The Future of Customer Experience: From CX to HX: The Evolution and What it Means for Marketers

Retail industry news delivered directly to you. Subscribe to Retail-Insider.

By Chad Neufeld, Senior Marketing Manager at Chaordix

“The past is always tense, the future perfect,” Zadie Smith wrote in her novel White Teeth.

Past practices of customer experience revolved around what many consider customer support today. It focussed on streamlining online self service, making certain that call centre interactions were pleasant, and ensuring that questions or complaints were addressed in a way that did not leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.

Today’s customer experience has taken a few steps forward. Modern CX pros see to it that customer data is in one place, communications are streamlined across channels, and marketing systems are using customer data to inform messaging.

But how does a brand get to a perfect future like the one that Zadie wrote about? What does tomorrow’s customer experience look like?

The future of customer experience isn’t customer experience at all, but is something much broader and richer called holistic experience.

What Is Holistic Experience?

If you consider customer experience as the path people go through while they are evaluating and purchasing a product, you are only considering the very first step on a potentially life-long journey.

Holistic experience includes the purchase of a product or service as well, but it goes beyond the transaction. It considers the use of that product or service, the relationship between a customer and a company, the context in which the customer uses the product, what they say to others about the product or the brand, and the ideas they have for future products.

A Comparison by Way of Example

Let’s compare customer experience and holistic experience by introducing the fictional Rae, who is interested in buying and using an electric toothbrush.

Rae has been hearing a lot about electric toothbrushes and has started to question whether their traditional toothbrush is doing the best job when it comes to a white smile and fresh breath.

Rae does a search for electric toothbrushes and surfs through Amazon reading reviews and creating a shortlist of options. They then go to each company’s website to get more info. They have a question about toothbrush charging on one site and are able to use the provided chat option to get an answer from a rep quickly. They make their choice and then head back to Amazon to make the purchase. A few days later the toothbrush shows up and Rae is the proud owner of a powerful tool for daily oral maintenance.

Rae’s purchase follows a rather typical customer experience journey. The touchpoints highlighted here (product listings, company websites, chat widgets, customer service employees) are the focus of much of the customer experience industry.

So how does holistic experience differ from the customer experience we just covered? For one, it does not end at product ownership. Let’s pick up there. Now that Rae is using an electric toothbrush, they need to know the best way to use and maintain it. They also now have the knowledge necessary to provide feedback to the brand who sold the product. They might have ideas for how the product could be better, or complimentary products that do not exist, but should be available. Finally, Rae had two goals: whitening their teeth and freshening their breath. While tooth brushing can go a long way to achieving those goals, there are other things Rae can do to support those goals.

A brand providing a holistic experience would educate Rae on all of these other things (like flossing and food and regular dentist visits) that also contribute to their goals, and maybe connect them with a group of people who share the same motivations and interests.

If CX is all of the things that happen leading up to and during the purchase process, then holistic experience is those things, as well as what happens afterwards that contributes to the ultimate goal of the customer.

Sheertex, a Canadian maker of space-age tights, proactively calls every single customer a few days after they receive their order in the mail to make sure that they are happy with their purchase and answer any questions that the customer may have. This is a step past the traditional customer experience process and towards holistic experience.

Holistic experience changes the dynamics of the seller-customer relationship. In order to support a customer in achieving their goals and sharing their insights, brands need to build a space for connection, communication and relationship building. Branded online social communities are increasingly being used to serve as this gathering space for brands, as places where learning from customers and providing value to them is scalable in a way that calling each customer to check in really is not.

Fast Forward to the Future

In the future, brands will identify the true value that their products provide, and then use technology to extend that value. They will identify the goals that their customers have, and they will design experiences to support the achievement of these goals.

In the future, the buyer of a pair of designer sneakers will be sending a signal to a company that they want to become (or hopefully stay) stylish. The brand could then invite them to their sneakerhead community, which would be constantly updated by the brand and their customers with new trends and styles. In the future, customers will not just get sneakers, but also a community of people who can help them stay stylish, their ultimate goal in the first place.

Online communities, like the sneakerhead one described above, will allow customers to get the very most out of their purchases, and help companies improve the next generation of products. Brands will be able to build relationships with customers and learn about them more quickly and in more depth, which will inform efforts across their organizations.

Online gathering spaces that allow customers to interact with each other help brands scale the holistic experience approach, because the brand does not have to create all the content. All they have to do is put in the right structure and include the right prompts and moderation. With the right foundation in place, users and fans can support and inspire one another.

Big Forces at Work

As physical retail changes and more purchases are made online, brands are increasingly going to go up against giants like Amazon who are hungry to find trends and then create their own products to capitalize on them. If brands are not focussed on the future of the customer experience, then they may find themselves commoditized by Amazon.

Chad Neufeld, Senior Marketing Manager at Chaordix.

In addition, an increase in ecommerce is going to make discoverability harder. The Rae of 2005 would have walked into their local drugstore and walked out with one of the three electric toothbrushes that had been on the shelf. The Rae of 2025 may have 2,000 toothbrushes to choose from across and

Brands who use the concept of holistic experience to build another layer of value, something that will be harder for the Amazons of the world to replicate, stand a chance to both survive and thrive long into the future. Those are the brands that will help the Rae’s of the future attain their goal of white teeth.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here