Measuring Customer Experiences: A Text-Based and Pictorial Scale

Markus Gahler, University of Augsburg, Jan F. Klein, Tilburg University, and Michael Paul, University of Augsburg , 2019, 19-119-06

Providing superior experiences for customers is a strategic priority, yet companies and researchers lack a measure that quantifies customer experience (CX) from a customer perspective in an omni-channel environment, assesses CX in an accurate but efficient way (e.g., in mobile surveys), and predicts customer satisfaction and loyalty.  

In this study, Markus Gahler, Jan Klein, and Michael Paul provide two reliable and valid scales: one text-based and one pictorial. The text-based scale is especially suitable for research under (semi-) controlled conditions (e.g., large-scale surveys, lab experiments), and the pictorial scale is particularly suitable for companies and field studies (e.g., tracking customer experiences in mobile surveys).

They use a multi-method approach to develop both scales, including written experience descriptions, in-depth interviews, item screening and sorting, association tests, and online surveys in two different industries (fashion retail and hospitality) in Germany and the U.S. Their text-based scale consists of 18 items to express six dimensions of CX (i.e., affective, cognitive, physical, relational, sensorial, and symbolic). Based on the text-based scale, the pictorial scale uses one easy-to-understand icon per dimension. Overall, they conduct eight studies with a total of 2,819 participants.

Managerial implications

The development of CX measuring instruments provides several new opportunities for marketing managers.

  • First, instead of relying on CX proxies such as the Net Promoter Score, these scales offer managers a direct measure to quantify and monitor the CX performance of their organization.
  • Second, managers can use both scales with different kinds of experience providers (brand, personnel, other customers), touchpoints (online, offline), and customer journey stages (pre-purchase, purchase, post-purchase). As such, the scales are not limited to a specific scenario and are particularly suited for applications in today’s complex omni-channel environment.
  • Third, due to the scales’ predictive abilities, managers can also include CX as a key metric in their marketing dashboards and combine it with transactional and operational data (e.g,. with machine learning) to improve important outcomes such as customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Fourth, marketing managers can use the icon-based pictorial scale to implement easily a CX measure in their existing market research (e.g., in surveys on mobile devices). The icon-based scale is an efficient yet valid alternative to the text-based scale and thus particularly attractive for managerial practice and field studies.

Markus Gahler is a Ph.D. candidate in Marketing at the University of Augsburg, Germany. Jan F. Klein is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Michael Paul is Full Professor for Value Based Marketing at the University of Augsburg, Germany.


The authors gratefully acknowledge a Marketing Science Institute Customer Experience Grant (#4000054), which helped to support this research.


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