Marketing Thought

Defining Customer Experience And Its Role In Customer Journey

Customer experience is one of those phrases that crop up in marketing that seems important but it isn’t always 100% clear what people mean by it. As such a key task taken on by Katherine Lemon and Peter Verhoef in a 2016 piece was defining customer experience. They then note how this relates to the customer journey.

Why Does Customer Experience Matter?

This may seem obvious but ensuring customers have a positive engagement with the firm is pretty central to marketing. The authors argue that understanding customer experience has become more important in recent years. This is because of the myriad of touchpoints customers have with any firm. We might see the firm on Facebook, talk to an employee in a store, or maybe another on the phone. The firm also will have a website. The firm might have a chatbot. You can often take your pick how you deal with a firm. All these touchpoints generate a customer’s experience with the firm; good, bad or indifferent.

Defining Customer Experience

What then is customer experience? The definition supplied is understandable but hardly rolls off the tongue. After much discussion Lemon and Verhoef conclude that:

Customer experience is a multidimensional construct focusing on a customer’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, sensorial, and social response to a firm’s offerings during the customer’s entire purchase journey.

Lemon and Vehoef (2016) page 71

Basically customer experience covers a lot. Maybe too much to be a meaningful concept at times but let’s be more positive. It is an overaching term that covers a lot of important elements of the marketing process. To see how wide it is do remember that the purchase journey is a wide term itself. We aren’t just talking about a purchase but experience includes lots before the purchase (pre-purchase) and much afterwards (post-purchase).

If you feel it is tough to get your arms around customer experience that is because it is like trying to put your arms round a mountain. You might make a little progress but you are only going to get so far.

How Does This Fit Into Connected Research Over Time?

One questions the authors address is how this term fits together with other customer related terminology. The authors suggest that academic attention had to that point been focused on customer metrics such as CLV (customer lifetime value). I really don’t think we have made as much progress on customer metrics as we could have so I don’t want to discorurage more thinking in that area. Perhaps there was more on customer metrics but I would argue not enough.

Still there certainly is other (non-CLV) work that customer experience relates to. The authors helpfully outline how this all links to together. How people have studied customer experience related ideas has changed over time so we can nicely map the changes based upon the author’s ideas.

Visual On Concepts Related To Customer Experience: Adapted From Lemon and Vehoef 2016

Customer experience is clearly an important topic. Even though I still wouldn’t say it was my thing I, for one, felt I had a better idea of it after Lemon and Verhoef published their piece.

For more on customer lifetime value see here, here, here and here.

Read: Katherine N. Lemon and Peter C. Verhoef. “Understanding customer experience throughout the customer journey.” Journal of Marketing 80, no. 6 (2016): 69-96.

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