Customer experience management (CEM) represents an inflection point in marketing—one that marketers should be using to gain advantages for their companies and their customers. In fact, CEM’s role is increasingly vital in a digital world in which company reputations and customer loyalty can be gained or lost in an instant.
Until now, most marketing and sales conversations centered almost exclusively on customer relationship management (CRM). But the unprecedented use of digital, social, and mobile channels is changing traditional ideas about managing customer relationships. CRM is essentially a one-way dialogue from company to customer that often is more about “managing” than “engaging,” especially when looking to connect across multiple channels and devices.
But CEM changes the conversation, ultimately making it better to do business with your company because you can offer more meaningful, relevant interactions across all touchpoints, whether a customer is looking for information or services, or to make a purchase. With CEM, companies take a multidimensional approach that engages customers in ongoing conversations—versus one-way communication—that respond to their unique interests and goals.
With CEM, you need to consider several important questions:
- How do customers feel about your brand during the entire life cycle, whether they are interacting on your Web site, looking to redeem an offer delivered to a smartphone or tablet, or sharing with friends on Facebook?
- Do you understand each customer’s needs, and are you providing timely, contextually appropriate creative assets, products, and offers at the right time and through the right devices and channels?
Marketing From The Customer’s Point Of View
Whether customers are in a retail location, watching TV commercials, or engaging with brands through mobile phones, Web sites, or social networks, CEM transforms opportunities for businesses and customers alike. It can provide the digital eyes, ears, and smart outreach through relevant offers, creative executions, and personalized communications across consumers’ preferred channels, at the time they want to be engaged.
Ironically, many marketers tend to overthink CEM, or they concentrate on what they want to do—cross-sell, upsell, or offer a discount to close a sales quarter on a positive note—instead of thinking about what provides the most value to the customer. CEM goes far beyond simply leveraging inferred or volunteered information from customers: It’s about always becoming more relevant and engaging in the changing contexts that customers want to do business.
Of course, there’s no single context for engagement; it can vary tremendously from industry to industry, and even widely within industries, depending on a customer’s demands. For airlines, for example, the end-to-end experience might be 24 hours, while for car dealers, it might be five years or more.
Making Sense Of Data Overload
Today, marketers need to tie together data, analytics, and intelligence about customers to deliver relevant information in the right context at the right time via the best channels. Context can be built from customer profiles on venues such as Facebook or LinkedIn, where they came from (e.g., search engine, social network, etc.), location, and more. Then marketers need to design experiences with context in mind to grab and hold people’s interest.
CEM cheat sheet.
Getting started with CEM is simpler than you think. Here’s a six-point cheat sheet of considerations:
1. Avoid overanalyzing CEM: Instead, focus on what provides value to the customer. That means thinking about becoming more relevant and providing a better brand experience. Many marketers tend to leave money on the table or turn people off by going too far.
2. Think total experience: Leading global hospitality company Hyatt discovered more opportunities to engage with customers by providing a better overall online experience. Instead of just recommending nicer rooms, the innovative company took digital services one step further and began offering online amenities, such as booking reservations for customers at nearby theaters, restaurants, golf courses, and other venues. The experience was wrapped around the stay at the hotel, but the value was in the hotel acting as a personal concierge. As a result, customer loyalty for the hotel chain has been increasing, as has the number of online bookings.
3. Be responsible: Seriously consider the advantages but also the responsibility that context-aware technologies have on purchasing and loyalty behavior. People want to be catered to, so when they opt in and provide you with information, listen and act appropriately. Above all else, treat their information carefully.
4. Resource appropriately: Create a dedicated team to coordinate customer-experience-focused initiatives across the organization. Marketing professionals can use information gleaned to gain firsthand input from analysts on all matters that impact customers, particularly from the intersection of social marketing, CEM, digital media, and the role of mobile applications and devices.
5. Additive, not exclusive: Tie together digital marketing initiatives to create new CEM approaches. Every time you engage with a customer, your customer will have some kind of experience—and you want to avoid the bad ones. Rethink the notion of channels and about how technology can break silos instead of reinforcing them in the way it has to date. Recognize that product road maps, brands, and systems are your world as a marketer, but customers live at the center of their own worlds and are surrounded by constantly changing options.
6. Spend wisely and invest in the relationship: Recognize that advertising, ironically, can be the only impression that fails to leave one most of the time. Also, don’t just close the deal, but instead do what it takes to build a successful customer relationship and loyal brand advocate over the entire life cycle of interactions.
Companies that embrace these approaches will find themselves building a pool of longer-term customers who truly empower and support them to grow their market shares and continuously shape and define their products and brands.
Driving Customer Value And Revenue
As businesses reassess what customer experience means and what is possible, it's time to take a new look at the importance of customer demands. Marketers have the opportunity, as never before, to engage customers for a lifetime, but to do so, they must think holistically across customer touchpoints. That means treating each customer not as a segment, but as an individual with unique needs and interests.