CX, CEM – What’s the Difference?

This is my first column for this new Web site, and I would like to establish the basics about customer experience.

Back in 2004, while I was at Gartner, Ed Thompson (probably one of the finest analysts ever to grace the halls of Gartner) asked me to collaborate with him on "the ultimate guide for customer experience management [CEM]." Back then this was just getting started (well, version 2.0 was getting started) as the must-have item for the modern CRM implementation. If you have already finished your CRM (yeah, as if, but back then we were more naive about it), CEM was the next logical step.

The same attributes we mention today to justify customer experience were en vogue back then: Millenials (back then it was Generation Z) are all about experiences, customers expect and are willing to pay more for experiences, etc. In short, if you wanted to succeed at CRM you had to do CEM.

We talked quite a bit about it, did the research, documented most of what we found, and even put a whole slew of case studies and examples in the paper. Bottom line, we created (I will give Ed most of the credit, although it was my topic as the then-resident expert on feedback and experiences) a wonderful guide 42-plus pages long that had all you ever needed to know about CEM. It brought a lot of attention, a lot of follow-up consulting work, and is still quoted today.

One of the main points we emphasized back then was that experiences had to be managed. Organizations had a critical role to play: they had to create, deliver, and maintain experiences for the customers. Customers were consumers of experiences created by the organizations.

This third iteration of Customer Experience (without the M for management) is a tad more complex.

Starting circa 2005-2006, we saw a shift in this area: Customers no longer wanted to be the recipients of experiences, they wanted to create and customize them. Not only that, but the more feedback events (read surveys) we conducted about experiences, the more we learned how the customers saw the experiences, and it was not as we thought. As it turns out, about 60 percent of the work we did for that guide was correct. Customers did expect experiences (and most of the methods we highlighted to design, deploy, monitor, track, and maintain them were almost correct), but they did not want the organization to manage them.

Customers, amidst what my good friend Paul Greenberg calls a communication revolution, began to feel empowered to demand more participation in creating and customizing experiences; they also made decisions on the basis of how simple their experience was. Experiences were no longer driven by the company and customers subject to them. Customer wanted to cocreate their experiences with the organization, either as a static or dynamic experience.

In view of these changes, I adapted the original work we did in my seven-part series on how to deliver awesome customer experiences. (I was no longer at Gartner by then, so it is in my blog.) This is not a final state of affairs, more evolution has happened since then, and most of it is reflected in my work and presentations on the collaborative enterprise, but it's a good entry point for customer experience.

The work I did was to refocus the customer experience design and deployment on a cocreated reality, with customers and employees working together to generate the best experiences possible. Such experiences were easily adapted to each customer's reality and focused on delivering to their expectations; simple to provide and accommodate feedback on how to improve the experiences taken both via surveys and by looking at operational and processing data; and easy to improve as the organization or the customers evolved.

In addition to the work I did in the past both in CEM and CX, I wanted to mention the top three differentiators of customer experience now versus then:

1) It is not about management, it is about effective delivery.

2) It is not about satisfaction with one or more pieces of it, it is about effective delivery of what's needed.

3) It is not about fast processing and making things work, it is about effective delivery of what's needed in the right time, place, and context.

Customer experience is focusing on what client need, when and how they need it, and ensuring that what is delivered meets their expectations.

Is this what you are doing? Think about it.