Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Customer Experience Management Isn't Enough

Ron Shevlin’s comment on yesterday’s post concludes that “without more disruptive changes (re-org and fundamental change in strategy) -- even starting with a focus on the "customer experience" won't guarantee a sustained change.”

Ron is absolutely right and the implications are worth considering. “Customer experience” and “customer experience management” are not goals in themselves. They are ways to understand and run a business. People adopt them because they make the business more profitable than alternative techniques. If you don’t think that’s the justification, consider the opposite: would anyone advocate “customer experience management” if they thought it would makes companies less profitable?

This is precisely why I’ve been so focused on Lifetime Value: I see it as the link between customer experience management and financial performance. My view, perhaps naively, is that companies will adopt customer experience approaches once LTV has shown what customer experience management is worth.

But Ron’s suggestion of “re-org and fundamental change in strategy” raises the question of whether LTV is enough. We all know that organizations act in ways that are not purely rational. Certainly the personal and political interests that favor existing, product-based organization structures will not vanish simply because LTV analysis shows they yield suboptimal results.

But if financial measures won’t lead to change, what can? This leads straight to leadership. Top management must first believe that customer experience management is a superior strategy. Then they can take steps to make it happen.

It’s impossible to discuss this in any other than religious terms: it’s a matter of faith and vision. As with any religious belief, it’s hard to predict who will feel the call at any particular moment. But spreading the faith does require continued evangelism and support systems to help new converts sustain and deeper their engagement.

LTV is one of those support systems. CEM consultants, marketing agencies like Ron’s Epsilon and technology companies like James Taylor’s Fair Isaac (with its Enterprise Decision Management concepts) are others. I guess it’s not terribly flattering to think of oneself as a support system. But it’s an important role and helps many companies to move ahead. So it’s certainly worth the effort.

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