Customer experience management (CEM) is, at its most basic, the management of your customers’ experience with your company. A more complete definition is that CEM is the company-wide discipline of continually listening and tending to your customers’ needs so that you meet or exceed their expectations, and it therefore becomes increasingly easier for them to do business with you. For good or ill, this feedback loop is at the heart of most customer behavior in today’s marketplace.
Customer experience management is, at its most basic, the management of your customers’ experience with your company. However, this definition is deceptive in its simplicity and says nothing about its critical importance in today’s marketplace: A recent study by Gartner found that nine out of ten marketers expected the customer experience to be the main differentiator for their businesses in 2017.
At roughly the same time, Aberdeen Research found that 29 percent of businesses still didn’t have a coherent definition of CEM throughout their organization, and that 25 percent of firms lacked a formal customer experience management program. However, the potential payoff for addressing these lacks cannot be denied; the same report suggested that companies that fully commit to aligning their businesses around their customers achieve anywhere from double to more than 20 times the rates of other companies in customer retention, annual revenue, change in customer satisfaction, and average customer profit margin.
Keep in mind that your customers’ perceptions of their experience with your company are based on their own expectations and assumptions – reasonable or not. So, considering the nature of the highest-rated customer-service companies out there today, irrespective of industry, what are your customers likely expecting from you? Experiences that are designed to fulfill their actual needs and goals instead of the processes that meet yours —and they expect these experiences to use the quickest, most efficient, and most convenient (to them) route possible.
With the advent of omnichannel, this route can now encompass a staggering array of channels. Aberdeen has said that 51 percent of companies today use at least eight channels to interact with customers, the most common being email, phone, web, mail or fax, in-store or in-person, social media, text, and mobile web. The more channels, the more likelihood that any channel analysis is siloed unto itself. That means employees can’t see the experiences customers have had across channels, which increases the risk of the perception of poor customer service. The channels any company employs must be aligned with customer preferences, not with the company’s or with industry or competitors’ efforts.
With all that in mind, what really is customer experience management? It’s the discipline of continually listening and tending to your customers’ needs so that you meet or exceed their expectations, and it therefore becomes increasingly easier for them to do business with you. Actively engaging in CEM requires the following:
- Acceptance of the fact that all parts of your business, and all the points where potential customers come into contact with these parts, have the opportunity to affect the customer experience.
- Tools, techniques, technology, and proper training of your employees to maximize their ability to engage in CEM activities.
- Process analysis and concrete measurement of progress.
Yes, it’s daunting, but as referenced above, any business that can’t look CEM in the face is at a vast disadvantage in today’s marketplace. So embrace the intent of the phrase and build a plan to successfully manage your customers’ experience.
- At the outset, remember that any customer experience strategy must account for relevant governance requirements, both external (such as PCI-DSS and HIPAA) and internal (such as legal requirements and brand compliance).
- Record and map all interactions with your customers so they are measurable; you probably have more data available than you think, so quantify it as often as possible. This consolidated customer journey mapping will help you understand your customers’ experiences through visual depiction.
- Use the map to identify your existing process’ strengths as well as weaknesses like dead-ends and choke points. Finding out exactly where things go wrong is your overall goal here.
- Be prepared to inform and involve the entire company in this sea change. Not only will you need commitment from nearly every branch of management, but your employees need to embrace the idea that everything they do can create customer satisfaction, no matter how indirectly.
- When you’re ready to fix the issues you’ve identified, avoid warm-fuzzy catch phrases like “delight the customer”; instead, create a specific plan of short- and long-term goals, again quantifying them as often as possible. Start with the small steps that will bring about the most positive results.
- To remove the obstacles in the customer journey, ensuring the seamless integration of your systems provides your employees with vital insights such as customer preferences and allows you to design products and services to better meet customer needs. Aberdeen found that top-performing customer-experience companies are 89 percent more likely to have this capability in place (72 percent vs 38 percent).
- Empower your agents at every level so they can easily help your customers achieve more. For example, VHT created VHT Digital to offer customers callback with context so that they regain some control of the process, and your agents have the information they need to resolve matters quickly and successfully.
- Measure results and create tight feedback loops using simple, meaningful methods. For instance, research has linked Net Promoter Scores to long-term growth and profitability — so, for all your numbers-driven executives, you have the tools as well as the research to justify the investment in ongoing customer experience management activities.