Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What's Really Holding Back Customer Experience Management?

Epsilon’s Ron Shevlin is worried about the future of Customer Experience Managment. In a post today, he concludes, “If proponents don’t come together to reconcile the conflicts in their frameworks and provide credible high-profile case studies that capture the attention of senior execs — before the end of 2008 — then CEM won’t be a term we’ll hear a lot about come 2010.”

I actually think there are plenty of successful cases for Customer Experience Management: Amazon.com, Disney, Dell, Federal Express, Starbucks, JetBlue (until last week), and Apple iPod spring to mind. It’s interesting that the bloom is off many of those roses but that doesn’t negate their past successes. Nor do the conflicting frameworks bother me. I see them as a sign of commercial interest and continued conceptual evolution.

My own theory is that CEM has failed to become a must-have management technique because it seems optional. CEM is viewed as one possible strategy among many, and one that’s harder to pull off than other choices such as cutting costs. What we really need is not success stories but failure stories: tales of companies driven out of business by the superior customer experience of a competitor. Human nature being what it is, fear of loss is a more powerful motivator than a chance for gain.

But fear must be accompanied by a path to success. This is where methodologies, frameworks and, yes, even consultants become important. There is no lack of these in the world of Customer Experience Management. I do think there is shortage of metrics that connect customer experience to business profits. Profits, as you may have noticed, are what managers ultimately care about. This is why I spend so much time on Lifetime Value, which I see as the best candidate for this role.

But I'm not foolish enough to think that better metrics will make CEM the Next Big Thing. That will take senior managers becoming scared that if they don't pay attention, their business is in jeopardy. In that sense, maybe JetBlue's recent troubles are really the best thing that could happen.

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