IBM launches Customer Experience Lab. Good or bad news for CX movement?


Share on LinkedIn

You know a tech trend has really arrived when IBM gets behind it. At the very least through its marketing. Remember eBusiness? IBM helped give the Internet industry a push though its advertising, although I’m not sure that the company reaped the rewards directly.

Then there’s “Smarter Planet” — aimed to stimulate all things analytic. Makes sense for IBM since it has deep analytic expertise and purchased SPSS a couple of years ago.

Now IBM has turned to the Customer Experience, with the launch of the IBM Customer Experience Lab, which according to the press release, is “dedicated to helping business leaders transform the way customers experience their products, services and brands through the use of mobile, social, cloud and advanced analytics technologies.”

Due to the growth of social and mobile usage, the time is now, IBM says, to deliver systems that “learn and personalize the experiences of each individual customer, identify patterns, preferences and create context from Big Data, and drive scale economics.”

Wow, what’s wrong with that?

Good news: IBM will further elevate CX into the spotlight. And let’s face it, despite all the rhetoric about 1:1 experiences and supporting the digital customer, very few companies have figured this out.

Bad news: Positioning the CX lab as delivering systems could set the CEM profession down the same road as CRM. The system is the solution.

Excuse me, IBM, the 1990s called and they want their CRM press release back:

In a recent briefing for financial analysts, Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Business Services, called “front office transformation” – of sales, marketing or customer service functions — the most important wave of business change since the advent of Enterprise Resource Planning in the 1990s.

With that bit of snarkiness out of the way, it’s clear that what IBM is doing is creating a resource to support digital experiences. I just wish they had called it the Digital Experience Lab.

IBM says the Lab will focus on “innovation breakthroughs” in:

  • Customer insight. Applying advanced capabilities such as machine learning and visual analytics to predict differences in individual customer behavior across multiple channels.
  • Customer engagement. Using deep customer engagement to drive insight and continuously deliver value by personalizing engagement, versus transactional experiences.
  • Employee engagement. Embedding semantic, collaborative, and multimedia technologies to foster employee engagement and insight – in person and online.

I have mixed feelings about this announcement. On the one hand, the industry needs more focus on digital experiences. There are only a handful of technology vendors that bring good domain expertise to the topic (Adobe and Oracle being two big ones), and CEM consulting community has not focused on digital much at all (Mcorp Consulting being one exception that immediately comes to mind).

But the risk, as Colin Shaw and others have lamented, is that CEM will be turned into a tech buzzword. Invest in the right systems and voilà, you’ve got a great experience.

My take, whether the CEM consulting community likes it or not, is that big vendors are already elbowing their way to the table. And technology is part of the CX “solution,” we shouldn’t ignore it or pretend that surveys and experience mapping are the only things required to deliver great experiences.

Now IBM has jumped in with both feet, which on balance is a good thing in my view because it will stimulate even more interest in CX. But only time will tell whether IBM and its clients will remember the importance of delivering an omnichannel experience that includes live support (e.g. call centers) and physical assets (e.g. stores). The human touch is still far more effective in delivering memorable experiences than digital.

So what do you think, is IBM’s Customer Experience Lab good or bad for the CX industry?

Further reading:


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here