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From Customer Experience To Citizen Experience

Global Havas study uncovers an era where customer experience becomes meaningful by integrating citizen expectations

By Sébastien Houdusse

Trust, inclusivity, always being of service, and going above and beyond are now major factors in creating the most meaningful customer experience. While seamlessness, simplicity and efficiency are still imperative to customer experience, brands must also fulfil citizen expectations to satisfy consumers.

These are the findings from X Index, Havas CX’s proprietary barometer of customer experience efficiency, which shows CX is most meaningful when it combines the best functional service with meeting emotional citizen expectations. The X Index, which is in its fourth year, surveyed 50,000 consumers across nine markets (U.S, UK, France, China, Brazil, Turkey, India, Portugal and Spain) and evaluated the customer experience performance of 500 brands. It found that while seamlessness, simplicity and efficiency are still imperative to customer experience, brands must also fulfil citizen expectations to satisfy consumers.

Compiling the ratings of all interactions that consumers may have with a brand throughout their journey – from the brand image to their life with the product or service itself, through the relationship (both push and pull), the customer service and the purchase journey – the 2022 X Index has found that brand image is the main discriminating factor across all countries. This ranged from 54 per cent of those surveyed in Spain, to 46 per cent in the U.S. and 41 per cent in Turkey. Consumers also ranked 35 discriminating criteria as part of the customer experience analysis, evaluating their importance through statements like “I trust this brand,” “This brand always keeps its commitments,” “The staff is expert and knowledgeable” and “The purchase process is seamless.”

Despite heavy customer experience investment by brands, there’s still room for improvement with only a global average of 40 per cent of consumers thinking the brands they interact with are “centered on their needs as a customer.” This year’s X Index research reveals that increased consumer expectations around trust, sustainability and inclusivity are now impacting the evaluation of customer experience, with brands being assessed on the concrete actions they deliver to create a welcoming experience for all – shifting the traditional idea of customer experience to citizen experience.

The X Index has identified four key overarching principles to create a best-in-class citizen experience:

COMMIT TO TRUST

Brand trust is the most powerful denominator around the globe, demonstrating the importance of creating conditions for trust throughout the customer journey. In all countries this year, the main discriminating criterion is “I trust this brand,” which represents 31 per cent of the X Index for brick-and-mortar brands in France, 30 per cent for brick-and-mortar brands in the U.S. and up to 42 per cent for pure player (digital native, online-only) brands in the UK.

Brands build trust by keeping their commitments to customers and being there in times of crisis. For example, brands that optimised their shopping experience during the COVID-19 pandemic saw better results; these optimisations included moving many traditionally in-person services online (consultations, etc.), and taking advantage of new platforms to integrate community building and social components.

Brands also build trust with transparent business practices and by making commitments to social causes. However, brands must follow through and keep these commitments. A brand that highlights privacy policies, for example, can be even more vulnerable if those policies are later reversed or violated.

BUILD AN EXPERIENCE THAT INCLUDES EVERYONE

For customer experience to become a citizen experience, brands must be inclusive. This starts with caring for employees, ensuring the user experience is welcoming to all, and infusing a sense of community around brand purpose and actions.

According to the X Index, consumers evaluate brands at every step of the journey, including the way they treat their frontline employees. Brands are judged on being welcoming to all, with consumers recognizing and rewarding efforts to foster inclusivity and break taboos in representation and marketing. Inclusivity also means enabling customers to participate in a community, with some brands introducing forums, clubs and apps for customers to connect and interact with each other.

“User experience is inclusive and welcoming to all” makes it to the top 10 of discriminating criteria in three countries, including the UK and France. “This brand makes me feel like I’m part of a community” makes it to the top 10 in four out of the nine countries, including China and Spain.

ALWAYS BE OF SERVICE

Customer service is now defined by the speed of the reaction to customer demands. “Customer service reacts promptly to my requests” is discriminating in six of the nine countries, being number three in the U.S. and number four in China for brick-and-mortar brands. Reacting quickly has never been so essential, and consumers have become time intolerant. In addition, when it comes to a brand’s staff and salespeople, consumers not only expect them to be efficient but also knowledgeable.

PROVIDE FOR THE AGE OF EXTRA

When it comes to satisfying customers, going the extra mile is of paramount importance for brands. A key part of going above and beyond is making sure the experience feels extra personal. The personalisation criterion is the third most important factor for pure players in the U.S. and France, and the fourth most important in Brazil. “Providing extra attention that go beyond expectations” also makes it into the top five in the U.S., Brazil, and Spain.

Although $641B will be spent on CX technologies in 2022, customer centricity has not been achieved – nor will it until brands evolve their thinking around customer experience to citizen experience. The latest X Index defines a new era where customer experience becomes meaningful by integrating citizen expectations. Of course, brands still must meet functional criteria around efficient customer service – and they have to do it right, otherwise they’ll not even be considered. But to be recognized among the best, brands will have to go the extra mile and deliver concrete actions beyond their commitments.

The full X Index 2022 whitepaper is available to download via the havascx.com website.

Sébastien Houdusse is the chief strategy officer of Havas CX agency BETC Fullsix

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