Sorting Out Key Concepts in Customer Experience Management


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Last week I was working on a Deep Dive on Customer Journey Mapping. During my research, I stumbled upon an elephant in the room and I’ve got to point it out; customer experience management is an ill-defined discipline. It reminded me of a quote from Alan Greenspan “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” There are literally thousands of blog posts and research reports on customer experience management and it’s just as confusing today as it was a decade ago. Yet, 85% of marketers indicated they were currently engaged in or planning customer experience initiatives over the next 24 months (according to a Q3 2013 Gleanster survey on Digital Marketing). A little digging and it’s clear that a universal definition of “customer experience” might dramatically change that statistic to a single digit percentage.

One of the best ways to start to define and understand the customer experience is through a customer journey mapping exercise. Customer journey mapping has been growing in popularity in recent months despite the fact that it’s been around for the better part of five years. According to Google Trends “customer journey mapping” reached peak popularity in 2013 and continues to climb. This is in part from significant investments from companies like Oracle,, and Adobe who are using the Customer Experience as a way to position more comprehensive offerings from a single vendor. Customer journey map breakout sessions generated quite a bit of buzz at Oracle Open World in 2013 and the customer journey was a core theme in more than a few of the most popular breakout sessions at Dreamforce. So I thought I would take a stab at a “what the heck is Customer Journey Mapping report” when I realized I sort of needed to fall back on a variety of different terms to do it justice. Problem is, most readers (not to mention myself) probably don’t share a common definition of these terms. At the very least we should be able to put some meat on the bones here, so I took a stab at providing clarity about what I think these terms should mean. It’s of course open to interpretation and I would encourage passionate readers to throw some chips on the table.

Customer Experience Management (CEM)

CEM (also commonly referred to as CXM) is not a technology or even a business tactic. It’s a discipline (some call it a methodology) that focuses operations and processes within your business on the needs of individual customers. The customer experience isn’t about what you want to tell customers about your products and services. It’s about engaging them in just the right way based on what the customer wants or needs during each stage of the customer journey – from awareness to purchase and ongoing service. As such, CEM must embody every cross-channel interaction with the brand, product, and service. Done correctly, CEM should transform the culture for your firm and unite all departments and functions under a common goal: to make decisions based on the optimal end-to-end customer experience for the customer. Doing this requires a deeper level of understanding about individual customers, which leads to more granular segmentation and targeting strategies in marketing. Ultimately, it’s about making customer engagement feel intimate and personalized for individual customers – which means data and customer intelligence is critical to informing exactly how to tweak and optimize the customer experience.

Customer Centricity

Customer centricity places customer needs, wants, and expectations at the core of every business decision across every business function in an organization. It’s about creating a positive engagement before and after a sale by understanding what customers need and want. No, not every company does this. In fact, according to Gleanster about 9 out of 10 CMOs believe their company could do a “better job with customer centric engagement.” The truth is many organizations are too focused on product, features, functions and internal priorities; it’s easy to lose sight of why customers bought in the first place. It probably wasn’t because the new Acme whiz-bang product had new button shapes. When you read about “customer centric organizations,” the internal culture is aligned around meeting or exceeding customer needs through an intimate understanding of the target audience and existing customers. As such, business decisions are informed by customer data and not speculation, meaning decisions based on gut or intuition would be secondary to decisions based on “what the data is telling us.”

Figure 1: Customer Experience Terms and Concepts

Customer Lifecycle

The customer lifecycle is a structured way to describe the steps a customer engages in when making a purchase decision and hopefully becoming a loyal lifelong customer. The lifecycle approach encompasses engagement with any domain or department of an organization, but commonly involves interactions with marketing, sales, and service. The customer lifecycle is often described through the various stages a customer engages in prior to and after a purchase, including awareness, consideration, selection, action (purchase), retention, and advocacy. Optimizing customer engagement to maximize revenue across the customer lifecycle involves multiple internal functions and stakeholders – a shift that can be difficult for organizations that have long operated in departmental silos. Sound familiar?

Customer Experience

The customer experience is the sum total of all interactions with prospects and customers as they encounter and engage with a company. It is the cumulative result of communications and interactions that take place at different times, in what are often referred to as “moments of truth.” These moments of truth typically begin at the point when a person first becomes aware of a company, or the product or service at hand, and continues as they are presented with more information, often via multichannel marketing campaigns, or as they seek out information or other brand-related content on the company website, in social media, in a physical store, or elsewhere. What differentiates a customer experience from a customer journey is the fact that the customer experience may also embody interactions that are outside of the organization’s control, such as peer-to-peer influence, online reviews, social feedback, or influence from third parties who are not directly responsible for promoting the brand.

Customer Journey

The customer journey describes the collective series of interactions a particular segment or target audience might engage in at different stages of the customer lifecycle: an email, an encounter with a salesperson, subscribing to a loyalty program, etc. Customer journeys are typically contextualized around a buyer persona, segment, or target audience to define how to engage, when to engage, and across what channels to engage. Customer segments or buying personas may be defined by buying roles (in a B2B context) or demographic or psychographic customer attributes (for B2C marketers). The customer journey embodies every interaction a prospect or customer might have with a company – online and offline. These are the engagement steps that will turn prospects into customers and customers into loyal advocates (and repeat customers).

Customer Journey Mapping

This is a framework or methodology that helps document the various stages and interactions within the customer journey. This exercise helps define specific areas of optimization for continuous improvement and in many cases helps brands isolate key areas of competitive differentiation. A customer journey map is used to anticipate how a customer persona might interact with the brand across online and offline channels. Journey maps typically cover everything from the initial introduction to the brand to how customers deal with support issues.

For more on Customer Journey Mapping check out the January 2014 Deep Dive from Gleanster Research.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.


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