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 Marianne CotterCustomer Experience Management: Capitalizing on Customer Perception
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 By Marianne Cotter

From CRM Business Processes to CEM Customer Perceptions

Of all the acronyms and buzzwords swirling around the customer-centric company, Customer Experience Management (CEM) is perhaps the most interesting because it seeks to continually push the envelope of the customer's relationship with the company, nearly independent of technology. Defining Customer Experience Management, however, is not as easy as it may seem, especially when you try to distinguish it from Customer Relationship Management (CRM). They appear quite similar — improving the customer's experience with the company to establish long-term loyalty — however, there are key differences and understanding those distinctions can help you move your company to the next level of customer engagement.

While CRM can be described as the use and integration of both strategy and software technology to optimize customer facing business processes, such as marketing, sales force automation and customer support, CEM takes a longer and more customer oriented view. Customer Experience Management can be described as an ongoing process along a continuum to continually meet and exceed customer expectations, while applying customer learning in a way that continuously transforms the organization to better serve its customers. At its current point CEM is being defined in terms of the customer's perception of their experience with the company. The thinking is that when a customer perceives positive experiences, he or she begins to feel aligned or vested with the company and then acts on behalf of the company, championing its products and services, or so the research suggests.

Many companies have already taken steps to incorporate perception into their customer strategy. Bruce Temkin, an analyst at Forrester Research, has done research that shows that approximately two-thirds of companies are now investing in some form of CEM that incorporates the perception that customers have of their interactions with an organization.

Harnessing Customer Emotion

Customer experience management is based on putting yourself in the customer's shoes to understand their buying experience, product usage experience, support experience or other interaction with your company. In the world of call centers and routed phone calls it is not unheard of for the company to decide it has delivered a great experience based on its analytics while the customer says his experience was terrible. These two points of view must be reconciled or companies risk customer churn, decreased market share and lost profits. To align customer and company perception, the company must implement a method to capture and measure customer feelings at each touch point and interaction experience.

Beyond Philosophy, a CRM Consulting Firm, defines CEM as follows: "Customer Experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer. It is a blend of an organization's physical performance, the senses stimulated and emotions evoked, each intuitively measured against customer expectations across all moments of contact."

Significant is the emphasis on "emotion," a word that is seldom heard in the boardroom and even less often appears on corporate reports. But it speaks directly to the customer's experience, not about it or around it.

The effort to place value on the customer's experience is beginning to spur new metrics. Experian, a credit reporting firm, has developed a highly touted "net promoter score" that measures the customer's willingness to recommend the companies services, a gold standard in customer-centric companies. A customer who advocates on your behalf is exponentially more valuable than one who simply spends money.

CEM in the Call Center

Nurturing customers who are willing to recommend the company frequently begins with customer advocates inside the company, and often times in the call center. Empowering customer service agents to empathise and act on behalf of the customer rather than blindly side with the company can pay off handsomely.

Smith&Company, a UK-based CEM consulting firm, has created a quadrant that illustrates the evolution of the contact center from an inefficient, ineffective model toward its apex as an experiential model that rewards customer advocacy.

  • Interaction Management (IM)
  • Inbound
  • Cost focused
  • Customer Support
  • Customer Experience Management
  • Multi-directional and Channel
  • Customer Focused
  • Customer Advocacy


  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Outbound
  • Revenue Focused
  • Customer Loyalty
line Effectiveness line

If you follow the chart from the lower left corner to the upper right, you'll find that CEM is more than just efficient interactions or even effective relationships. In the call center CEM goes beyond customer support and customer loyalty to the higher plane of customer advocacy. Most call centers strive to become merely efficient, meaning that they can handle a large call volume at the lowest cost per call. The result is efficient operations that may fall well short of satisfied, loyal customers. The next move most companies make is toward effectiveness, which is usually done by implementing a CRM software system that integrates multiple channels and analyzes data to determine the most profitable customers, who become the objects of higher levels of service. These interactions take a little more time but represent greater value to the company.

Developing Customer Advocates

The final step blows it out of the water by turning customer agents into customer advocates. The advocate steps out of his or her biased role as company representative and approaches the customer's side, often having multiple, prolonged interactions over as many channels as necessary to get the customer exactly what he or she wants and deserves. The number and length of interactions is no longer the criteria for success. Customer service agents are not timed and penalized for interactions that take too long. The point is to provide an experience to the customer that the customer will in turn share with others. Now that customer has become an advocate for your products and services and may in turn assist other customers who are having problems often in social forums. You will want to prompt and encourage your customer advocates to be active in forums as part of your relationship.


Many consulting firms are now specializing in helping companies improve their CEM efforts. Some companies even do complete CEM make overs. Even if you can't hire a consultant, man of these websites offer excellent information and resources.

  • G-CEM,, is a global customer experience management company that offers methodologies to help companies assess and deliver exceptional customer experiences. Their services includes two programs, TCE (Total Customer Experience) evaluation provides criteria to benchmark CEM criteria, and the Global CEM Certification Program which is co-delivered by 15 G-CEM International Partners from North America, Europe and Asia.

  • Beyond Philosophy,, provides much of their research online including white papers such as "The Customer Experience Planning Gap" and "Firms Lack Emotional Intelligence."

  • Smith & Company, , a UK-based CEM consulting firm whose website offers plenty of resources. Check out Customer Advocacy under CEM Tips.

  • Customer Passion,, is a consulting firm which offers a Customer Experience Makeover starter package tailored to small and mid-sized businesses. Subscribe to their RSS feed.

  • Strativity,, offers a CEM library on its website under the "You" tab. End

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Comments (4) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest Chris Nichols
  Are there specific software applications for CX?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    There are dozens of types of software technology that contribute to CX, including enterprise feedback management (EFM), voice of the customer (VOC), social listening, sentiment analysis, gamification, knowledge management, content management, self service, mobile apps, analytics and many more. There is no single CX software application. This is a very fragmented software market where point solutions generally address specific challenges or opportunities.

Guest Chris Nichols
  Why haven't the mainstay CRM software vendors incorporated more broad based CX functionality with the rest of their CRM software features?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    It's a very big endeavor, however, we're beginning to some signs of what I think you are describing. Oracle is the most aggressive CRM software player rapidly expanding into the CX space. Anthony Lye, the company's CRM lead, is quite candid in saying "CRM is becoming a commodity, customer experience is the next differentiation." To this end, Oracle and Lye have acquired 5 software companies (ATG, FatWire, Inquira, Endeca and RightNow Technologies) in the last 14 months which are being integrated and collectively positioned as an enterprise software CX solution. Oracle is also defining an Oracle CX Framework—which looks like a platform stack with MDM (master data management) on the bottom, then a CRM layer (with operational apps and BI) and then a CX layer (or what they call experience apps). The company's intent is to empower end to end CX-specific business processes for both B2B and B2C companies. I suspect its only a matter of time before the traditional competitors make similar moves.


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In the world of call centers and routed phone calls it is not unheard of for the company to decide it has delivered a great experience based on its analytics while the customer says his experience was terrible. These two points of view must be reconciled or companies risk customer churn, decreased market share and lost profits.


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Customer Experience Management

CRM solutions focus on sales, marketing and support from the company perspective. CEM has emerged to focus on the customer needs and desires. CEM solutions integrate strategy, processes and technology to optimize each customer experience. The increased alignment delivers increased customer activity, advocacy, revenue and customer share.





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