Devolving the Customer Experience

We tend to think of customer service (or the customer experience) as constantly improving – that companies are always striving for ‘better.’ It’s similar to technology: at no point do we believe that tomorrow’s tech will perform worse (or offer fewer features) than today’s tech. We know current smartphones won’t devolve into 3 pound flip phones with 45 minutes of battery power, right?

But not all industries (or companies, for that matter) embrace the mantra of improvement.

A great example of this is air travel. Here’s what the flying experience was like from the 1950s through the mid-to-late 1970s:


Fast forward to our world today. We’ve seen incredible advances in flight, and we’re surrounded by amazing technology – improved materials, better lines of communication and more capabilities.

The Devolving (and Painful) Customer Experience

Yet, here is what the industry’s evolution towards ‘better’ capabilities, products and services has yielded:

It isn’t my intention to pick on airlines – the air travel business is cutthroat, cost-intensive and hyper-competitive. But they are, in many ways, an example of a backwards-evolving customer experience. While improving communication lines to deliver better customer service, they’ve simultaneously devolved the customer experience until it is (literally) almost too painful to contemplate.

It’s a 20th century mindset that poses significant challenges in the ‘less-cost-based/more-experiential’ focused 21st century. For consumers, there will always be a place for the budget option. But cost alone won’t win brand evangelizers, and it won’t foster customer loyalty.

Amazon: Once Cost, Now #CustExp

Companies that devolve from a strategy of delivering customers the best experience possible – or never embrace it – run risks in today’s marketplace. Someone cheaper can always come along and displace you.

Think about Amazon: once upon a time they would undercut the competition, making them the go-to destination. Today, they are no longer the cheapest in many cases.

But we all know what to expect from the Amazon experience (‘push-of-a-button-simple’), making the slightly higher price worth the peace-of-mind (or ease of use).

That’s the power of customer experience, and why devolving – or reducing – that experience for the sake of price no longer seems such a safe strategy.