The text read “Drinking game: Drink every time they say ‘experience’ here at the conference.”

The sender, a dear friend and colleague of many years was not complementing the heralding of customer experience at this global conference. He was poking fun at the way so many people suddenly can’t stop using that term.

Customer experience (Cx) awareness is a good thing. Not just as a general term that defines the sum of all the experiences customers have with your company. It is that as well…. But as a targeted methodology that helps companies rate customer retention based on how the customer experience provides them functionality, accessibility, and emotional connection to the brand. Beyond the question, “how likely are you to recommend us to others” is the need for deeper evaluation of how a customer interaction delivered the functionality the customer required and how easy you made it for them to achieve it.

My “beef” with the way so many companies define Cx is not with the need for awareness. It is with the way so many people continue to separate it from the strategies that make it successful: relationship, engagement, centricity, service, support, transparency AND experience. Let me change the context away from customers to illustrate my point…Do you think you would improve your personal relationships by asking yourself the following questions every time you interact with your spouse or children?:

“Did I address your need?

Did I make it easy?

Did I act in a way that connected us emotionally?

The answer is YES! Awareness in these three areas will make your personal interactions more meaningful and successful. These three questions are equally important to relationship-building in personal and business life; not just in customer relationships, but in employee and partner relationships as well. BUT is experience all there is to relationship building? Absolutely not! We have to define “relationship” and the investments we make to pursue and maintain the right relationships. We have to learn how to “engage” in the right interactions and conversations that interlock people’s attention and participation. We have to make it “centric” to their needs. We have to proactively honor our “service” commitments while being nimble enough to react and “support” where no previous guidance is available. We have to infuse “transparency” that builds trust. Only then can we rate the “experience” effectively.

The reason why so many people use the terms “service”, “experience”, “centricity”, and “engagement” interchangeably, and why there is so much confusion about where one ends and the other begins, is that we have yet to see them as components in a single, unified strategy for winning and keeping customers. When we stop trying to replace customer relationship with customer engagement or customer experience, and acknowledge the place each strategy has in winning and keeping customers (and employees and partners) then, and ONLY THEN, will collaboration begin and silos start to dissipate.