The Four Adoption Levels of Customer Experience

(Excerpt from Outside In by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine)



To proceed up the levels of maturity without missteps, you need to understand your starting point. Specifically, you need a realistic assessment of your current adoption level for each of the customer experience practices we’ve described in chapters 5 through 10.

You can think of adoption levels this way: The phases of maturity (Improve, Transform, Sustain) are like grade levels in school (freshman, sophomore, junior). Customer experience practices are like the courses you have to master in order to advance to the next grade, and adoption levels are like the marks you get for each of those courses.


It’s a rough analogy because your adoption level is a measure of how consistently you perform each practice, not necessarily how well you perform it. But don’t worry about that. We’ve observed that companies that consistently perform practices that are sound are way better off than companies that perform practices that might be better – but only do so on occasion.

To gauge how consistently your organization performs each practice on a continuum from not at all to all of the time, you’ll need to determine whether each practice is Missing, Ad Hoc, Repeatable, or Systematic (see figure 11-2).

Figure 11·2: The Four Adoption Levels of Customer Experience Practices (MARS)


  • Missing: Your organization doesn’t perform this practice at all. For example, you may not measure customer experience at your company, or you may not have a customer experience strategy. If a practice is at this level, it’s either because not enough people considered it important enough to do or no one thought of doing it in the first place. Regardless – it’s just not happening.
  • Ad Hoc: Your organization performs this practice sporadically. There is no defined process that specifies when it should be performed, how, or by whom. So when you see the practice performed, it’s because some people realize that it’s important enough to do at least some of the time. A few of them may even do it consistently. But it’s all down to a matter of choice for a person or an isolated team. For example, you may find that your e­commerce division decided to use all or most of the design practices when overhauling your website, but typically makes incremental changes with little customer experience design discipline.
  • Repeatable: Your organization has a defined process that specifies when this practice should be performed, how, and by whom. Your organization even follows the process most of the time. That means that people within your organization could perform the practice consistently all of the time – they just don’t. When we see practices at this level it’s often in one of two situations. In the first situation, some business units or departments follow the defined practices consistently and others don’t. If you’re a bank, for example, maybe your retail division conducts observational studies of its customers on a regular basis but your wealth man­agement division prefers to just have informal phone conversa­tions with its well-heeled clients. In the other situation, every part of the business will sometimes skip a practice like regular reviews of customer experience program status and metrics – it’s not yet part of their DNA.
  • Systematic: The organization has a defined process that specifies when this practice should be performed, how, and by whom. The organization follows that process all of the time. For example, you’ll find that everyone in your organization who requests funding for a project checks their proposal for alignment with the customer experience strategy-every time they submit a request. And you’ll find that everyone who measures customer experience quality uses the same measurement framework. Think this adoption level is unattainable? There are some things that organizations do the same way every time to produce consis­tently high-quality results, like paying people on time, filing their taxes, and performing generally accepted accounting practices. If you’re a manufacturer, your production processes probably come up to this level, and if you’re a software developer who sells to the U.S. government you need certification that your development process is at this level. So yes, you can get to this level with your customer experience practices -you just have to want it badly enough.

Reprinted by permission of Forrester Research. Excerpted from Outside In: The Power of Putting Your Customers at the Center of Your Business (New Harvest, 2012). Copyright © 2012 Forrester Research, Inc.; All Rights Reserved.