Customer Experience And Loyalty Starts And Ends With The Product!


Share on LinkedIn

Back in 2011 I asked this question: Customer Experience: What About The ‘Product’? And I ended that conversation with the following assertion:

The product is not in one domain and Customer Experience in another domain.  Any serious examination of the Customer Experience has to grapple with the product and how well it does the job that the customer is hiring it to do.  That means designing that product so that it is both useful (does the job) and usable (easy/intuitive) to use.

Today, I stand by that conversation. In particular, the necessity and critical importance of the ‘product’ (the core product or service which calls forth the customer to reach out and interact with the organisation which is selling that product or service) to any serious work on improving-transforming the customer’s experience of the organisation.

I also find that I was wrong. How so?  Today, I’d sum up that conversation differently.  How would I sum it up?  As follows:

 The ‘product’ is not in one domain and Customer Experience in another domain.  Any serious examination of the Customer Experience (as in the customer’s experience) has to grapple with the ‘product’ and how well it does the job that the customer is hiring it to do.  That means designing the ‘product’ so that it is useful (does the job), usable (easy/intuitive to use), and sensuous (evokes the senses and calls forth awe). When you get the ‘product’ right you will learn that in a substantial-meaningful way that the customer’s experience and loyalty start and end with the design of the ‘product’. If you have the right product then you can concentrate on marketing (advertising, distributing) it. Little need to waste your time on the latest corporate nonsense: customer experience management as in customer interaction management across a multitude of interaction channels.

What has led me to this way of summing up the matter?  Apple. In particular, Apple’s latest financial results – the largest quarterly corporate profit of any company.  Let’s look into the quarterly figures a little bit more: revenue of $75bn, profit of $18bn, and Apple sold 34,000 iPhones per hour.  Allow me to share this paragraph with you (bolding mine):

Apple chief executive Tim Cook called the company’s sales “phenomenal” and said the company had sold 34,000 iPhones an hour every day of the quarter. “This volume is hard to comprehend,” Cook said.

I am now going to make my most controversial assertion. Ready?  I say that the field of Customer Experience Management (as in customer interaction management) is attractive to and for the mediocre. Yes, the mediocre!  You know the folks that do not design-sell great ‘products’.  ‘Products’ that do not simplify-enrich the lives of our fellow human beings.  Look if you make a great product then the world beats a path to your door -including overcoming any hurdles along the path.  Only CXM fools ignore the critical importance of the ‘product’. Isn’t the product the reason that the customer takes action – to actual reach out to the business in the first place?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. Surely you taunt us, Maz. You can be serious. Customer alignment is a core business discipline. And Apple is a core example. Its not either or but and. A great product but crappy experience will not drive Apple-esque revenues. A so-so product with a fan tastic experience can yield impressive growth. It all depends on how the customer defines value.

    Apple design is great as is instore service. Uber product is fabulous but the company’s ethics are terrible. I stopped using and willing embrace chasing down cabs in NYC during the rain. (There are no cabs when it rains). SAP has an ok product but great service hstorically).

    Growth hacking claims that all of the experience is in the product. And marketing isnt needed. Im not so sure about that. Product and experience are two sides of the same coin.

  2. The “product” and the customer experience are not two separate domains as you suggest but integrated like the lyrics and music of a song. The connection point however is a solution valued by the customer. Marketing guru and Harvard professor Ted Levitt wrote, “No one ever bought a quarter-inch drill bit because they wanted a bit. They bought a drill bit because they wanted a quarter-inch hole.” That sentiment led Revlon founder Charles Revson to comment, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.”

    The solution junction point makes “product” and customer experience equally important. However, in the current competitive marketplace, they may not have the same valance in their capacity to differentiate. As consumers we buy based on an expectation of benefit (an emotional construct) and the determination of “benefit” is forever changing. My Blackberry, cassette player, and fax machine still work perfectly.

    Following a long emphasis on product quality (six sigma, TQM, Lean, etc.), the quality of “products” have become assumed…that is, more of a table stake to customers. So, the focus on customer experience has emerged as a key differentiator.

    Here is an example. I have two bank accounts (personal and business) at two different banks in the same area. My personal account bank always gets my statement correct, always protects my funds, has ATM’s and branches conveniently located, etc.–everything that makes for a perfect “product.” They also have friendly tellers who are always polite and helpful. I would certainly not call them medicare in anyway or I would not continue to bank there. However, I never tweet about their perfect “product” or their satisfactory customer experience.

    The bank where I have my business account also has a perfect “product.” But the tellers there are more than just friendly, they call me by name and ask me about my family. They have popcorn in their branch lobby, send me emails about ways to better manage my money, etc. They have a mobile app that enables me to monitor my account on my smart phone. They even occasionally have cook-outs for customers on the bank parking lot. And, they send me a Christmas card thanking me for my business. Both “products” are the same. But, the customer experience is noticeably different. I tweet and write articles about them! So which bank has the competitive advantage? For customers like me, the answer is obvious. There are obviously customers who seek a bank experience comparable to a store elevator experience–functional and reliable, period.

    We must always take great care of the quality of the “product”–the core offering the customer seeks from an enterprise. In today’s highly competitive market, the “product” and it’s capacity to meet the customer’s need or solve their problem may bring the customer in, but it is the emotional connection of the customer experience that brings them back.

  3. Well, mediocrity can be found virtually anywhere. But so can creativity and innovation. It’s not necessarily about the profession or function. As Bob Thompson has noted in his recent post, and in the resulting dialogue, there is easy agreement that more emphasis needs to be put on product as a core experience component. Not doing so, and also not making the customer a collaborative partner in design and support, is a straight path to status quo, passive, reactive, tactical, and functional enterprise mediocrity.

  4. My first response is the product experience is not enough
    But the Apple product is exciting enough
    It is the main driving force

  5. Hello Christine,

    The subtitle of The Customer & Leadership Blog is “Provocative Conversations On All ‘Things’ Customer. And Leadership”. So my speaking in the form of this post is an expression of this stand. Yes, I made my speaking more provocative than usual. Am I taunting anyone? No, Taunting refers to a human experience. And that experience is what you are bringing to the table in interacting with the product: my post.

    You say customer alignment is a core business discipline. Really? I regularly come cross CEOs, Strategy & Planning Directors, Marketing Directors, Customer Services Directors, Operations Directors, IT Directors, HR Directors…. I have yet to come across a single Customer Alignment Director. I tend to find that where there is an important business discipline there is someone who heads it up and is responsible/accountable for it. It occurs to me that customer alignment is at best a goal, and at worst a fantasy or the latest snakeoil of those who make their living selling their ‘professional expertise’.

    You say that I can’t be serious. And I am. I am serious when I say “When you get the ‘product’ right you will learn that in a substantial-meaningful way that the customer’s experience and loyalty start and end with the design of the ‘product’.” On what do I base this assertion? Good question, allow me to answer.

    At the end of 2004 which were the top 5 most valuable companies in the world? No1: Apple. No2: Exxon Mobile. No3: Microsoft. No4: Berkshire Hathaway. No5:Google.

    At the end of 2004, which were the top 5 most valuable brands? No1: Apple. No2:Microsoft. No3: Google. No4: Coca Cola. No5: IBM.

    Now if the purpose of business is to create customers, generate high revenues and profits, drive up the share price, and enrich the shareholders. Then I think it is worth looking at the list of companies that I have shared here. What do these companies have in common? Is it excellence in Customer Experience? Is it excellence in customer alignment? Or is it that these companies make-market-sell products that customers buy?

    Incidentally, Amazon ‘the earth’s most customer-centric company’ comes in at No 24 on the global brands list. Whilst it makes substantial revenues, profits are simply a promise at the moment.

    Let’s look at Apple. Apple is a product company – it makes a ton of money through the high prices it charges for selling tangible physical products. And it’s ‘huge’ profit margins. Yes, Jobs said start with the customer experience not with the technology. The interesting thing is that he built in a great experience through the design and build of the products. What an experience? It took my wife (who is not into technology nor cool) some time to use an Apple product. Now she uses two: an iPhone and and iPad. She has these products with her all of the time. Recently, I made some comment about how she loved her Apple products more than me. Her reply was along this line: “I love my iPhone and iPad. I am never buying anything but Apple!”

    My point it this Apple is the most valuable company (and brand) because the folks at Apple design-build-market (they don’t have to do much in the way of selling) products that leaves customers delighted. Delighted with the experience of looking at, holding, using, showing off the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro…

    Summing up, if you wish to be like Apple (the most valuable company in the world, loved by its customers – loyal customers) then make great products. Products that call forth the emotions of awe/wonder, pride, and joy. Leave all the typical CXM stuff (setting up new channels, gluing these channels together, replacing people with technology, putting in data platforms, playing around with business processes …) to others.

    At your service and with my love

  6. When a customer’s reality is less than their expectations:
    . . . they look at it as a poor customer experience.

    When a customer’s reality matches their expectations:
    . . . they look at it as a good customer experience.

    So regardless of how anyone “practices” customer experience management, ultimately customer experience is defined by the customer. Period.

    From a customer’s perspective, selecting, getting, and using a *solution* that enables them to gain a *capability* (e.g. peace of mind, living, entertainment, efficiency, effectiveness, pain/risk avoidance, etc.; also known as “job-to-be-done”) typically goes beyond a single company . . . especially in the “selecting” phase, and usually in both the “getting” and “using” phase. An important factor about compatibility and integration for ease-of-doing-business, and a big insight about jobs-to-be-done.

    Whether the solution is tangible or not (i.e. insurance), the capability it enables is very real. It’s this capability that the customer seeks that should be the guiding light for all decisions employees make.

    So, yes, I agree with you Maz, and more — I feel best about this definition of customer experience:

    “Customer experience is the set of perceived realities across everything they employ to select, get, and use a solution, toward achieving the capability they’re seeking.”

  7. When I use a tube of toothpaste and it tastes bad, I don’t call it a “bad toothpaste tasting experience,” I call it a bad product.

    When I buy vegetables from the grocery store, and some are found to be rotten, I say the products are bad and return them. I don’t say it was a “vegetables looking rotten experience.”

    When I buy a bottle of wine and find it to be a really good taste for the value, I say “wow, that’s a bottle of wine (product) I want to buy again. Not, “I can’t wait for another drinking that wine experience.”

    When I buy a car, I’m buying a product. Yes, that product will give me a “driving experience” but it also (if a luxury car) gives me a “I’ve made it and look at me” feeling” which is not an experience, unless you define any/all feelings as experiences (I don’t).

    Consumers don’t call everything an experience. Sometimes, it’s just a product.

  8. Hello Chip,

    You quote Ted Levitt and share the following quote: “No one ever bought a quarter-inch drill bit because they wanted a bit. They bought a drill bit because they wanted a quarter-inch hole.”I find myself familiar with that quote as I have read the paper from which that quote comes.

    Here’s what I say: Ted Levitt is wrong. Every day I come across folks who have bought an Apple product (iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro) because they wanted an Apple product and only an Apple product! I work with some folks in technology. Their company issues them with Lenovo laptops. What do I find when I walk in their office? MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros. Who paid £1000+ for these Apple products? The folks in the office – out of their own pockets. If Ted Levitt was right then the Lenovo laptops also produce the outcome: creating-sending-reading emails, browsing the internet, creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations….

    You say that the product may bring the customer in but it is the emotional connection to the customer experience (of interacting with the human beings serving the customer) keeps the customer coming back. Interesting. You have split the product and the customer’s experience into two. And so doing you have ignored the customer’s experience of the product. Apple illustrates that the product can be THE source of the emotional connection between the customer and the organisation/brand. Put differently, if you are smart (and capable) there is an opportunity to design your product such that it speaks to your customers at an experiential level: creating that all important emotional connection.

    Admittedly things become more interesting when the product is actually a service. The example you share of bank accounts. You say the product is the bank account. For me a bank account or an insurance policy is not a product. For me a product is tangible thing: I can touch it, feel the texture of it, see the colour of it, smell it, taste it… I cannot do that with a bank account. Therefore, I assert that in the case of banking (and bank account/s) the product is actually the service. Service in the fullest sense: being able to access the service easily and ideally from anywhere; folks providing access to and delivering the service being welcoming-helpful-polite; folks being competent in the provision of the service; and folks advising you on how to make the best use of the service.

    Finally, lets deal with the core assumptions on which the house of CXM has been built. The assumption of product quality being taken for granted. The assumption of product parity in terms of quality. And the assumption that any product centred advantage can be rapidly eroded by a competitor. Really? So how do you explain Apple’s success? Where does Apple make its money from? Smartphones! Samsung makes smartphones. Apple made a record quarterly profit of $18bn. What about Samsung? Here is what I read on the internet:

    “Samsung saw net profit of 5.3 trillion won ($4.9 billion), compared to 7.3 trillion won last year, marking its first annual earnings decline in three years and its fifth consecutive quarter of decline. Apple, meanwhile, announced record earnings of $18 billion, largely due to the success of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.”

    Incidentally, I walked past an Apple store today. And a Samsung store. There were plenty of customers (or potential customers) in the Apple store. I did not see a single customer (or potential) customer in the Samsung store.

    Enough said, I am going to leave it here for today. It is getting late and my back hurts.

    At your service and with my love

  9. Well, Bob, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. As a customer myself I only engage with a company because of the product (capability) I need to get.

    And when the product is broken, it’s not a good scene. It causes me to spend time and energy in ways that I don’t want to, and to engage with the company in costly ways or to disband further engagement with that company. And everyone agrees that those customer experience management expenditures or consequences are undesirable.

    I feel like we’re beating a horse to death with trying to be too literal or personal in our own practices of CX or reactions to situations.


  10. Hello Bob,
    Honestly, I don’t know where to start. As your assertion rests on language being a pointer to the truth/reality let’s start by dealing with language.

    It is common for us to say “Let’s make love. Or they are making love.” Is that what is really going on? I say what is going on is “sexing”. Or if you prefer the cruder version: f***k**g. So what is going on here? I say language is being used to hide/disguise what is really going on.

    Let’s look at another example. It is common place to say “Have a good day”. Well, I can have keys in my pocket. I can have shoes on my feet. Or a pair of trousers covering my legs. Can I have a good day. And I have a good day then where can i/you locate it? So it appears that having a good day is not the same as having keys in my pocket. So what is actually meant by the expression “Have a good day.” I say that what is meant is this: I hope you experience this day as a good (pleasant/enjoyable/fruitful/meaningful) day. Right?

    My point? Language is inherited. It is a cultural device to shape how one sees the world, orients oneself in it, and both gives access and closes of avenues of thought and behaviour. Language both puts highlights and hides stuff.

    Let’s move on. You say “Consumers don’t call everything an experience. Sometimes, it’s just a product.” I find myself to be in perfect agreement with you if you are talking about calvinist-protestant culture like those of the USA and the UK. I have asserted that experience blindness is the default state of the business world:

    In Anglo-Saxon cultures we tend typically to be walking corpses: not truly open-present to our bodily states including emotions and experiences. Which is why you (and most Anglo-Saxons) would call it a product, or faulty product, rather than an awful/unpleasant/tedious experience.

    Let’s look at some of the words that you have used:

    1. You talk about toothpaste and say “it tastes bad”. What the heck is that if not the statement of an experience? Taste is an experience! Bad is an evaluation of that experience!

    2. When you see (or have seen) the vegetables looking rotten what did you experience? Did you experience assurance/reassurance that these vegetables are good to eat? Or did you experience concern-caution, dislike, or even disgust? Did you touch and hold these vegetables? If not why not? After all it is just a product.

    Let’s wrap this conversation up by taking a look at this statement/assertion of yours:

    “When I buy a car, I’m buying a product. Yes, that product will give me a “driving experience” but it also (if a luxury car) gives me a “I’ve made it and look at me” feeling” which is not an experience, unless you define any/all feelings as experiences (I don’t).”

    I have this question for you: if any/all feelings do not constitute an experience then what does constitute an experience? Here, I’d love to hear from Michael Lowenstein and Colin Shaw. If I am correct the central assertion of Beyond Philosophy is the critical impact of the emotions in Customer Experience.

    How to end this? I find myself astonished and bewildered by your assertion. And yet, on reflection, not that much. As I said earlier, in the Anglo-Saxon culture experience blindness is the norm. It occurs to me that the folks operating under the CXM umbrella are likely to be in agreement with you. Not me. Perhaps, it is time for me to give up this Customer thing. Food for thought.

    At your service | with my love

  11. Hello Lynn,

    For me, you show up as a welcome breath of sanity. I find myself in total agreement with you when you say: “As a customer myself I only engage with a company because of the product (capability) I need to get.”

    I lead a busy life. My wife leads a busy life. We do not reach out to a business unless they have a ‘product’ (product, service) which I need. The only reason I reach out to a business is because I suspect it has a ‘product’ I need. I do not reach out to chit chat. I have my family an friends to do that. I don’t end up on their website or blog because I am looking to be informed or entertained. If I wish to be informed I read/explore/grapple with philosophy, psychology, sociology, zen, existentialism, classics, even novels. If I wish to be entertained I listen to music, watch movies, dance….

    You say: “And when the product is broken, it’s not a good scene. It causes me to spend time and energy in ways that I don’t want to, and to engage with the company in costly ways or to disband further engagement with that company. And everyone agrees that those customer experience management expenditures or consequences are undesirable.”

    I find myself to be in total agreement. Ever sat in a call-centre for days and listened to customers calling in? Or spent working in a retail store? What percentage of the calls are related to the product – especially breakdowns in the product?

    It is even simpler than this. What is your experience if you make your way to a retail store, are treated well by the folks working there, yet they tell you they are out of stock? Do you leave delighted? Or do you leave disappointed, let down, frustrated? According to the CXM fools, what is the big deal: the CX was great. You got the right welcome (one in the manual), you got seen to straight away (according to the manual), the store staff were prompt in getting back to you and letting you know the product was not in stock, and they even offered to order it for you and have it delivered to you at home! What more can one ask? How about ensuring that you have the damn product in store – that is the reason I spent 30 minutes of my valuable time making my way here. And now I have to find alternative way of getting my need/s met.

    As for your definition of Customer Experience. For me, it shows up as too complex. I am simple minded and prefer really simple stuff. Here is my definition of Customer Experience:

    “A customer experience is how (thoughts-feelings-bodily state) this particular customer experiences you.”

    The “you” in this definition refers to you in you fullest sense: your reputation – as in how folks talk about you; your advertising; the look-feel-location-number of your stores; the look and feel of your people – the folks I end up speaking with face to face, on the telephone, via email or chat; the look-feel of your products; the look and feel of the packaging of your products; the look-feel of your technology including your IVR or your website or your mobile app; the look-feel-timing-frequency of you talking to/at me through the post, through email, through SMS….

    I will leave it here. As I said at the start, thank you for showing up as ‘fruit of the same tree’. In your presence, I do not feel like a freak.

    At your service | with my love

  12. Hello Gautam,

    It occurs to me that you started by disagreeing with me. Or simply questioning my assertions. And you ended up saying in one line what I have been asserting in many lines: the power/pull of Apple (in terms of connecting with customers) is the product experience: how customers experience Apple products. As you say they experience Apple products as exciting. Some would say ‘cool’.

    At your service | with my love

  13. This is fun! We the supposed experts cannot agree what is a product and what is an experience.

    We use words to communicate. It’s true that words can be used in different ways, and that words can change their meaning over time. New words and expressions appear.

    I use the word “product” to convey, as Wikipedia says “anything that can be offered to a market that might satisfy a want or need. In retailing, products are called merchandise.” Yet the word “experience” can be used in precisely the same way.

    So everything is a product and everything is an experience. The next industry buzzword will therefore be CPM (Customer Product Management), which includes everything the customer can think, see, sense, smell, perceive in any way. Why does it mean this? Because I say so!

    For me, this illustrates why buzzwords die. In the CRM era the experts said relationships included everything so CRM = everything. Ask the average business person and they won’t agree this is true.

    For years, when someone asked me to talk about “CRM,” my first question was “What do you mean by CRM?” Then I would answer in the context they understood.

    Now, it appears I’ll need to do the same about CXM. Is the “experience” an interaction, or a perception about a physical thing that was purchased, or a feeling about a capability that you can’t interact with (e.g. insurance policy), or a feeling of brand affinity?

    Let me make a suggestion to all reading. Ask 10 business people what is a product and what is an experience and how are they different, then report back here what you learn.

  14. Well, Bob, I like your examples of the veggies as products
    But sometimes you do have bad experiences with a phone, for example when the phone hangs up

  15. As commented re. other posts, ‘customer experience’ seems to be going through the same revisionist thinking that we’ve seen with ’employee engagement’. Product and price are part of experience, but so are the emotional, communication, and relationship elements that drive trust and perceived value, yet most organizations still think only in terms of performance in the tangible, rational, and functional..

    With employee engagement, a 2006 study by The Conference Board found dramatic component and conceptual differences between all of the major employee consulting and research organizations. Whose definition are you to believe?

    In a similar manner, all of the free-range customer behavior consultants will be pressed to define experience in a way that will win support. Everybody seems to like his or her own general definition, and will only accept someone else’s if it is close to being identical to their own.

    I’ve also seen this in customer behavior terms like advocacy, endorsement, bonding, and recommendation which some P. T. Barnum-like consultants would have everyone believe are identical concepts. They are not:

  16. Bob, following up on your comment above, I notice from your related article “Does Customer Experience Management Include Products or Pricing?” that there was unanimous agreement among commentators that CXM does in fact include product and price.

    I don’t believe this is a matter of CXM scope creep. High-quality products and services have been at the top of the list for trust-building. And trust is the foundation for strong relationships of any kind . . . relationship strength (the kind that keeps on giving) seems to be the aim of anyone involved in CXM.

    I do think that analyst companies’ definitions, wikipedia definitions, and thought leaders’ definitions are all subject to debate and constructive conversation — which should all take place standing in the customer’s shoes — and not from the perspective of that’s what we’ve always done, or that’s how so and so does it. Setting one individual or organization up as the grand poobah of CXM is premature presently.

    This field is evolving and its practice is still not mature in 90%+ of companies in any industry, region, or applauded list.

    Looking at the comparison to CRM, I think there are some important parallels about risks of cynicism. And those parallels are not about breadth of definition, but rather, over-focus and over-promise re: technology in lieu of the essential people-and-process components. With CXM, the risk is over-reliance on technologies and under-reliance on employee engagement in owning their ripple effects on customers’ well-being.

    Silo-izing CXM is dangerous, because the truth of the matter is that a poor policy, process, attitude or deliverable of any sort can have a ripple effect that makes things hard for customers (i.e. poor customer experience). And that usually means remedial efforts are needed by the customer and the company, which otherwise could be invested in value creation. Emphasis on the service, marketing and sales organizations as the be-all and end-all of customer experience management creates a situation where good money follows bad. It’s a never-ending hamster-wheel of remedial services, escalations, and enticements that promises to be the CMX field’s demise (unsustainable ROI) if we don’t step back and think about what causes what.

    Indeed, companies like Ritz Carlton, USAA, Nordstrom, American Express, Boeing, EMC, etc. talk about the back-office connectivity they’ve put in place across data, people, processes, operations, and so forth that helps the touchpoints be stellar consistently. Employee ownership of their eventual impact on customers is the heart of the matter in manageability. It’s the systemic approach these companies have to customer-centered business practices that puts them at the top of customer experience performance lists.


  17. Thanks, Lynn. Your points are well made and taken.

    You’re right CXM practitioners have been consistent: the customer experience includes everything so CXM includes everything.

    My concern is two-fold:
    1. when someone talks or writes about “the customer experience” I have no idea what they mean because it’s a very broad term — like “relationship.” It means whatever people want it to mean.
    2. I’m not convinced that the CXM thought leaders and consultant community is in synch with the business community. There is a risk that when you and others say CX, what others hear is “interactions with people and systems.”

    On point 2, you should spend some time with Google. Type in Customer Experience and Customer Experience Management and read what everyone is writing. The vast majority of posts discuss customer service or other interactions with people/systems. The main way products are included is in VoC programs. All this content creates a perception of what CX is/isn’t.

    Also, take a look at all the times someone writes “the customer experience is a differentiator.” In nearly all the cases I see, the context is interactions with people/systems, as an alternative to products. This also creates a perception.

    I don’t personally, as a consumer or business owner myself, call everything an experience or think of everything that way. That’s my perception and I’m entitled to it, don’t you agree. I don’t know how many people see the world this way; perhaps I’m the only one.

    The broader question is how will the CXM community educate/convince/sell the business world on how you see CXM? For example, does the CXPA certification include product/UX design? If products are part of the experience, it should. Are CX consultants doing product and pricing design/redesign? Or is this work done by other consultants using a different TLA.

    I’m going to do some research to see how business people perceive CX/CXM and will report back when I have that available. For now, I’ll just say to you and all, thanks for a spirited discussion!

  18. I’ve come to appreciate customer experience as a *context* for the way a company does business. When a company is customer-centered (i.e. customer-centric) then it is always thinking about the implications to customers and not just about implications to financials and political agendas. Centering your business on customers follows the logic that your business would not exist if it weren’t for certain customers choosing to do business with you.

    (“Centering” by no means implies becoming a doormat. In any friendship, centering one’s attention on the other party does not necessarily mean disregarding one’s own health and aspirations.)

    Does that mean that financial management, HR, and new product development are under the stewardship of customer experience management? No. It means that financial managers, HR managers, and product development managers center their thinking and doing around implications to customers.

    Customer experience management is a bit of a misnomer in that it doesn’t work as well to *manage* it. But it does work to *facilitate* ownership across functions, divisions, and regions to become aware of and proactively manage their ripple-effect on customers’ well-being. By so doing, the company becomes customer-centered. The logic is that customers prefer to do business with (and talk positively about and wear promotional gear of) the company that “gets” them best.

    It’s taken many years in this field for this epiphany to emerge, for me. I’ve come to appreciate that “common practice” does not necessarily mean “best practice”. We see that in JD Power awards, for instance, in industries everyone loves to hate. If a player in such an industry would disregard the norms among their peers, and instead center their business on customers (truly), I do believe they would stand out from the crowd (be differentiated). Whether that means their product/service quality gets kicked up a notch or two, or interactions are the means to centering on customers, will differ case by case, depending on the culprit of customer grief.

    By the way, the CXPA’s certification exam does include CX Design which applies to products, online interfaces, interactions, environs, etc. The exam also includes “Organizational Adoption and Accountability” and “Customer-Centric Culture” as 2 separate competencies among 6 total. When I led CXM at Applied Materials we were heavily focused on these 2 competencies, but I wasn’t the company’s culture czar. I met often with and worked through the various parts of the company to facilitate their ownership in customer-centering what they were charged with. That’s a key value contribution for CX managers: the upside to the company of this type of work is far-reaching and long-lasting.

    I don’t hold much stock in what’s getting the most airtime at conferences or search engine results, or among the industry analysts, or whoever in particular, regarding what is “true” about customer experience. Just because I receive a ton of CX conference brochures aimed at contact center managers and technologies does not mean that CX is only or primarily about contact centers. The CX providers have a vested interest in skewing mindshare toward their offerings. CX practitioners are sometimes skewed by the career path that led them to their current role. Often, CX practitioners have an idea of what “should” be done, but they’ve got so much on their plate as it is, with marching orders from the higher-ups. In such cases, it falls on those who have an appreciation for the “truths” to find ways to influence C-teams’ appreciation of them. A tall order, but probably no other way around it.

    VoC and customer engagement are definitely the most prominent areas for CX practice right now. And not necessarily because they’re the “truly best” places to begin or to focus investment. They’re necessary, yet insufficient. By themselves they’re limited in the value they can create. I’ve been hearing many more CX managers over the past couple years say that they’re realizing the vast importance of cross-organizational collaboration and customer-centered culture in order to achieve their CX financial goals.

    I think VoC and customer engagement have such prominence because technologies have emerged to support them (with very strong marketing promotion), and because they seemed to be the logical management emphasis after the 2008 economic meltdown, and because they’ve got more sizzle and ease of implementation than “centering the business on customers” or tackling the complex cross-organizational issues that exist beyond the relative low-hanging fruit of retail face-lifts, automation, self-service, personalization, friendliness training, etc.

    Like you, I don’t think of everything as an experience. But I do think every employee has a role to play (however small or large) in anticipating implications to customers, preventing dissatisfaction and waste, and creating mutual value. If every employee saw their job description in the *context* of customer experience excellence, how powerful would that be? If job promotions required evidence of customer-centered decision-making, how might that affect the culture?

    Indeed, the success factors we discovered through the ClearAction benchmarking study included: sharing VoC with all employees, expecting actions to be taken by owners of key CX issues, cross-functional collaboration, coordination of efforts among the managers of various CX efforts, and treating CX insights as a determinant of corporate strategy. When we asked webinar attendees how many were doing these things, few hands went up. However, the best financial performance in the study was linked to these practices.

    Well, we should assemble all we’ve collectively written on this subject and make a book. I hope these ideas are useful to readers. I’d love it if we could all look back 10-15 years from now and feel like “it’s easier to be anyone’s customer than it used to be”. If I can contribute to that goal, it would mean a lot.


  19. I think there is too much on semantics. Because I am a satisfaction expert, CSat is everything, if I am a CRM guy then CRM is everything.
    I think we have to be able to grow into the newer areas, rather than trying to fit CSat to everything, because satisfaction or experience is important.
    The customer focused community is far too important and smart to be limited to semantics


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here