What exactly is “customer experience”

February 3, 2010

I’m back blogging again on customer experience and thought it might be useful in my restart to step back and ask – to quote blogger Bruce Temkin – “what exactly is customer experience?”.    

I did a search on definition of “customer experience” and got a bunch of hits – with Google providing a much better search experience (i.e. much more targeted results) than Bing. Here are some of the definitions I thought worth sharing from the top 50 or so sites, with several coming from bloggers I talked about in my last post:

  • From Peter Merholz of Adaptive path- Customer experience refers to the totality of experience a customer has with a business, across all channels and touchpoints
  • From Bernhard Schindlholzer of Customer Experience LabsCustomer experience includes all encounters and interactions that customers have with your product, services and brand
  • From Bruce Temkin of Forrester ResearchCustomer experience is the perception that customers have of their interactions with an organization dgmer’s
  • From David Williams of QCI – Customer experience is a blend of a company’s physical performance and the emotions invoked, measured against customer’s expectations across all brand interactions
  • From Susan Abbott of Customer Experience CrossroadsCustomer experience is the internal response of an individual to their interactions with an organization’s products, people, processes and environments where internal response includes the thoughts, feelings and emotions experienced and the rational, psychological and sensory benefits of the experience. 
  • From Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com (in a Business Week interview) – Customer experience includes having the lowest price, having the fastest delivery, having it reliable enough so that [customers] don’t need to contact [anyone].

None of these definitions alone captures for me everything embodied in the term “customer experience” but taken together I think they capture the key elements:

  • Experience happens to individuals – i.e. people have experiences, organizations do not. This means to win you have to get “inside the head” of the buy decision makers be they consumers or business buyers. 
  • A customer’s experience of your company or offerings is driven by their interaction with you across all points of contact – i.e. you need to be sensitive to how you touch them with all of your “tools” across the full experience cycle.
  • Customer experience is multi-dimensional both in terms of what you do and what the customer perceives about what you do – i.e. be aware of all the elements in the customer experience taxonomy as you analyze what customers are looking for and design your offerings to meet those.
  • A customer’s experience of your company is an “internal response” or “perception” to what you do – i.e. you may control key inputs and levers for that experience but in the end the multi-dimensional evaluation, processing and emotions around those inputs and moved levers goes on inside the customer’s head. This is the toughest one to target and one we’ll talk more about in a later post.

A question for my readers – do any of you have a definition I missed that you think is better and worth sharing?

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8 Responses to “What exactly is “customer experience””


  1. Every point of contact between the company and the customer is part of the customer experience, no? And, I’d opine, that the actual customer experience takes place entirely in the mind of the customer – something the company can influence, but never control.

    Thanks for the article. The question of “customer experience” is always an important topic to discuss. Good work — Bookmarked!

    Glenn Friesen | Impact Learning
    http://twitter.com/impactlearning

  2. Colin Shaw Says:

    From

    A Customer Experience is an interaction between an organisation and a Customer. It is a blend of an organisations physical performance, the senses stimulated and emotions evoked, each intuitively measured against Customer Expectations across all moments of contact.

  3. Colin Shaw Says:

    In research of our three books on CE we have come up with the following definition of a CE:

    “A Customer Experience is an interaction between an organisation and a Customer. It is a blend of an organisations physical performance, the senses stimulated and emotions evoked, each intuitively measured against Customer Expectations across all moments of contact.”

    We use this as a corner stone for all our work. I hope this adds to the debate.

    Colin Shaw
    Author & Founder, Beyond Philosophy.
    Twitter ColinShaw_CX

    • Richard Tait Says:

      Colin,

      A key point in your definition that I missed in my post is that each customer interaction with your company is measured against the customer’s “expectations” – i.e if we want to win with customers we need to understand and address the internal criteria they bring to each touch point.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.


  4. […] definition, other key industry experts obviously have their own definitions. Richard Tait, over at Winning Customer Experiences, has pulled together a collective of some the defintions, as well as adding a summary of all their […]

  5. Thomas Says:

    This is a very interesting article. The principles and practices behind Customer Experience Design and Management are partly related to Usability Engineering and User Experience. In fact, if Usability Experts try to make the user interaction design more user friendly, efficient, aesthetically pleasing and satisfying, they do in some way also shape the Customer Experience. This is especially true if Usability Experts are part of Product Development and Product Management teams, who think years ahead and develop products that will define the future interaction of a company`s products and its customers.


  6. […] is customer experience? That’s a question many people are still trying to answer. It’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed by the […]


  7. […] definition, other key industry experts obviously have their own definitions. Richard Tait, over at Winning Customer Experiences, has pulled together a collective of some the defintions, as well as adding a summary of all their […]


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