Customer experience has great managerial relevance. A survey revealed that more than 90 % of executives see the improvement of customer experience as a managerial priority (Oracle, 2013). In the same vein, customer experience has been in the forefront of the research priorities of the prestigious Marketing Science Institute since 2010, revealing its importance to market and economic actors. Some experts even say that “every company needs a chief experience officer” (Yohn, 2019). But, first, what is customer experience?
Customer experience refers to the customer’s responses and reactions to offering-related stimuli throughout a customer journey. For example, if you see an ad that intrigues you, you’re having an experience. If you feel apprehensive when, in these times of coronavirus, the market is crowded, you’re having an experience. Or when you enter a store and sense a wonderful aroma in the air, you’re having an experience. Basically, any spontaneous response or reaction that you might have − such as happiness, surprise, or anger − is considered an experience. When these responses and reactions are triggered by offering-related stimuli − such as an ad, an employee’s behavior, or a product − then you’re having a customer experience. A customer journey, in its turn, is the process that customers undergo to achieve a particular purchase or service goal. For instance, a customer journey in the market can start with the customer at home making a list, then going to the market, entering the market, browsing options, selecting products, waiting in line, paying, and going home. This journey can continue if the customer decides to write a review about her experiences there or has additional interactions with the market.
In my doctoral research, I argued for a broadening of this conceptual domain. More specifically, my dissertation better defined the conceptual domain and moved toward a more customer-centric perspective of customer experience that focuses on consumers’ higher-order goals. In my postdoctoral research, with the help of LSR’s funding, I plan to continue in this broadening avenue. Among the topics I am researching with co-authors from Finland and abroad are the omnichannel customer journey, collective experiences, and the dynamics of customer experience. One personally interesting move in this broadening avenue is the one from customer to consumer journeys.
We already saw that customer journeys involve all interactions a customer has with an organization to achieve a particular purchase or service goal. A consumer journey is the journey that consumers undergo to achieve higher-order goals in their lives (e.g., the journey toward sobriety, journey toward a successful academic career). A consumer journey encompasses several customer journeys. For instance, in order to get a PhD (higher-order goal), I needed the help of the university − which was obviously the main service provider − but also copy-editing services, a print house, healthcare professionals, and even friends and colleagues who helped with practicalities, just to name a few. In this sense, a consumer journey gives a more complete picture of what goes on in a consumer’s life. A more complete picture, in its turn, helps firms and organizations offer better value propositions that actually help consumers achieve their goals. Let me now introduce an example of research I am conducting using the consumer journey concept.
A consumer journey of recovery from compulsive consumption
Marketing activities typically aim at increasing the consumption of economic offerings. However, extreme forms of consumption, such as gambling or alcohol abuse, can be harmful to consumers, their networks of relationships and society as a whole. In this particular project, I focus on the journey of recovery from compulsive consumption using the consumer journey metaphor. Such journeys are defined as continued engagement with a practice or set of practices and subsume interactions with multiple service providers. Considering that consumption is embedded in consumers’ everyday practices, the purpose of this project is to analyze how consumers reconfigure the system of practices that support and/or hamper the journey of recovery from compulsive consumption. To achieve this goal, I collected qualitative data with recovering alcoholics (also with a previous grant from LSR).
With this work, co-authored with Dr. Hope Schau (University of Arizona), Dr. Melissa Akaka (University of Denver), and Dr. Elina Jaakkola (University of Turku), I expect to understand how consumers disengage from unsupportive practices and the ripple effects on the consumers’ systems of practices. This work can contribute to consumer research by extending knowledge on disengagement of consumption practices. I expect the results to generalize to other forms of compulsive consumption, such as gambling, a known problem in Finland. The results can also offer implications for professionals involved in compulsive consumers’ journeys, such as self-help groups and health service providers.
Overall, my ongoing research portfolio encompasses research that aims at better understanding consumer journeys so businesses can help enhance the human experience (note that here there is also a broadening from customer to human experience going on in the literature). By having this broader understanding about consumers, I expect marketing to be more accountable and responsible with societal problem, thus addressing one of the focuses areas of research of this foundation: future-sustainable environment.
Oracle (2013). Global insights on succeeding in the customer experience era. Retrieved from http://www.oracle.com/us/global-cx-study-2240276.pdf.
Yohn, D. L. (2019). Why every company needs a chief experience officer. Harvard Business Review, Organizational Culture. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/06/why-every-company-needs-a-chief-experience-officer.
PhD Larissa Braz Beckerille myönnettiin syksyllä 2020 Liikesivistysrahaston 15.000 euron apuraha Tulevaisuuskestävä ympäristö -painoalueella.