Customer Experience Was Born In 1994

Yesterday, Google launched a very cool tool called Google Books Ngram Viewer that provides a searchable database of millions of books published over five centuries. The tool lets people search through 500 billion words from 5.2 million books in Chinese, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish.

As you might expect, I was intrigued by the announcement of this new analytical tool — so I decided to do a bit of my own analysis of the English corpus. Rather than do a bunch of analysis on the data, I’m just sharing the data with some basic observations. Notice the shape and peaks of the “S-curves” which highlight the evolution of terms that I examined. How would you interpret this data?

The focus on “Customer Experience” started in 1994

The focus On “Voice Of The Customer” started in 1986

“Customers” start to outpace “profits” and “employees” in 1995

CRM started in 1998 and peaked In 2003

Total Quality had an 18-year run, ending in 1996

The bottom line: Thank you Google for this new analysis toy!

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

3 thoughts on “Customer Experience Was Born In 1994”

  1. Absolutely fascinating!

    I also noticed that if you trend “customer loyalty,” the growth curve is remarkably similar, except that “experience” seems to be picking up speed again while “loyalty” looks like it has started to plunge:

    One other interesting note: there was a small spike in the literary usage of “customer loyalty” in the first few years of the 20th century. Were certain writers on to something way back then?

  2. Yes, very fascinating stuff indeed. Not sure how to interpret the graphs, but it does provide a good snapshot of popularity around certain topics. I looked at Customer Service which did a rocket launch upwards from 1980 until peaking in 2003. Based on my own knowledge of business, I can make an assumption this is also when service-based businesses grew on the back of the info age. I could also assume that companies placed more emphasis on customer service and beefed up customer service departments in an attempt to differentiate commodity products and services.

    At the same time customer service peaked, we see Customer Experience starting to move in a similar upward trend-line. What does this mean? I don’t know exactly, but I know from reading various sources (including Bruce’s blog) that companies can differentiate on customer experience and they can be more profitable in delivering good customer experiences. That’s a concept that has a lot of staying power and room for growth giving that the concept of Customer Experience is in the nascent stages relative to concepts like Customer Service.

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