CX, the metaverse and everything

By Mr. Shane Schick posted 08-11-2021 10:48 AM


This post was published here first for the benefit of CXPA members but will also appear on 360 Magazine

Most earnings calls are opportunities for investors to vent their frustrations, for financial analysts to ask tough questions and for CEOs and CFOs to explain themselves. In Facebook’s case, it’s an opportunity for Mark Zuckerberg to begin marketing an idea that much of Silicon Valley seems to be counting upon.

As CNN reported, the word “metaverse” was mentioned more than a dozen times in the social media giant's most recent call. Zuckerberg described the metaverse as “an embodied Internet that you're inside of, rather than just looking at.” This may be as close as we get to a standard definition until the metaverse actually comes to pass. 

So, perhaps the metaverse will be like living a video game, perhaps by wearing a virtual reality headset, and perhaps where your digital life is underwritten by advertising that is near-impossible to escape. 

Where the metaverse began

If this sounds less than idyllic, that could be because the term “metaverse” was first coined in Snow Crash, a science-fiction novel by Neil Stephenson in 1992. The difference is that while a novel requires bad things to happen in order to move the plot forward, the tech giants are suggesting their metaverse will be far more benign.

For anyone who remembers virtual worlds such as Second Life, the concept of a metaverse may sound familiar — and dubious. And yet today we already have singers like Ariana Grande who are performing concerts in Fortnite, a video game which is constantly expanding the variety of shared experiences we can have online. 

When customers and the metaverse meet

So far I’ve yet to hear Zuckerbreg, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella (who also talked about an “enterprise metaverse” on an earnings call last month) mention how the practice of customer experience design might be woven into this brave new world (or worlds). 

A great deal of the discussion so far has been about hype — and largely an opportunity to come and explore and create digital replicas of traditional experiences. 

The implicit assumption, much like the early days of the original Internet, was that if they build it, everyone will come. We know from the dot-com crash of the early 2000s that it doesn’t always work that way. Usually the innovation is produced, it fails to meet expectations, and there is some tinkering before we become comfortable with it. 

Right now brands are still trying to figure out how to make e-commerce fast, easy and fun. Welcoming customers into the metaverse may be a tall order. Still, they could probably use many CX best practices to increase their odds for success. 

Key CX considerations for the metaverse-minded

It’s worth thinking through the possible metaverse customer journey, for instance. How will people decide to enter it? What will influence the duration of their stay, and the kind of activities they pursue there?

What kind of feedback can they offer about their experiences in real-time? What might be the best ways to offer them self-service capabilities to solve any problems they run into, and what kind of direct support will be necessary? 

Next, think about how will the metaverse coexist with other channels. The Zuckerbergs of the world tend to paint a picture in which you’ll love the metaverse so much you’ll never want to leave it. Which is exactly the way people used to talk about browsing web sites. 

And yet there are still people making calls, sending texts, watching videos and even making in-person visits to physical locations. Understanding the channel orchestration required to deliver an experience to the metaverse and back should be a priority. 

Finally, what metrics should be used to continuously monitor and improve CX in the metaverse? Customer satisfaction may not be sufficient. Customer Effort Score might be more relevant, at least in the early days. Will having a high Net Promoter Score (NPS) based on how customers rate you in the metaverse affect anything in the “real” world? 

CX has become an important discipline precisely because organizations have realized that keeping the customer at the heart of what they do makes them successful. Today it doesn’t feel like customers are at the heart of the metaverse. They are simply being encouraged to join it. The better approach would be to design it as though they were already there.