Mastering the Customer Experience

Customer Experience
Customer Experience

Focusing on the customer is not something new. CRM theories embraced in the 1990s hold true today-the operational, collaborative, and analytical aspects of the CRM ecosystem still need to be adopted and adhered to.

What is new, however, is the need to now focus on Customer Experience Marketing. CEM is a subset of an organization's overall customer experience management strategy and drive to become customer centric. It is about managing every single part of the interaction and experience a customer has with an organization, from the visual experience of advertising, to the actual experience of interacting with a website, customer support line, or physical layout of a branch, and even to the standard of the product or service delivered.

CEM tackles marketing at a human and emotional level, causing the customer to feel not only connected, but also delighted and loyal and able to be a consistent advocate for the brand. This customer-centric approach helps to create the only true competitive advantage a company can achieve outside the commodity battle involving the features and price of their products or services.

There is much evidence to suggest that customers will stop doing business after even one isolated bad experience, and CEM tackles this fragility of customer satisfaction and relationships. John McKean, executive director at the Centre for the Information Based Competition, drives home this focus on customer experience: "Seventy percent of the reason we buy anything is based on how we are treated as a person during that experience."

Marketing, therefore, must either lead, or be part of, the Customer Experience Management strategy. The marketing organization should play an integral role in creating the strategy, interacting with customers through the marketing and sales process, and orchestrateing a personalized customer experience based on acknowledgement, trust, and respect.

Marketing, however, cannot take this journey alone. CEM requires companies to develop a customer-focused approach not just in marketing, but also in other departments, as well as with information, and organizational processes. It is futile for marketing to do an excellent job if they are, for example, to be let down by the customer service team, billing system, or an executive who drags the brand though the gossip columns of the newspapers.

One of the main elements marketing needs to implement CEM successfully is a core competence in customer information. This can only be built by developing a passion for marketing driven by analytics. It is impossible to truly understand customers on a one-to-one human level unless we have the appropriate data, and also the ability to analyze, interpret, and act on that data to improve the marketing and buying experience.

Building skill sets and a focus around the analytics of marketing will help drive the CEM competence of the marketing organization. But to act on and execute this intelligence-and to ensure every aspect of a customer's interaction with an organization is planned, monitored, and nurtured-it is essential that marketing is able to intelligibly coordinate and integrate its processes with other departments throughout the organization.

Marketing also needs to commit to building the right infrastructure, which may involve employing or training marketers with the right analytical skills, investing in a marketing technology platform that provides an integrated set of applications built on top of a single data architecture, or sourcing a business partner able to add their domain expertise in data management, for example. The correct infrastructure is intrinsic to the success of marketing's management of the entire customer experience process.

Marketing is on a journey to master this fundamental, differentiating, intellectual property of CEM: customer information. So while marketing is on its CEM competence journey, the rest of the organization needs to be too, from a leadership, culture, people, organizational, process, technology, and information perspective.

About the author:

Bob Barker serves as vice president of corporate marketing at Alterian. Contact Barker at