Customer Experience: Art or Science?


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I originally wrote today’s post for InsideCXM. It appeared on their site on August 12, 2014. 

Do you think there’s a little art and a little science involved when it comes to delivering a great customer experience?

I do.

I read recently that “art is reason applied without limits, geared towards an ideal and guided by the practical,” while “science is reason applied within a framework, geared towards the practical and guided by an ideal.” What do you think? Does it apply here?

Artists have a goal in mind, and they are free to use their creativity to achieve that goal, e.g., create a painting. They are not stifled by rules or guidelines. Scientists have a framework within which they must work, right. They have guidelines and research and theories, and they are limited to staying within that box.

As I thought about how this relates to customer experience, I decided to differentiate art and science a bit further. Can the two work together? Do they belong together?

can be taught (skills).
Art is within you (attitude).
So hire for art and train for science, right?

Or said another way…

Science is hard skills, i.e., those things that can be taught.
Art is soft skills, i.e., those things that lie within us, like personality, attitude, and professionalism.

Science is rules, processes, policies, data, and tools.
Art is the person, who you are, what’s within you.

Those rules and tools are necessary for the person to do the job, but it’s who they are that will dictate if or how they use them to deliver a great experience.

Science is the script.
Art is going beyond the script and being human; it’s how you treat people.

Perhaps we need the script simply as a guideline, but we allow employees to go beyond the script and do what’s right for the customer in the moment.

Science is training and education.
Art is creativity and common sense.

Employees must know what it means to deliver a great customer experience, but absent that they should also be able to apply common sense to do so. This is better explained as knowing the right thing to do and doing the right thing.

Science is practical. It’s taking what you’ve learned and applying it.
Art is ideal and idealistic. It’s OK to think outside of the box, go the extra mile, and do the little extras to delight the customer. It’s also about knowing what delights some and doesn’t delight others.

Science is known laws, facts, and reason.
Art is creativity and emotions.

These two together would make for a great customer experience. Again, science becomes the guidelines, while art allows the employee to do what they need to do for each unique individual and individual situation.

Science is cold and impersonal.
Art is warm and personal.

I’d much rather be on the receiving end of a customer experience that comes from art than from science. Perhaps this is one dichotomy where the two don’t work well together. Or perhaps the art tempers the science in this instance.

Science is technology.
Art is human.

The technology facilitates the customer experience that the employee delivers.

Science is data driven.
Art is emotion driven.

Take what you know about your customers and use that to create a personalized, empathetic experience. Science is customer understanding, while art is its application.

Science is metrics and KPIs.
Art is a smile, a happy customer.

When the business focuses on the science side of things, they focus on the metrics; when they are truly customer-focused and customer-centric, there’s art to that because we focus on the customer rather than on moving the numbers.

Science is objective.
Art is subjective.

Science is numbers-driven and not influenced by human feelings or emotion. Art is quite the opposite: personal, individual, emotional. Combining the facts with the emotions makes for a good customer experience. Said another way…

Science is rational.
Art is emotional.

Both are necessary to deliver a great customer experience. You want your frontline to take a rational approach to how they interact with customers, yet apply emotion and empathy to personalize and humanize the experience.

Science is metrics.
Art is stories.

In order to sell the importance of focusing on the customer experience to your executives, you’ll need both.

Based on these comparisons, it seems that customer experience requires a solid mix of both art and science. It’s not just one or the other; it’s both working hand in hand. They’re the yin and yang of customer experience. They complement each other.

Consider the framework under which you ask your employees to deliver a great customer experience. Have you provided them with some bumper guards (the science) but allowed them to unleash their creativity (the art) to do what’s right for the customer?

What do you think?

Science provides an understanding of a universal experience, and arts provides a universal understanding of a personal experience. -Mae C. Jemison

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and Chief Experience Officer of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, consultant, and speaker. She has 25+ years of experience in helping companies understand their employees and customers in order to identify what makes for a great experience and what drives retention, satisfaction, and engagement. She's sharing this knowledge and experience in her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business).


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