Friday, December 08, 2006

Reading the Hype Meter for Customer Experience Management

Dale Wolf’s comment on my Wednesday post suggests hopefully “it could be that CEM recognition is about to get its due” based on the increasing frequency of “customer experience manager” as a job title. This got me to wondering how you would really measure the progress of a concept towards a buzzword tipping point, or whatever you want to call it.

My initial benchmark, which I still think is a good one, is a cover on BusinessWeek. The thought here is that represents mainstream business reporting. Remember that my real criterion for buzzword success is that companies feel they need something but don’t really understand it. I consider that success because that’s when they hire consultants. So the first BusinessWeek cover is a pretty good indication that an idea is considered both new and important. So far as I recollect, Customer Experience Management hasn't had its cover yet. And I would have noticed.

Another indicator would be trade conferences. There is apparently just one series of conferences explicitly titled “Customer Experience Management”, run by the Conference Board. Better than nothing but not too impressive—think how many CRM conferences there are.

Then I happened to notice that Hedge Funds for Dummies has just been published (I’m not making that up). Another excellent measure of mainstream cultural presence. A visit to (still not kidding) turns up RFID for Dummies, Six Sigma for Dummies, Service Oriented Architecture for Dummies, even Sarbanes-Oxley for Dummies (do you really want to see your CFO reading that one?) Of course, there are several titles related to CRM software (Microsoft CRM, Goldmine, ACT!, as well as generic topics like Branding for Dummies, Customer Service for Dummies and Marketing for Dummies. But no Customer Experience Management for Dummies.

How about the big consultancies—McKinsey, Accenture, and such? I’m sure they do customer experience management work, but the few I checked don’t seem to have practices with that title. No buzz-power there.

I considered in-flight magazines, another key pathway into the executive brain case. But I couldn’t find any index of articles to check. Still, I can’t recall seeing any articles on the topic in my personal travels.

Wikipedia was interesting: it has brief article on “customer experience management” based mostly Bernd Schmitt’s work. It quoted Schmitt’s broad concept of CEM as "the process of strategically managing a customer's entire experience with a product or a company", but then later referred to CEM as only an “approach” to relationship marketing.

Wikipedia has an even shorter entry under “customer experience”, but the definition is so good (i.e., close to my own), that I’ll quote it in full:

“Customer experience is the quality of the experience as apprehended by a customer resulting from direct or indirect contact with any touch point of a company, including marketing, branding, customer service, support, in-store experience, product design, service or Web site, etc. Customer experience in this broader sense also includes "User Experience", which as the name suggests, is concerned with, and limited to, direct usage of a product.

“The quality of the customer experience at any touch point individually can affect the overall relationship a customer has with a company. For example, a customer with a very high opinion of a company and its products may have a complete turn-around after a negative post-sales service customer experience. Or a company with an otherwise fine track record at many customer touch-points may create a negative experience through a poorly executed marketing communication piece or practice.”

All these are interesting but still pretty subjective. Maybe the clearest measure of buzz is Google Trends, which counts how often a term is searched for and how often in appears in Google News articles. “Customer experience management” didn’t have enough volume to return any results—which is probably all we really need to know. But I tried “customer experience” and got some data. I compared it to “customer relationship”, and to my surprise found the two were about the same in news reference volume. “Customer experience” even seems to pull ahead a bit during 2006. “Customer relationship” has two to three times as many searches as “customer experience”, but even that ratio isn’t as high as I had imagined. Click here for the results.

Promising – except then I thought to try “CRM”. Now the ratio in favor of CRM is so high you can barely guess it—maybe 5:1 for news and 20:1 for search. I tried “CEM”, but that can stand for many different things so the results weren’t useful. For sake of comparison, I threw in SOA, RFID and Six Sigma, which all run at about half as many searches as CRM and the same or slightly more news articles. Click here for a look.

What about the blogosphere? Somewhat similar results: Technorati finds 55,275 mentions of “customer experience management” and a similar 51,545 of “customer relationship management”, but 153,303 for “CRM”.

Should we even bother with YouTube? Why not? “Customer relationship management” has 17 entries and “CRM” has 123. “Customer experience management” gets all of seven. (“Customer service”, where you probably don’t want to appear, has 578.)

This research isn’t simply a goose chase. Measuring buzz is something marketers need to learn to do as community-based channels become more important. But so far as the hype level for customer experience management goes: I’m still not impressed.

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