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The customer experience conundrum

By Alan Wilson - Posted on 10 September 2015

Alan Wilson, professor of marketing, explains what customer experience management (CEM) is and how a business can measure its CEM strengths and weaknesses.

Although 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience, only 8% of customers agree.  Whilst most organisations are aware of the importance of delivering an excellent customer experience, many are unsure of how to measure the progress that their business has made in this area.

What is customer experience management (CEM)?

CEM is the management of all the direct and indirect interactions a customer has with an organisation’s people, processes and facilities.  The ultimate objective is to provide a seamless and consistent experience through the whole customer journey from the initial enquiry to the final billing for the product or service. This means looking at the various steps from the customer’s viewpoint rather than from an internal operational perspective. A company needs to know what is important to customers at each stage of the journey and with each “touchpoint” they experience.  This may be for a one-off purchase or an ongoing long-term relationship.

Identifying key criteria and putting measurement tools in place to assess whether these are being delivered is critical to the effective management of customer experience and may offer organisations a way to distinguish their offerings from the competition.  A recent Customers 2020 report found customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Industry leaders such as Apple and John Lewis are often recognised for putting the customer experience at the heart of their strategy and can charge a premium price for doing so.   These brands regularly top customer experience league tables and possess large loyal consumer bases.

Improving the customer experience is not a straightforward task.  It only happens when customer experience becomes a top priority and an organisation’s work processes, systems and structure change to reflect it.  All parts of the business have a role to play in delivering the experience and it cannot be seen as a task to only be undertaken by a customer service department. Nor can it be left to those with front line exposure to customers alone.

How do I know if my business is getting CEM right?

Customer feedback surveys and tools such as the Net Promoter Score, can enable a firm to better understand the customer’s journey with the brand and the moments where improvements may be required.  However, there is also a need to understand how employee attitudes and behaviours, as well as internal processes, are changing to concentrate focus on the customer.  To address this, I have been working on a CEM Maturity Evaluation Framework in partnership with Kim MacGillavry, Head of Customer Experience at DHL Freight, Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst at Ovum and Pa Sinyan, MD of Gallup Germany.

DHL Freight has used the framework questionnaire to pinpoint where their business’ strengths lie and which areas require further development. The framework assesses the customer experience aspirations of employees within a business and their perception of the organisation’s current CEM performance.  These two factors are measured across five key dimensions:

  • Visions, values and brand
  • Customer centricity
  • Visionary leadership
  • Employee engagement
  • Tools and processes

Any gaps between employee aspirations and perceived performance of the business indicate its CEM maturity.  The results help define what action is required to close the gaps. It can also be used to compare the performance of different organisations or different departments.

The framework can be applied to any organisation regardless of industry. It is helpful for companies that are yet to embark on their CEM journey as well as those that have a strategy in place. The framework is an effective tool to validate how your strategy is unfolding so you can quickly get guidance on which elements need further refining or require more focus.

The Evaluation Framework is potentially open for anyone to use.  To further test the framework and potentially create benchmarking information for participating organisations, we want to hear from businesses who are interested in assessing their own CEM capability.

If you would like to discuss the possibility of using the framework to assess your own business’ CEM maturity, please email alan.wilson@strath.ac.uk.

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