email iconemail phone iconcall



Mark Simborg, Editorial Director

The 4 Levels of Customer Experience

By Mark Simborg, Editorial DirectorJuly 7, 2017

In the HBO series “Divorce”, there’s a great scene where Diane, the best friend of the show’s main character, Frances (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), sits down at a big dinner party and the man next to her introduces himself. Diane responds by shaking her head and saying, “Oh no – we’re not doing this again.” She goes on to explain that they’ve already met 5 times before, and tells him exactly where and when each of those previous “first meetings” occurred. The man is taken aback and can do nothing more than blush and shrug it off, because she’s right (even though he clearly doesn’t remember any of the previous meetings).

If Diane is the customer and the oblivious man is the company, this is an example of horrible customer experience. The company hasn’t remembered any of the previous meetings with the customer, and it’s gotten to the point where the customer has been offended and has zero interest in ever dealing with this company again. The company should be embarrassed, and the customer has every right to move on and never look back.

In today’s world where every device touchpoint is a chance to get the know the customer a little better, there’s simply no excuse for this kind of treatment. And yet it still happens every day to millions of people.

Customer Experience Level 0: “Name and Date of Birth, Please?”

You probably know the routine yourself: you call a company to order something or inquire about an order, give them your information, and the next time you call it’s like it’s the first time they’re meeting you: you have to give them your information all over again, and so on and so on, until, just like Diane, you’re ready to move on.

If we think of customer experience as something that can occur in levels, the above is an example of level 0 – which means no data storage or analysis at all. Every time the customer interacts with the company is like the first time – he/she remain a faceless stranger unworthy of remembering. The company may be storing some basic info such as name and address, but it’s not incorporating this information in any way – that data is just sitting in a database for maybe a single use case such as billing.

This is the absolute bottom, or starting point, to put in a more positive context, of customer experience. Companies at level 0 are losing customers to competitors very rapidly and whether they’re B2B or B2C they will almost certainly not survive in an increasingly data- and customer knowledge-based environment unless they make major changes.

Customer Experience Level 1: “Welcome Back to ABC Goods, Mary”

Moving up the customer experience ladder means investing not only in tech but in people. To go from 0 to 1, you’re adding key software such as, at the very minimum, a CRM, and you’re adding people that know how to use it and can train others on it.

At customer experience level 1, you are starting to use basic demographic information such as name, age, gender, occupation, purchase history, and socioeconomic status to drive customer interactions and outreach. If you’re a brick and mortar store, you may use your data to equip your cashier workers with information such as when the last time people made a purchase or how long they’ve been a customer. If you’re a B2B software company, maybe you’re using the information to place an ad for your product on a certain targeted website.

This is level 1 of customer experience. Companies at this level are just starting to invest in customer experience. They don’t really know much about their customer outside of demographics. They’ll need to do fast and hard work to catch up to competitors, but at least they’ve started.

Customer Experience Level 2: “We noticed you like prints – how about this print blouse at 20% off?”

At customer experience level 2, your company is beginning to use analytics to gain a more holistic view of the customer and starting to understand your customers’ preferences. You’ve gone beyond statistics and demographics into actual behavior.

You’re starting to use analysis of your customers’ recent transactions and website movements, whether with you or someone else, to inform proactive product recommendations and personalization. You’re still remembering their purchase history and gender and name, but now you’re also incorporating activity – most importantly, recent activity. Customer experience level 2 is a bank knowing you recently bought a house reminding you to check out their upcoming webinar on mortgage planning, or an ecommerce site recommend the latest Nike cleats because you just bought some shin guards.

Companies at customer experience level 2 are probably in the thick of things with their competitors – ahead of some, behind others, but close enough to stay in the game. They’ll need to still invest more in the right technology, and also people, but they are well in the CX world and making headway.

Customer Experience Level 3: “Look right – the relaxed fit, bootcut men’s jeans you just liked on Instagram are on the top shelf.”

At customer experience level 3, your company has adopted key technology such as a powerful database management system to build customer experience from the data layer up, and you’re using the tech for real-time insights and hyper-personalization based on a totally holistic, 360-degree view of the customer.

Customer experience level 3 is Waze telling you it’s 35 minutes to get home from work right now, based on current traffic, or HBO knowing you just finished the last season of Game of Thrones and suggest you start watching Rome, or your bank knowing your husband just went overdraft from his transaction in your joint checking account and asking you, while you’re on the phone with them for something else, if you want to add overdraft protection.

Companies at customer experience level 3 are leading the way and getting ahead of their competitors by forging very personal relationships based on real-time analysis of vast quantities of data. They also probably have at least one person, if not a whole team of people, dedicated to their CX initiatives.

Back to That Dinner Party

Let’s go back to that dinner party scene in HBO’s “Divorce”, where Diane’s “old friend” introduces himself to her as if they’re just meeting for the first time. Remember, Diane is the customer and her friend the company.

Except this time, let’s say the guy (ie, company) remembers everything about Diane from their previous meetings. He used each meeting to get to know her better, and he remembered everything.

So now, instead of introducing himself again, he looks over and says, “Hey Diane – how was your trip to Spain?”

He knows Diane just went to Spain because she told him about her upcoming trip in their last meeting at the previous dinner party, which was itself the culmination and sum of the parts of the 4 meetings before it, in which he learned Diane’s occupation, marital status, interests, and hobbies.

Diane tells him about her trip to Spain, and then he asks her about how her daughter is doing, because he remembered Diane telling him she had broken her wrist. He also remembered Diane saying she was looking for a different school for daughter for the next school year, and he gives her the name and phone number of a friend who has kids in three different schools in the city and can offer her some really good advice based on experience.

He then fills Diane’s wine glass with red wine – even though there’s a bottle of both white and red on the table – because he remembers from all the previous dinner parties that she likes red. Diane thanks him profusely, and they chat away the rest of the dinner party – a friendship has officially been made. That’s amazing customer experience. And that’s what creates loyalty.


White Paper: Customer Experience and Why we Are Returning to the Days of Ancient Greece






  1. Terrific writing on arbitrary topics. Im currently trying to
    accomplish something such as what you have here except on
    a different topic totally. Many thanks for the motivation to
    write better content.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *