Remember “the dress” — the photo that went viral a few years ago, reaching 840,000 views a minute? I mention it because Forrester defines customer experience (CX) as your customers’ perceptions of their interactions with your brand, and that photo drew widespread attention to the fact that perceptions can vary widely from one person to the next.

What does that variability mean for CX? It means that CX pros, who often advocate for gaining understanding of customers by “seeing through their eyes” or “walking in their shoes,” are right but need to go further. The complexities of perception make that seeing and walking trickier than most of us realize. That’s because, in the words of one of my favorite perception researchers, neuroscientist Beau Lotto, “data is meaningless” — our brains assign meaning to it.

Similarly, in customer experiences, customers’ perceptions arise when they assign meaning to stimuli — ranging from the color of a button in an app to the counsel of an investment advisor about how to achieve financial independence. That meaning that customers assign depends largely on their context and especially on knowing what Forrester calls the customer’s deep context. That requires not only knowing how customers’ physical environments influence their perceptions but also more nuanced personal factors such as customers’ cultures, past experiences, social influences, and personal psychologies.

Sound hard? It is. And it will be at the center of Forrester’s CX SF 2019 Forum on October 17 and 18 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis this year, where I’ll be keynoting on how to use deep context to more accurately understand your customers’ perceptions. I’ll be joined by fellow Forrester analysts and leaders from several highly innovative companies who will share their stories.

Want to join us, too? Register for CX SF 2019. I hope to see you there!