The DNA of Customer Experience


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DNA had been a star in recent years. TV shows make it the centerpiece of crime solving programs; the news media throw the label around like they might WMD’s or TSA. DNA is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms. And, like fingerprints, forensic specialists are able to use the DNA in blood, skin, hair or any bodily fluid located at a crime site to identify the “bad guy.”

So, what is the DNA of customer service? What if we assumed there was a component in the service encounter unique to each customer? If we could “crack the customer’s service DNA code” we could fire off a special experience that encouraged the customer to shoot back their loyalty. We believe the service molecule containing the customer’s unique identity is “Connection.”

Connection is the intersection point between a customer with needs and expectations and a service provider with resources and capacity. Connection has many dimensions—structure, sense, and surprise. Customers in need of a new pair of ladies black dress shoes or a high performance camera are much like all other shoe-hunting or camera-seeking customers. An element that makes them distinctive is their preferred connection.

I like to buy books only online. But, you will never catch me buying clothes online—I want to feel the fabric and fit. That is the structure of the connection. Structure is the form of the connection including the channel, format, and organization. Some customers enjoy a warm, enthusiastic greeter when they walk in a hotel lobby; others want a highly efficient, cut-to-the-chase encounter that focuses on getting the guest in a room quickly—that’s the sense of the connection. Sense relates to feeling, sensation and emotion. Keep in mind the same customer might expect a different form and feeling for different needs, or at different times, or under different circumstances.

But, the most powerful part of the connection “molecule” is surprise—the type of value-added or value unique included with the experience. All customers enjoy service with a “cherry on top.” Surprise alerts customers that you care about them and value their business. Surprise works when it is unexpected, simple and most important, fits the customer and the situation. I like surprises that make me laugh or tug at my heartstrings; my business partner enjoys value-add’s that make him smarter, saves him time, or enhances his efficiency.

So, what does a customer forensics effort look like? Given the many combinations of structure, sense and surprise among customers, customer forensics seeks to create ways and means to quickly read the service DNA of a particular customer. Some organizations rely on inbound call or point of sale technology. Others depend on psychographic research and service anthropology to help them “crack the service DNA code.” But, it all starts with a desire to personalize the experience coupled with the recognition that customers change all the time. Today’s fad is tomorrow’s antique. Service wisdom lies in finding ways to deliver the experience each customer values in the fashion preferred at the time desired.

What steps can you take to “crack your customer’s service DNA code?” How can you dissect your customer’s experience to ferret out the many dimensions of the customer connections? How can you become a customer forensics specialist?

Chip Bell
Chip R. Bell is the founder of the Chip Bell Group ( and a renowned keynote speaker and customer loyalty consultant. Dr. Bell has authored several best-selling books including The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and, with John Patterson, Take Their Breath Away. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, will be released in February.


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