The world of customers’ interaction with business is complex – a maze of engagement channels, devices, conversations and contacts. Making a connection between your customers and your brand requires new ways to not just stand out to the right audience with the right message at the right time, but also building on that connection to create a strong and trusted relationship.

This is only achievable through effective customer experience initiatives – which must permeate the entire organisation in order to be successful.

This was the message coming through from all of the panellists at the recent “Best of the Best in Customer Experience” event, hosted by inQuba. Despite representing very different industries, including telecommunications, banking and travel, the panellists were unanimous in the opinion that not only does customer experience matter, it’s the foundation of business growth.

According to Iain Meaker from Comair, customer experience should be embedded in every level of a business, as an understanding of what customers want requires more than just survey feedback – it requires the identification of where customer moments of pain reside, the measurement of emotion, as well as a broader understanding of expectations, all from the customer’s viewpoint.

Telkom’s Fuaad Noormohamed agrees, stating that commitment from the top is vital to successful customer experience initiatives, and that poor experiences are a symptom of problems across the whole organisation rather than isolated areas. “It’s important to know the detail of what’s happening across the business in order to be able to improve,” he says. “Customer experience is where a company’s competitive edge lies. Product and price are no longer big enough differentiators.”

Michael Renzon from inQuba adds that company culture is at the heart of customer experience orchestration, and that the successes seen by companies like Comair and Telkom Mobile were the result of their approach allowing customer experience to permeate the entire organisation. “It’s all about how it is delivered. If it is part of the culture of a company, it is easier to identify channel vs experience problems.”

Meaker explains that in implementing Comair’s customer experience strategy, the business has seen revenue growth as well as operational improvements. “We made the CX journey visible to the whole organisation, so everyone could see how they fit in. The CX team collects the data, but they share it with the people responsible for delivery. This allows us insight into staff and system challenges, and has allowed us to improve across the board.”

Similarly, Noormohamed says that Telkom Mobile has seen the same kinds of successes and gains as a result of its customer experience initiatives, adding that while most organisations focus exclusively on surveys, successful companies today are listening to their customers more intelligently. “The CMO has to become the CXO because success rests on the whole lifecycle.”

Investec’s Bronwynn Lewis says that successful customer engagement lies in the definition – and articulation – of experience. “If you can’t articulate what a good experience means to a customer, it’s open to interpretation. Customer experience therefore has to be designed with an understanding from the client’s perspective of what their service and emotional priorities are. Clients wants to feel empowered, and businesses must build trust with them to ensure that.”

She adds that measurement is equally important, but that the right measurement must be built into the process. The question companies should ask, Lewis says, is whether they are delivering the intended experience they designed. The right measurement will allow them to answer that.

Renzon agrees, highlighting the fact that the structure and measurements behind customer experience must be sound in order to provide gains. “How is the executive team using the data to drive the organisation? What measures are good predictions of revenue? These factors are central to the imperative for customer experience, but will only create sustainability, protect the brand, and grow revenue if the customer experience strategy and implementation is modelled correctly.”

He adds that in the new post-digital world, a brand is now defined as much by what customers say about their relationship with a business as what the business says about itself. Every touch point across the organisation matters – not just the marketing-led digital touch points. It’s no wonder that research indicates that improving customer experience is now the number one strategic priority for business leaders worldwide.