The purpose of this paper is to review customer experience formation (CXF) by first locating and analyzing how researchers approach CXF in the service literature and the theoretical underpinnings of these approaches, and then assessing which approaches are best suited for understanding, facilitating, and examining CXF in today’s service landscape.
This study systematically reviews 163 articles published between 1998 and 2015 in the service field.
This study illustrates how researchers approach CXF on the individual level by applying stimulus- interaction- or sense-making-based perspectives. These reflect researchers’ theoretical underpinnings for how individuals realize the customer experience within environmental, social, and temporal contexts through intermediation. Researchers further apply contextual lenses, including the dyadic and service- or customer-ecosystem lenses, which reflect their theoretical underpinnings for explaining how various actor constellations and contextual boundaries frame individual-level CXF. Finally, this study shows why the sense-making-based perspective, together with a service- or customer-ecosystem lens, is particularly suitable for approaching complex CXF in today’s service settings.
To advance theory, researchers should choose the approaches resonant with their research problem and worldview but also consider that today’s complex service landscape favors holistic and systemic approaches over atomistic and dyadic ones.
This study provides managers with recommendations for understanding, facilitating, and evaluating contemporary CXF.
This study advances the understanding of CXF by systematically reviewing its multiple layers, approaches, and dimensions and the opportunities and challenges of each approach.
The author would like to thank Professors Kristina Heinonen, Maria Holmlund and Phil Klaus, and Assistant Professor Johanna Gummerus, as well as researchers Apramey Dube, Gustav Medberg and Linda Nasr for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. The author also gratefully recognizes the Finnish Foundation for Economic Education for financial support.
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