Customer Experience: At the Edge of a New Discipline


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I am on Day 3 of the Next Generation Customer Experience Conference out in San Diego. As many of you know, Customers That Stick is a media partner for NextGen, so we’ve been talking about the conference for a few months now.

NextGen is a smaller conference, a few hundred people, and is for customer experience professionals and those companies looking to learn more about the ideas surrounding customer experience.

One of the more interesting aspects of NextGen has been the vibe that comes from being at the bleeding edge of a new discipline (or technically, disciplines).

As one speaker pointed out earlier in the conference, “most of the job titles in this room did not exist ten years ago.”

One need only to sample some of the excellent speakers to understand the dynamic.

  • Curtis Kopf: Vice President, Customer Innovation at Alaska Airlines
  • LaKendra Davis: Director, Customer Experience Communications at AT&T
  • Hillary Noon: Vice President, Customer Insight and Experience at American Cancer Society, Inc.
  • James Di Ciaula: Director of Customer Experience and Channel Integration at BMO Harris Bank
  • Gary Magenta: Senior Vice President of Client Solutions at Root

New disciplines are inevitably built upon shifting sands. Job titles have widely different meanings across industries and firms. Respect and acceptance from the C-Suite is often grudging at best. And probably most importantly of all, you still have to re-explain to Aunt Sally what you do for a living every Thanksgiving. Your brother, the accountant, does not share this burden.

However, underlying the shifting sands of the emerging customer experience discipline is a solid layer of bedrock. When the telephone was invented, many of the jobs, like telephone repairman, that went with it were completely new. Not so with customer experience.

Taking care of customers has been around since the dawn of time; we’re just a lot more scientific about it now.

For instance, marketing research and the analytic techniques associated with it have been developed over many, many decades now — and are simply evolving along with the technology and the nature of consumers to be more holistic in approach and more mindful of the idea of a total customer experience.

Neuroscience, a field which has simply exploded in the last decade due to technological advances, has given us incredible insights into why customers do what they do. And as we suspected, they are a lot more irrational than anyone would like to admit.

And don’t forget behavioral economics, another burgeoning field of research that has greatly enhanced our understanding of how customers behave.

The excitement that one feels around customer experience thinking both here at NextGen and in general has a lot to do with the incredible technological advances that are fueling our understanding of customers, but those advances do not only offer answers, they create questions as well.

As you walk the halls talking to CX professionals from around the world, you hear many common themes. How do I prove ROI when nothing like this CX initiative has been done at our firm before? What weaknesses in the customer experience do I address first when I can’t quantify the specific return? How are our customers’ expectations being formed and how can we influence that process?

The customer experience disciplines are truly at an exciting place in their evolution. We do not have all the answers, but we have a lot more than we used to — and a lot better questions as well.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Toporek
Adam Toporek is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.


  1. An interesting post; however, in all candor, how is customer experience, and the role of the senior executives responsible for managing and optimizing it, “new”? Targeted experience research, techniques such as neuroscience, and the questions raised for CCO’s to answer have been with us for much longer than a decade or two:

    Further, the customer experience return/quantification metrics, especially identifying the behavioral effect of brand passion, advocacy, and customer bonding, are readily available – and have been for over ten years:


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