The Curse of the Psycho CX

I’ve come into contact with a lot of sick people in the last six months.

They’ve got CX & Design Thinking disorder. Its an obsessive compulsion affecting consultants and marketers, adfolk and boardrooms.

CX had become the answer to every problem. No one builds brands these days (you loser) we’re all designing experiences now.

But just calling what you’re doing ‘CX’ and patting yourself on the back for your complex Experience Map doesn’t guarantee a better customer experience or the creation of services people will actually want.

Most CX, like most advertising, branding and product development that went before it is psychopathic.

Amongst other markers, Psychopathy is characterised as a pretty terrifying lack of empathy.

Lacking empathy means you don’t feel the pain of others, in fact you can’t imagine what others are feeling, you fail to identify with other people and your emotional responses remain superficial. This is what a lot of CX is like. A glorified customer journey wrapped-up in all the usual narcissistic and inside-out biases that organisations tend to suffer from.

Psychopathic CX sees all interactions as a functional problem to be solved, a friction to be removed. Recent entrants to the customer marketing space including the technology consultants are particularly susceptible to this psychopathic tendency. To a Systems Integrator every interaction is just another component to be optimised. But people aren’t components.

Take the story of a national lottery brand. They embarked on a well-intentioned virtualisation of the gambling experience removing all friction from the mobile experience. But in doing so they removed the fun. You see for most players the anticipation of a win result was the only reward they’d ever get. Turning the win result into a millisecond-efficient loss notification killed the fun. Psychopaths.

The very term ‘CX’ is where it starts to go wrong. Companies need customers but defining those people only though the lens of ‘a customer’ rather than er, as people instantly reduces their empathy.

CX likes to focus on segments. But segments are stereotypical and arbitrary groupings that fail to capture the richness of what it means to be Human. We’re not segments we’re intersectional, the accumulation of multiple interesting layers of ideas and behaviours that are often contradictory. People are less rational than we used to think but CX ignores this.

Its time we retired CX, IX and UX and all their innate weaknesses and replaced them with Hu-X. Hu-X is Human Experience. Focusing on our Humanity and on the motivations that really drive behaviour. Because people are flawed, imperfect, their words so often camouflaging what really motivates them. It makes them wonderful too. But Psychopathic CXers haven’t been into the Human wild. Their ethnographies are third-hand, desk-bound and therefore stunted .

Bad design is all around us. From links that don’t open your preferred map app, to the door that opens the wrong way. And these should be designed out of existence. But the removal of something bad doesn’t necessarily equate to making something great.

Design thinking on its own isn’t enough. As everyone progressively removes all the design flaws from their experience we’re heading to a place of perfect seamlessness and utter indifference. Every airline check-in is exactly the same, every online grocery order the same, every mindfulness app the same, every mobile phone contract renewal the same.

The logical conclusion of psychopathic CX is a world of homogenised experiences that are flawlessly indistinct from each other. Just as washing powders get to a point of product parity so categories converge towards experience parity.

Yes experiences with brands should be painless but they should also be incredible, rewarding and memorable. Not just functionally brilliant but emotionally loaded with meaning. Empathetic CX creates greater mental and physical availability, last click and first click. That’s the way to create distinct experiences that will drive brand selection and act as the powerful and sustainable discriminator to drive your business forwards.