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Can We Sell A Box Of Customer Experience Management?

A few weeks ago, CRM analyst Paul Greenberg challenged several vendors – including Allegiance – to explain why and how they use the term customer experience management (CEM).

We originally posted our response on ZDNet right after the first of the year. Since then, we’ve gotten a number of positive reactions to our perspective (and brevity), so we thought we’d share here, too.

The bottom line is that you can’t sell a box of customer experience management.

Here’s why:

CEM is a business discipline, not a technology. It involves every person, process, and technology in an organization, because all of those things ultimately affect how customers perceive and, in turn, behave in relation to the organization.

Allegiance helps firms operationalize CEM by continuously collecting customer feedback, combining it with other data to tell a business story, and putting the right mix of the resulting insight into the hands of people who can use it. That enables better decision-making, performance management, and customer intervention. Those activities lead to higher retention and revenue and lower cost-to-serve.

Despite the benefits, the work we support isn’t the entirety of CEM. It’s just the fuel. Firms need to actually fix problems and address opportunities in order to improve customers’ experiences. They also need a variety of other systems to truly manage those experiences over time. Again, just about every system touches customers somehow. That’s why we don’t use the term CEM to describe our technology. We offer solutions for dedicated CEM practitioners, who tend to lead customer insight efforts, but we don’t offer CEM itself.

The firms that do market CEM technology by name also play important roles, but the name rightfully confuses people for two reasons: 1) Like Allegiance, “CEM” vendors only tackle pieces of the customer experience puzzle, which can’t be addressed by technology alone, never mind by a single tech offering; and, 2) they tackle very different pieces, ranging from CRM to digital marketing optimization to surveys.

For these reasons, we highlighted “CEM” technology as a major threat to the CEM discipline in our most recent book, Delivering Customer Intelligence. You can see an excerpt of the relevant chapter here on our blog.

As the space shakes out, we’ll be able to focus less on labels and more on the good things that are driving the CEM craze in the first place – a renewed belief in customer focus as a business imperative and a new desire to understand and interact with customers more coherently across channels and time. That will benefit everyone.

For now, I’d love to hear what you think.
Will CEM coalesce into a real space? If so, what will it look like?