Brands have become smarter about the customer lifecycle, understanding that the success or failure of the business basically hinges on one key factor: keeping your customers delighted at every touchpoint and over the long haul.

We all know that consumer decisions are not made in a vacuum, and brand engagements are rarely limited to a small sliver in time in which a purchase is being made. Companies that understand the value of every minute customer touchpoint and the nuances between them are able to deliver a consistent brand message and overall customer experience.

What does customer experience look like and what exactly is it anyway? Five successful business leaders from a cross section of industries share their unique takes on consumer experience.

Marc Chesley, President of OfferPad:

Early in my career I learned a valuable UX lesson - my opinion means nothing. I have UX training, decades of experience, personal preferences, and career UX/UXD professionals on my team, and even with all these seemingly valuable data points, it only yields a UX hypothesis that must be validated with user testing. Real users with a puzzled look on their face cut right through everything else. Real-life user testing is a must.

Thiago Moraes, founder of Galloper:

Other than our company culture, customer experience is the single most important part of the business. I started Galloper because of the poor customer experience standards that persisted in the horse transportation industry - specifically as they related to arranging and booking transportation.

I knew exactly the technology I wanted to build, but it was extremely important to us to take a user-driven approach from the beginning. As early as the drawing of the wireframes, we had real horse owners and haulers come in so we could understand their needs and develop a solution that would deliver a great experience. Galloper's foundation was truly built upon customer experience.

Lauren Bailey, co-founder of Upward Projects:

Our teams live and die by guest feedback. We are pulling little tidbits from many different sources every single day and we use them to turn the knobs and get clues on how to make our experience better. Negative feedback is a gift and huge opportunity because it means people still care enough to let you know, while a silent withdrawal is the worst thing that can happen. A key differentiator for us in the restaurant business is to understand that we are going to make mistakes. How we recover from them is what sets us apart from other teams.

Bret Larsen, CEO of eVisit:

It's easy to think about 'the user experience' and limit it to the interactions that occur while logged in. The reality is, every interaction your target customer has with your offering defines their experience.

From the moment they hear about your offering from a friend, to their first support ticket and beyond, each of these touch points adds to the way they think and feel about your company and product. The goal is to focus on creating a congruent experience that evokes intentional emotions, and then reinforcing that experience through every interaction.

Robert Wallace, Partner and EVP of Marketing at Tallwave:

Brands, no matter size, years in business, or amount of funding, need to be thinking about customer experience at every step, whether launching a new product or revamping an existing one. And it's not enough to hypothesize what your customer experiences when they interact with your brand, you have to talk to them to understand what exactly they experience.

Put their experience into the context of a map or a journey, and suddenly all of these influences become apparent -the recommendation they got from their friend about you, the first time they land on your site, the login and password setup process, the speed of your site, color selection, and most importantly the ease at which you solved a problem for them. The list goes on, but the point is, attention to detail is key when considering the customer experience.