Over the last 10 years interest in customer experience has been growing. From consultants to in house practices, organizations are talking about the customer experience they offer, their customers’ experience, and building customer experience departments now more than ever before. This is great news for those of us that have been advocating for customer experience work over this same time period.

Due to the broad swath of things that can fall into customer experience (essentially anything that touches a customer or touches something that touches a customer,) the phrase pops up very frequently in articles, in job descriptions, in marketing, and in business conversations. The words get confusing. It is hard to get your hands around its meaning because of its different uses in different contexts.

100 Jobs

Ceatro recently conducted a survey of 100 unique jobs that matched a “customer experience” search from three leading US job hunting sites to understand what types of roles were being called “customer experience” jobs. What we found generally matched our experience talking to clients and prospects – there is little consistency in how the phrase is currently being used. In both this quick job survey and our everyday experience working in this space, we found that “customer experience” is often used to describe any of the following: call centers, retail service, account management, market research, satisfaction research, digital marketing, sales, usability, product management, technical support, marketing, and more.

This is making it feel like a trendy concept that might soon fall out of favor. But it isn’t. The concept and practices that make up customer experience are critical to an organization’s success. We believe that customer experience has new features and new approaches but it is not a new practice. Instead it is a practice that has atrophied in organizations and needs to be reignited.

This leads to the question, of course, of how customer experience should be defined if not as call center, digital marketing, account management, research, and so on. We believe that customer experience, the practice, should be defined as:

The practice of understanding people deeply enough to design and manage experiences that produce greater value for both the individuals and the organization

Overall, our thinking is generally aligned with the consultancies or author that writes about the overarching customer experience (see links below). We believe that the practice of customer experience is different than your customers’ experience and than the Customer Experience you design and offer to the market. (We know that is confusing and we hope for better word choices in this industry in the future but for now the nuances are important.)

We believe that understanding your customers in an ongoing way is the first step in getting their customer experience right and the intentionally designing Customer Experiences is critical to having successful businesses all the way from the supply chain through to delivery. We believe that executing and managing that Customer Experience you designed is very different from just being good at designing it


“Does this matter?” we ask ourselves frequently.


Is it just semantics? At the end of the day, are organizations coming up with the same great outcomes no matter what they call it?

There are a few reasons it matters and the most important one is about the outcomes. If your organization has implemented a strong customer experience practice, which is quite an investment in time and resources, you want to make sure you implemented the right things – and are getting the right outcomes.

Let’s look at a few analogous examples of this: If your organization implemented a requirement development process in the hopes of getting better requirements, more accurate results, and greater product acceptance but what you really got was a requirements database only, you wouldn’t be happy with the outcomes. If you implemented a customer relationship management process to improve relationships (and revenue) with your most important, strategic accounts but what you got was a CRM system or a faster call resolution in the call center you would be disappointed with the outcomes.

This is the same with customer experience: if you want to implemented a customer experience practice to have a better understanding of your customers, design a better overarching Customer Experience, create appropriate ongoing management and innovations processes, and improve how you interact with the market you won’t be satisfied with usability improvements only or call center improvements only. These are all part of it but they are not the entire thing.