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Putting the “management” into CEM


In 1925, as his psychoanalytic methods began to find wider reception after decades of neglect, Sigmund Freud wrote, “Finally, I am no longer alone.”

A similar sense of relief (if not vindication) must be felt by many web content management professionals today. Finally, those of us (whether analysts, consultants, vendors, or practitioners) who have long celebrated the benefits of personalized, targeted, contextual, and otherwise relevant content and interactions on web sites and other touch points find, as Freud said, “an eager crowd of fellow workers.”

Finally, it seems as if the long – and wrong – insistence upon treating the web as a one-size-fits-all publishing platform (that is, as a newspaper) is coming to an end, and that the inherent but long-dormant dynamic, conversant, intelligent potentials of the medium will be realized.

The recent explosion of information about customer experience management (CEM) is but one indication of this turn. Yet the notion of “managing” customer experience still raises objections. Since customer experience concerns the totality of a customer’s interactions with a firm or brand, it necessarily includes many non-digital and “unstructured” elements, such as browsing in a store, face to face exchanges, and “above and beyond” moments, like the Ritz-Carlton’s “extended vacation” for Joshie, the left-behind stuffed giraffe.

CEM Solution = technology + processes + human factor

You can train floor personnel and research merchandising strategies, but ultimately, there’s no app for that – some aspects of customer experience cannot be addressed, let alone managed, with a digital CEM solution. (Here I’m obligated to note that no vendor currently offers a complete CEM platform. First, because there are so many [potential] software applications involved, and second, because a complete solution combines software, business processes, skill sets, and service provider partnerships.)

At Digital Clarity Group, we aim to bring some clarity to the intersection of customer experience and CEM with the following three-part definition:

  1. Customer experience (CX) is the totality of a customer’s interactions with a company or brand. Note that in this definition, “customer” refers equally to  prospects  – those who have not yet conducted a transaction with the company – and that the “totality” of interactions includes all channels and touch points over the entire life of the relationship.
  2. As a business discipline, customer experience management (CEM) refers to the strategies, processes, skills, technologies, and commitments that aim to ensure positive and competitively outstanding customer experiences.
  3. With reference to technology, CEM includes the array of software tools that organizations use to create, store, deploy, analyze, and optimize the aggregations of digital assets that make up the user experiences on digital channels.

So yes, there are aspects of customer experience that cannot reasonably be managed. But it doesn’t follow that you shouldn’t be evaluating, and planning for, the technologies and processes that support and enable CEM – for two very important reasons.

“Real” Experiences

First, the virtual is rapidly invading “real” experiences. At some Home Depot stores, for example, shoppers can scan bar codes to instantly view product details, instructional videos, and user reviews on their mobile device. C&A stores in Brazil have experimented with clothes hangers that display Facebook likes for the product in real time. From the “detailing” of physicians by pharmaceutical reps with iPads to rich customer profiles for call center staff to multimedia kiosks in retail outlets – analog reality is increasingly supplemented and enriched by digital elements, which in turn have to be created, aggregated, deployed, and monitored – in short, managed.

Mobile First

Second, smart mobile devices and ubiquitous connectivity have made digital channels the primary and most important interactions with consumers. Yet a recent global survey of 6000 consumers by Accenture found that while 91% were satisfied with the “ease” of in-store shopping, and 70% with online experiences, only 32% were satisfied with mobile interactions. In other words, the most critical customer touchpoint is the one that needs the most work. Digital needs to become more like reality – that is, less like something artificial and more like something natural, frictionless, and simple. In this (utterly crucial) respect, CX can be M’d, and it must be, in order to orchestrate the complexities behind the scenes and present a consistent, cohesive, and exceptional experience to the customer.

A modified version of this post appeared on the Inside CXM website on October 21, 2013.


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