Customer Experience Hierarchy

The discipline of Customer Experience has really started to gain traction in the last few years, thanks largely to the consumers of the world demanding it, which is a good thing. As more and more organizations adopt consumer-centric processes and even missions, those just getting started are seeking a path forward. I was recently asked, "outside of hard metrics, what does it mean to have satisfied and loyal customers? Is there a way to define them?" I thought this was such a fascinating question, I decided to make a chart.

I started with the basics, and what customer experience means. If you saw my post about defining customer experience, you'll recall I define it as a sum of all the parts of your product or service and the way in which your customers view those parts. From the billboards on the highway to the ease with which they can register on your website. And the way your box looks in a Target store to how easy it was to use it. And then right on through to whether or not they’d recommend it to their friends and family. That’s customer experience.

Then I thought about it from the customer's perspective to create this hierarchy:

InSpeier Customer Experience Hierarchy

Satisfied:  Meeting basic needs results in satisfied customers. They can accomplish their goals. They don’t feel any particular loyalty, but they aren’t running away screaming. However, customers at this level are highly vulnerable for loss to the competition, especially in categories that are commoditized. They aren’t likely to forgive you for poor service or a poor experience.

Empowered: As we provide tools to empower our customers, they become more tied to us. Empowerment comes in many forms; we often think of mobile apps, but there are lots of other things brands do to liberate their customers. Providing multiple locations, allowing customers a grace period, enabling multiple ways to pay a bill or interact with the organization, are all examples of customer empowerment. A customer’s level of forgiveness increases here, but not much as these experiences are still transactional.

Engaged: This level in the hierarchy implies a longer-term commitment-in-the-making. We’ve moved past the dating phase. We’re engaged. As it relates to customer experience, customers perceive their relationship with the brand as strong. Companies with engaged customers are typically doing things inside the organization to ensure their customers are satisfied and empowered. Customers are now willing to forgive for mistakes and try again. They are likely to reference the brand using the word “love.”

Advocate: Customers in this category talk about the brands they love to others. They stand up for them when others speak against them and they promote them to their inner circles. It takes a long time to earn this kind of trust with your consumers. Brands like Nike, Nordstrom, and Apple have loyal advocates.

The “parts” of customer experience are found within nearly every business. But the discipline of pulling them all together to provide an experience that builds love and trust with a brand…well that’s a whole new ballgame. And one that takes work and commitment to yield success. Stay tuned for more tips on how to integrate the people, processes and technologies inside your organization to make your customer's experiences great!

For today, plot your customers in their CX hierarchy with your company, and think about what it would take to move them to the next level.