Ingrained deep into the bedrock of modern business, customer experience—or CX—has come a long way since it was first studied back in the 1960s. From theorists to early marketing aficionados, the growth of CX is the result of no one person, but the collective.
Today, the sheer number of articles and podcasts dedicated to CX is proof of its prevalence. A quick Google search of the renowned buzzword “customer experience,” returns over four billion results, to put that into perspective that’s more results than “Donald Trump” and “Biden” combined. From coveted industry awards to diplomas, CX has evolved dramatically, transitioning from an intangible theory to a fine art.
As we move closer toward the new age of Web3 and the Metaverse, it is inevitable that CX is set to go through an exciting and futuristic evolution. However, predicting how customer behavior may change and respond to the abstract and virtual future is tough, but not impossible. So, what have been the big changes over the years, and how do we know we are entering the “Platinum Age of CX”?
The Origins Of CX
Gaining prominence in the 1970s, CX has slowly gathered momentum and, with that, acquired an illustrious history. One pioneer and early adopter of customer experience were Rogers Research, a consultancy specifically dedicated to using customer satisfaction scores to improve employees’ performance. A component that remains a key part of CX strategy today. Gradually, firms and brands began to acknowledge and adopt customer-focused initiatives, and by the mid-90s, the “Golden Age” of customer marketing research was in full swing.
Initially, early CX strategies were largely based on observational and generalized customer reactions. Surveys and results were gathered over the phone and through rudimentary marketing technology and tools. An emphasis was put on attaining customers’ sentiments towards factors such as product and service quality, speed and functionality. Back then, the “Four Ps” (product, price, promotion and place) were considered to be the most impactful influencers of the consumers. But over time, their place within CX has evolved into a much more complex process.
Entering the millennium, customer experience shifted gear, powered by major advances in technological innovation and data processing. Companies began developing tools and systems to gather more bespoke and accurate data, enabling them to boost revenue and customer satisfaction simultaneously. Brands began to make the customer experience their unique selling point, offering gold standard support and service to their customers. Elsewhere, experts in science began to contribute to the development of CX. Exploring old and new research, psychologists began revealing and sharing the aspects associated with customer behavior and engagement. In fact, Daniel Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002 for his research on how psychological and sociological factors impact business strategy.
Today, people seek value from their products in a less literal sense, chasing a more emotional and personal relationship with their choices. Many brands have become so synonymous with their CX that it is hard to think of them without it, such as Apple or Rolls Royce. Building up this ecosystem requires a huge amount of collaboration between all of the client-facing aspects of the business. Your social media presence, prices, website UX, and product description are just a few examples of the dizzying complexity of what a brand must consider ensuring its desired CX.
Positives, Despite The Pandemic
Using data from retail stores across the US, companies have found that despite the challenges and fewer interactions caused by the pandemic, customer satisfaction scores actually improved. In 2019, the average retail industry benchmark score sat at 87% customer happiness, by 2020 this had risen to 91% and in 2022 it reached an all-time high of 92.5%. It appears that despite higher customer expectations, stores are keeping pace and even going above and beyond.
This surprising customer satisfaction success can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, as providers became increasingly concerned about the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, they began putting the health of their customers first. Sanitation stations, one-way store layouts, and social distancing protocols were all measures that were quickly adopted universally.
On another level, digital transformation accelerated omnichannel CX. With in-person interactions limited, firms and businesses used digital options to pivot their services making things easier, safer and more convenient for the customer. As the pandemic continued, the competition for online consumers also rose, leading to an even greater focus being put on digital CX. Stores began offering virtual personal shoppers for customers to chat and interact with. Offers and returns policies became more attractive and flexible, giving customers the chance to purchase and trial more goods.
Ultimately, the pandemic proved that customer experience is a live entity. It must and is molded and changed to ensure facilitate and leverage the relationship between business and customer. It’s a quid pro quo. A happy customer is a loyal customer.
The Future & Platinum Age Of CX
Looking forward, there are a number of exciting innovations and domains in which CX is yet to be applied. Take facial recognition technology, while it is used widely for smartphone features, the wider application of the technology has yet to be fully optimized. With this in mind, developments in this field could unlock a greater understanding of customer experience and enable businesses to achieve a new level of enhanced customer sensitivity.
Building on the idea of sensitive CX, emotional intelligence is a growing part of the post-pandemic business world. During the pandemic, employees and customers were dealing with unprecedented hardship, and while the pandemic has finally begun to taper, the financial hardship and diplomatic conflict have replaced the challenges of the global outbreak. Therefore, CX is taking on a new role of supporting the emotional trauma of customers, and creating ecosystems and services that are reflective of the external circumstances felt by customers.
Another futuristic application of CX lies in the metaverse. While for now, a certain amount of focus and momentum may have shifted away from the virtual universe, there remains a significant conversation between marketing and CX experts about what opportunities the Metaverse presents. One interesting discussion has centered around retail in the metaverse, and how brands will one day be able to design every store to the specification of individual virtual shoppers. From the music to the lighting, being able to control variables that pertain to customers’ nature will open a new door and also increase CX standards and with that competition.
Finally, being able to gather in-moment omnichannel feedback from customers, CX has become a genuine crystal ball device for businesses. By utilizing data-based algorithms and trends, firms are now able to keep tomorrow’s customers happy. This foresight approach is part of the next landmark era of customer experience transformation, or the Platinum Age of CX.