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Let’s begin with our conclusion – customers want to be able to have positive experiences, and companies want to provide them because they are necessary. But companies want more—they want promoters, they want advocates, they want intimacy, they want engagement!

At once we have goals that are congruent—and that’s good news; and, we have goals that are different, and that means even harder work ahead.

It has become patently obvious that we have been seeing a dramatic shift in the past few years in how companies are treating their customers. In almost every case there is a desire to ensure that customers have memorable experiences interacting with companies. The seminal article by Pines and Gilmore (1998) on the new experience economy might be thought of as the advent of this new movement across businesses.

Indeed, companies are now crafting customer experience strategies. There are many new—last ten years—approaches, models, processes, considerations being undertaken to design the experience customers have interacting with businesses. Consultants have emerged in this area providing counsel and guidance; companies are building customer journey maps to influence every touch point in their journey; there is a strong desire to create change through close loop development—such as gamification and upskilling; numerous metrics have been developed; new technologies have been created and multiple new businesses have been born to provide a handle on the experience economy.

Just as we are coming to understand the phenomenon of customer experience, we are seeing a new shift on our landscape. There is a shift toward a whole new engagement economy. It is a landscape that is even less understood than the experience one we have been traveling for the past decade or so. To understand this shift to a new paradigm, it would be helpful to re-visit what we mean by these two widely used terms—experience and engagement. To do so, we harken back to the dictionary.

ex·pe·ri·ence [ik-speer-ee-uh ns]

noun – is an event, a thing, a happening, an instance, observing, encountering or undergoing something.

It is an important component in the design of the customer journey. Companies are focused on trying to get people to have a positive experience. So they create an event, a thing, a happening, etc. Because so much has already been written about this, we will not provide details here.

en·gage·ment   [in-ˈgāj-mənt]

noun – is a promise, to be back, to be married—it is far more intimate than experience.

To be engaged, customers must feel a powerful sense of commitment to the brand. Engaged customers are promoters, advocates, champions, word of “mouse” soldiers in social media channels. To have a truly en·gage·d customer, we believe that it is necessary to create positive ex·pe·ri·ences… and more!

What is this more? We believe that a truly engaged customer is one who feels, thinks and behaves in ways that are desired (Fig. 1).

Experiences are foundational elements of engagement. Companies are already investing in crafting CX strategies, building and implementing VOC/CEM solutions, creating close loop changes, monitoring impact on key performance indicators and building out customer centric cultures.

In designing these experiences, companies must begin to pay attention to granular design principles so that customers’ thinking, feelings and behaviors are influenced in ways that engage them.

1 B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore , “Welcome to the Experience Economy”, Harvard Business Review, 1998

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