A Framework for Understanding and Managing the Customer Experience

Arne De Keyser, Katherine N. Lemon, Philipp Klaus, and Timothy L. Keiningham, 2015, 15-121

Customer experience (CX) has become a top concern of business executives worldwide, and is considered to be a key determinant of long-term corporate success. Although numerous books and research papers have been written on the topic, knowledge remains limited about the nature of CX and the appropriateness of current best practices. At the same time, CX represents one of the cornerstones of the marketing discipline and “Understanding Customers and the Customer Experience” is a top-tier priority in the Marketing Science Institute’s 2014-16 Research Priorities.

In this report, Arne De Keyser, Katherine Lemon, Philipp Klaus, and Timothy Keiningham develop an integrative, yet parsimonious framework that captures the complexity of CX and builds upon interdisciplinary insights stemming from marketing, philosophy, psychology, and sociology.

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Employing a three-step analytical procedure, they suggest the following definition: “Customer experience is comprised of the cognitive, emotional, physical, sensorial, and social elements that mark the customer’s direct or indirect interaction with a (set of) market actor(s).” They also describe the fundamental embeddedness of CX within a multi-layered system that continuously and dynamically impacts the way customers experience their interactions with firms.

More importantly, they examine the relationship of CX with customer value and customer engagement, establishing a clear link between three of marketing’s most-discussed concepts. The authors develop a three-stage cyclical model to describe this interrelationship, highlighting how all three actively co-shape consumer buying and consumption processes. CX is recognized as the vital nutritional element of this model, being the driving force of all customers’ value reflections and engagement behaviors.

Managerial implications
Overall, this report provides academics and practitioners with a structured framework for guidance in researching and managing the customer experience. A better understanding of CX may lead to direct changes in daily practices, and may also induce significant change of long-term strategic thinking throughout the organization.

Specifically, the authors offer four guidelines to help businesses better manage CX.

First, a CX-driven practice should be centered on the individual customer applying a “jobs-to-be-done” mindset. In other words, companies must examine how their customers integrate products and services within their daily lives in order to improve their relevance to these customers. Only then will CX initiatives be truly successful.

Second, the scope of CX programs should extend beyond the dyadic customer-firm relationship and take a service ecosystem perspective. Marketers armed with knowledge of the multiple parties involved in creating the CX will be able to design better offerings.

Third, the long-term, dynamic nature of CX should become a key focus of marketers. Rather than solely focusing on specific moments-of-truth, management should take account of the entire journey that impacts CX (i.e., all consecutive touchpoints of the customer-firm relationship).

Fourth, accurate CX measurement requires a multi-method approach and cannot be centered around one single measure such as satisfaction or NPS. A combination of methods will enable an accurate understanding of the customer experience and will prove useful to guide managerial decision making.

Overall, this work establishes a specific CX mindset to assist top-level management in designing, executing and monitoring vital, dynamic and holistic CX strategies.

Arne De Keyser is Assistant Professor of Marketing, EDHEC Business School, France. Katherine N. Lemon is Accenture Professor of Marketing, Boston College, Carroll School of Management and MSI 2015-2017 Executive Director. Philipp “Phil” Klaus is Professor of Customer Experience and Marketing (as of 2016, IUM International University of Monaco - INSEEC Research Center).Timothy L. Keiningham is Chief Strategy and Client Officer, Rockbridge Associates.

The authors would like to thank Katrien Verleye (Ghent University), Bart Larivière (Ghent University) and the marketing faculty of the Questrom School of Business (Boston University) for their insightful comments on earlier versions of the paper.

Related links

Most-downloaded Paper Offers Framework to Understand and Manage Customer Experience (2017) [Article]


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