Customer Experience is Not Just an Art; It’s Also a Science
Guest Post by Howard L. Lax, PhD
Some business leaders still see Customer Experience (CX) as a soft-and-fluffy activity. Make customers happy. Be nice. Smile. Apply the Golden Rule. They look at their NPS score and give a thumbs up when it moves north, shrug when it slumps south. Yawning, they turn their glance away from the customer and look inwards.
What many fail to realize, is that CX is a science. It entails the systematic study of customer perceptions, intentions and behaviors to explain or predict their future attitudes and behaviors. Sure, there is the art of data interpretation, storytelling and presentation, but at its core CX is the science of how customers respond to the experiences they encounter when considering, shopping for, buying and using a brand or product.
As in any science, CX is about explaining cause and effect, stimulus and response. Companies deliver experiences (the stimulus) and customers react (response). There are three basic premises upon which the science of CX rests:
- Experiences that leave an impression upon a customer will affect that customer’s disposition towards the company involved.
- Every experience can have an impact on the larger customer relationship with a brand, but the overall relationship is more than the simple sum of experiences.
- The customer relationship will shape the customer’s ongoing behavior towards the firm.
Some experiences are more important than others, so the impact of each experience on the larger relationship will vary. Customers also have “indirect experiences” that affect the customer relationship. These might include anything from advertising and reputation to social media, word of mouth and news coverage. Since people process and retain information differently, moreover, the customer relationship also has an idiosyncratic personal dimension.
The strength of the overall customer relationship is the driving force behind the customer’s behavior, whether they continue to be a customer, buy more from the firm or recommend the company to others. Ultimately it is the customer’s behavior that really matters.
Fact-Based Decision Making
The science of CX is predicated upon data and the analysis that quantifies how the pieces interact, answering such questions as:
- What creates a great customer experience?
- How does Experience A, B, C . . . affect the overall customer relationship?
- What is the impact of the Employee Experience on the Customer Experience?
- What is the role of emotions in CX?
- How does CX affect customer behavior?
- And, of course, how does all of this affect the business outcome?
All of these pieces are measurable and the results quantifiable. While measurement doesn’t equate to action and management, the only path to managing these challenges and taking informed actions is by having a solid fact-based foundation.
CX in Practice
Part of the problem with the field of CX is the failure by many practitioners to approach it as a science. Many CXers don’t go beyond the theory to empirically test and validate their assumptions.
CX “scientists” need to understand such challenges as how to configure online tools to deliver the best web experience, which interactions have the most impact on the customer relationship and what aspects of the customer relationship drive customer behavior. This means measuring, modeling and testing to determine the best approach to accomplish the objective of motivating or customers to engage in those behaviors that create value for the firm and reducing the likelihood that they do those things that destroy value for the company.
Every company knows the responses or behaviors they want from their customers – continue to buy, buy more, buy more expensive, recommend that others buy, give a larger share of spend. The CX Scientist’s job is to identify how to modify the experiences the company currently is delivering to stimulate or increase the likelihood that customers will engage in these loyalty behaviors, the behaviors that create value for the firm. This is the science of CX in practice: helping the company do everything it can to deliver the direct and indirect experiences that motivate the customer behaviors that create value.