The 3 Biggest Customer Experience Game Changers of the Last Decade
Adam Toporek Keynote Speaker of Customers That Stick®
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It is an amazing time to be a customer experience expert and a fascinating time to look back at the immense changes to both the idea and practice of customer experience that the last decade has brought.

Personally, as a third generation entrepreneur, this was the decade where I made my transition to taking the principles I’d learned through my years of entrepreneurship and codifying them into ideas and theories to teach others how to improve the customer experience and customer service in their organizations. 

As we close out the 2010’s, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the top three customer experience game changers of the past decade. So much has changed in the past 10 years, and truly, no decade prior to this one has been more important to the theory and practice of customer experience.

So, what were the things that were truly transformative, that set the stage for what customer experience is going to look like in the next decade? 

And by the way, make sure to check out our blog next week because we’re going to look at three predictions for what the game changers of the next decade are going to be. 

Game-Changer #1: Establishment of Customer Experience as a Profession

In this past decade, customer experience went from something promoted by a handful of early evangelists to a recognized discipline impacting almost every other field of business. 

In 2011, we saw the establishment of the first comprehensive professional organization dedicated to the profession, the CXPA or Customer Experience Professionals Association, by two of the pioneers of customer experience Jeanne Bliss and Bruce Temkin.

This decade also saw an explosion in the number of C-level executives with experiential titles such as Customer Experience Officer (CXO), Chief Customer Officer (CCO), and similar. While many of these titles existed in the last decade, they exploded in popularity in this decade. In fact, a 2019 Forrester report reported a 1000% increase in the number of CX executives over a five year period. 

Perhaps most importantly, this decade saw the deep development and refinement of the tools of the profession. From customer journey mapping to service blueprinting to sophisticated voice of the customer programs, the science and practice of experience is a world away from where it was ten years ago.

Along with the increased presence of the CX profession has come greater understanding throughout most industries about the idea of experience, about the idea of viewing experience as an entire journey, from beginning to end, from touchpoint to touchpoint.

A Gartner survey from 2017 found that 81% thought they would be competing primarily or solely on the basis of customer experience in two years. If they were right, then that 81% is now.

In other words, this decade is the one that saw us move past the idea of just customer service but also — and we’re going to talk about this in our third game-changer — back to customer service.

In the end, the biggest game-changer that happened to customer experience in the past decade was the acceptance, development, and rise to prominence of customer experience as a business strategy and as a profession.

Game-Changer #2: The Explosion and Use of Big Data

Let’s go back to 2010. MySpace was still big. LinkedIn was eight years old. Facebook was six years old. Twitter was only four years old. And Instagram was just being born. More importantly, we were still accessing many of these platforms primarily from our desktop computers. Sure, the first iPhone showed up in 2007, but smartphone sales that year were only about 120 million units. At the beginning of this decade, smartphone sales were up to 300 million. This year, however, they are estimated to be about 1.5 billion. 

And let’s not forget; it’s not just about the devices, but the apps on them. How many of us manage a much greater portion of our lives using our mobile devices today? Much of how we do so came in the last decade.

Delta Airlines launched its app in 2013. Spotify grew its paid subscriber base from a couple of million at the beginning of the decade to 100 million this year. In fact, even the word “app,” which has been around forever, was voted the “word of the year” in 2010 as a reflection of how our relationship with these devices and the programs on them has grown.

Finally, the Apple app store when it launched in 2008 had 500 apps. Last year, during the ten year anniversary, it had 2 million apps. And of course, one of the biggest changes to the explosion of big data in the past decade, the growth of the Internet of Things and of digitally connected everyday devices.

We thought we knew what lots of data was 2010. Wow, did we have no clue what was coming. 

With this explosion of data has come the technology to collect, parse, and analyze it. And the sophistication and power of this technology is growing by leaps and bounds every day.

As a keynote speaker, I speak at a lot of conferences, and a simple walk around the exhibit hall at any customer experience themed event reveals the amazing technological advancements that are being developed to manage and capitalize on this explosion in big data.

This data explosion has also brought with it a whole host of new experiential issues — privacy, security, and consent — that most industries did not have to be concerned with in the past. Now, more and more industries are having to put these issues front and center.

Big data has absolutely been a game changer in this past decade for customer experience and more than that, it is also leading to one of my predictions for customer experience game changers in the next decade. But that is a topic for next week’s blog post. 

Game-Changer #3: Our Understanding of the Impact of Emotion on Experience

The final game changer is almost the opposite of big data. It’s based on the human behind the data, and more specifically, our understanding of human emotion and its impact on experience. Now this is one of our focus areas here at CTS Service Solutions, particularly the focus on emotion as it relates to both digitally integrated and human-to-human customer experiences. 

I often say in my keynote speeches and customer service training that we live in a golden age of psychology. Because we’ve learned more about the human condition in the past few decades than in all human history before. And while much of that knowledge has been adding scientific confirmation to an understanding of human nature that is as old as the written word itself, some of that knowledge has created new and unique insights, disproving long-held beliefs and theories. 

This decade was the decade in which behavioral economics in particular — but also evolutionary psychology and neuroscience — penetrated mainstream thought and business thinking like never before.

From the publication of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow in 2011 (with it’s important idea of the Peak-End rule) to a renewed interest in Robert Cialdini’s 1984 classic Influence, to a deeper understanding of cognitive biases and their impact on human decision-making, this decade made it cool to talk “neuro.”

Research into emotion and customer experience was a part of this overall trend, with great work being done by my colleague Colin Shaw and others in advancing our understanding of the impact of emotion on experience and how emotion can be determinative of experience results.

The latter half of the decade found the idea of an emotional customer journey gaining traction and beginning to inform mainstream discussions of customer experience, not just human but digital as well. Emotion became such a centerpiece of customer experience thought that The Temkin Group even labeled 2016 as “The Year of Emotion.”

This understanding of emotion, of the idea that intuitive, instinctive, emotional brain overrides the logical brain, resulting in irrational decision making has changed and is changing not only how we approach experience design, but in the case of our company, how we train frontline teams. We use these principles to create customer service training that’s unlike anything that was done in the past. 

Well 2010s, it’s been a wild and crazy ride.

Being in customer experience for the past decade, I feel a little bit like I was in California for the gold rush of the mid-1800’s — except this has been an intellectual and technological rush, a moment to be at the forefront of a set of evolving ideas and concepts to help make customer experience better, make businesses more profitable, and to help us all live more enjoyable lives. 

So those are our three customer experience game changers of the last decade.

Make  sure to check out our blog next week where we’re going to look at my predictions for the three biggest game changers of the next decade. 

About the Author Adam Toporek

By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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