It is All About the Experience, You Know?

While I was at Gartner I wrote a lot about Customer Experience Management (CEM).  I mean a whole lot.  I co-wrote a guide to doing CEM with Ed Thompson (if you have a Gartner account, you just have to read what he writes – and if you can make it to one of his presentations, you will be a better professional for it – promise).  I wrote lots of individual research notes, presentations, case studies, lots and lots and lots.  I spent a very long time talking to vendors and end-users about it, making sure they understood what it was, how to approach it, and how to succeed at it.  You see, the little secret that few people know is that Enterprise Feedback Management, Surveys, Analytics and all that other stuff is not more than a sub-set of CEM.  Without Feedback, there would be no CEM – alas, without CEM Feedback would be as dull as… well, an air sandwich (come on, don’t make me explain it — two slices of bread, nothing in between… i was raised in Argentina, what do you want?).

Because everything you do with feedback, actually let me take that back.  Everything you do with your customers is about the experience.  There is no other way around it.  I was reminded of that this week, as I was doing some research into Social Media, SOA, Web 2.0, Web 3.0 (yes, we already have that), and Web 4.0 (that one is mine, not yet defined formally – working on it).  All these wonderful technologies will do absolutely nothing to improve your relationships with your customers if you don’t put them to good use – that is, use them to build a better experience.  After all, it is all about the experience – you know?

So, how do you get started in the world of CEM? First, repeat after me: CEM is not a technology (pause for you to repeat), CEM is not a tool (pause), there are no CEM Vendors.  Go back and repeat it again.  Good.  That is the secret of your success (no, not like Michale J Fox).  You will, as you embark in CEM, receive no help from software, hardware, or vendors despite their promises.  You can, if you want, ask for assistance from your friendly consultant (say, me), or do some research (work with Gartner – trust me on this, Ed Thompson and Jim Davies are superb).  You can try some of the “vendors” and “software” available for CEM (Google lists 2.9 MM entries for software, 250K for vendors) but trust me – there is nothing there for you.

Second, focus on the three Ps of CEM. Yes, the famous People, Process, and Politics.  As you develop your strategy for CEM (you already knew this was coming, it is not software or hardware, it has to be an enterprise-wide strategy – right?) remember that you will have to change your processes, train your people, and affect your politics.  The principles of Change Management will be your best friend, and prior experience with enterprise-wide projects your best ally.  If you don’t have any of these, don’t start – failure is at hand.  Make sure you know what you are getting into as you start working towards your goal.

Third, remember that CEM is an iterative process.  There is no end to it, just steps towards an improved experience.  Once you conquered the first set of processes, the first level of complex integration between interactions you will begin to receive feedback from your customers – that is how you know it is iterative.  Once you get this responses, you get to start again and continue to improve your (now better) experience.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not mention ROI for this investment.  Because, as you work improving your experiences you will need to show the return on the investment.  There may be no vendors or software associated with it, but it still require changes to process, training, potentially some EFM software if you don’t already have it, same with analytics and business processes software and systems.  There is a cost associated with it — and your CFO wants to see the return on the investment.  So, how do you prove the return in your investment?

Well, that is left for the next entry… but until then, do some homework and read my previous series on cost of customer acquisition and cost of customer maintenance.  Trust me, you will need them to go through the ROI of CEM.

Are you ready to get into CEM? What are you doing right now with it?