Positive, memorable customer interactions create loyalty because they humanize the organization.  They have the ability to demonstrate a value that many companies don’t do a great job of showing – empathy.  Nothing draws customers nearer than that.

3 – It’s now a necessity

They say a rising tide lifts all boats.  When it comes to CX, that’s certainly true.  Now that the experience economy is in full swing, more and more organizations will place customer experience as a priority.  While it’s not likely that all of them will do it well, it’s clear that the focus on experience will make for more fulfilling interactions between companies and their customers overall.  That’s great news for customers, of course, but will pose a challenge to companies.

However, there still exists a lot of opportunity for organizations to continue to tinker with their experience.  It is – and will continue to be – a living, breathing part of the organization.  Greater competition will force companies to find more unique ways of engaging with their audiences.  

Like it or not, the focus on customer experience is here to stay.  Perhaps no other factor will contribute to the success or failure of firms in the coming years than CX.  Customers are becoming more discerning about the companies they interact with, and the companies best able to convey value through experience will have the edge.