From user to customer, from silo to experience

In 2004, there was roughly the same number of searches for user experience in comparison to customer experience, according to Google Trends. By 2017, search interest for user experience had doubled, but search interest for customer experience had almost trebled. It was around the middle of 2013, that customer experience began to pull away from user experience, so that by 2017, for every 100 searches for customer experience, there were only 64 for user experience.

Usability has shown a dramatic decline in searches since 2004. In that year, for every 100 searches for usability there were only 7 searches for user experience and 6 searches for customer experience. By 2017, for every 25 searches for customer experience, there were only 16 searches for usability.

In 2004, for every 26 searches for information architecture, there were only 8 for customer experience. By 2017, for every 25 searches for customer experience, there were only 5 for information architecture.

Even web design has shown a dramatic decline. In 2004, for every 100 searches for web design, there was only one search for customer experience. By 2017, for every 14 searches for web design, there were three for customer experience.

The true expression of customer experience is often customer service. It is when a customer has a problem that they truly experience what it is like to deal with an organization. In 2004, for every 33 searches for web design, there were 18 for customer service. By 2017, for every 100 searches for customer service, there were only four for web design and just one for customer experience. Customer service has exploded in interest since 2004.

What has happened? There has been a shift away from users (and all its negative historical IT baggage) towards customers. There has been a shift away from silos and disciplines (web design, usability, information architecture) towards experiences. Most importantly, there has been a shift away from product culture to service culture.

A product culture creates things, often complex things. These things are then packaged and heavily marketed. The product is all about selling the promise, of painting a compelling picture of future states where you will need this product.

Services are based on now. I’m hungry now. I need to get to town now. I need to arrange this meeting now. I need to find the opening time now. I need to work collaboratively with my colleagues now. I need more bandwidth or storage or processing power now.

In marketing they say, sell the sizzle, not the sausage. With services, you sell the sausage. Here’s a free version. If you like the services in this free version, then maybe you might consider paying a subscription for these more advanced services.

With services and experiences, you must focus in a holistic, unified way, and this is the movement today. In 2004, the disciplines and components of a website (design, architecture, usability) were being searched for. Today, it’s all about service, the solution, the experience.

The Twitter or social media team cannot deliver a unified, seamless experience. Nor can the website team. Nor can designers, information architects or usability professionals. We must rise above the disciplines, the professions, the channels. We must focus on the customer, the experience, the task.

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