Top 5 signs you’re doing a REAL Customer Experience Management (CXM) initiative


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What does it really mean to do a “Customer Experience Management” (CXM) initiative? Theoretically, it could include anything because customer experience includes everything.

Identifying Critical Success Factors (CSFs) is a planning technique to focus on the important few things. If it’s truly “critical” and you don’t do it, you’re likely to fail.

According to Boynlon and Zmud in the 1984 article “An Assessment of Critical Success Factors” in Sloan Management Review (25:4), pp. 17-27:

“Critical success factors are those few things that must go well to ensure success for a manager or an organization, and, therefore, they represent those managerial or enterprise area, that must be given special and continual attention to bring about high performance. CSFs include issues vital to an organization’s current operating activities and to its future success.”

I emphasize “those few things” — which means laundry lists are out. Instead of boiling the ocean, I think the CX industry would be wise to establish some minimum requirements for a real CXM initiative.

Here’s my take. You’re not doing a real CXM initiative unless you’re doing all 5 of these things:

1. Know your brand purpose and promise. This is not your customers’ decision (although they will have a vote on whether they agree).

2. Take outside-in perspective. Without customer research (loyalty drivers) and feedback management (VoC), you’re just making things up and hoping for the best.

3. Develop Customer Journey Maps. Because just upgrading a touchpoint is so 2015. Comparing existing and desired experiences is a good foundation for a CX plan.

4. Empower employees. I don’t care how “e” your company is, unless employees are prepared and motivated to deliver the right experiences you won’t succeed.

5. Create a business case. You must connect CX improvements (what customers want) to business outcomes (what CEOs demand). Because CX plans without funding are just a dream.

Remember, the test for a CSF is that if you don’t do it, you won’t succeed.

What should be added or deleted to this list? Let’s have a good discussion and try to keep to 5 or less.


  1. Creating business objectives, i.e. defining specific financial or other outcomes to be achieved within a specific time frame and with specific resources (money, people, facilities, technology), is perhaps the key here. Most customer experience programs that fail do so because because of overreach and/or mis-identifying goals, attempting to ‘boil the ocean’. Of the other four, understanding going-in brand perception (image and reputation, and the level of favorability to be achieved, is too often overlooked.

    The remaining three call for a meld:

    – How granular can elements of the experience and related processes be defined and analyzed through multivariate quantitative research, so that targeted improvement can be applied

    – How, and where, can employees be leveraged to best effect? This often requires that the employee experience be examined in parallel with the customer experience (inside-out as well as outside-in), so that ambassadorship can be enhanced.

    In the request to identify what could be added to the list; you probably won’t be surprised that I’d advise companies looking to optimize customer experience programs to strive for enhanced levels of customer brand passion, bonding, and advocacy (outside-in behavior) as well as employee ambassadorship (inside-out behavior).

    Finally, I’d suggest that leadership discipline and consistency are critical elements to sustaining customer experience initiatives. I’ve seen too many of these programs come up short because senior executives were tactical, got diverted, and took their eyes off the prize.

  2. Bob, a very well thought out list.

    My suggestion is that there should be a #6. Ensure active buy-in from the CEO and her direct reports. Without the “top team” becoming part of the process, the company culture will not change and it will make Empowering Employees very challenging.

  3. I agree with Michael’s comment in his last paragraph. The key to success in your recommendations is sustainable commitment vs. a “one-and-done” project. My suggestion is to add ethical governance. When absent, many companies are at risk for financial losses, as are their customers, suppliers, employees, and stockholders. Sales and marketing governance helps to ensure that companies engage with the right intent and high integrity, using fair and honest processes and practices.

  4. Bob,

    It is a powerful list. I would insert ‘Engage Leaders’ before the ‘Empower Employees’ step
    because without the former you won’t get the latter. Also, in order for purpose to be more than words in an organisation it requires “Purposeful Leadership’ to convert intent into action.

    Secondly, the customer journey maps need to identify your ‘brand hallmarks’ – those touchpoint that differentiate you and you can become famous for. This is rooted in the customer data but also requires strategic choices to be made because you need to divert resources from where they do not make a difference to where they can make you memorable.

  5. Bob,

    Consider adding “Know social media” as it is a critical driver in making the modern era of CX more important than ever.

    Eg Which platforms your customers select to use, are they influenced by others using those platforms and are they influencers of others [or both] – maybe readers need to decide to influence the influencers from strategic CX and tactical standpoint.


  6. • Unite the C-Suite – if the C-Suite behavior is not united — this remains a program and not a transformation.

    • Diminish the silo-based accountability only. Change accountability from the silo report-out to accountability along the customers’ journey with you.

    • Unite annual planning. If all planning remains based on each individual silo looking at data or other information, assessing how much they have to spend, then building independent plans…the experience will not change in a manner that customers necessarily notice. The sum of all these “parts” won’t necessarily add up to a difference in customers’ lives.

  7. You need to know social media since it is one of the important reasons that CX is now more important than ever.

    In the past, people made shopping decisions based on trusted friends’ recommendations. Now, those recommendations have gone digital, encompass more people, and are crucial for the success of most businesses.

    But social media options keep evolving. How are customers exchanging information about companies like yours? Yesterday it might have been TripAdvisor and Yelp. Today it might be Snapchat and Instagram. And tomorrow’s hot button might not even exist yet.

    Learn why your customers use social media, which social media they frequent, and what devices they use. How are they influenced? Do they become influencers by rating or writing?

    For example, J. D. Power’s research shows that one-third of social media users get recommendations about a product or service from friends and family exclusively through social media. Today the most frequently used social media channels are Facebook (29 percent), followed by YouTube (19 percent) and Twitter (11 percent).

    Social media is a major factor in business-to-business purchase decisions, too. Independent research firm International Data Corporation found that 75 percent of buyers worldwide use social media to support their purchase decisions. -Jeof

  8. I fully agree with these thoughtful and well-articulated comments. I would add that, before anything else, you have formulated a clear “Customer Experience Vision” that defines how you are improving the lives of your customers and ensuring their success. Then, bake this into your business strategy and communicate it thoroughly to all employees, from the C-suite to the mail-room.

    Don’t keep your vision a secret, everyone throughout the company should know your vision and understand its meaning. Everything else trickles down from this vision: essential experience goals, measurable business objectives, leadership alignment, customer-focused culture, programs, projects, and initiatives. All efforts must align to the vision in order to reach it.

    Then, when you ask, “Is this a REAL Customer Experience Management (CXM) initiative?” You can put it to your “Vision Test”.

  9. Great post, Bob. And excellent comments, too! I’ll add a few items.

    First and foremost, we need executive commitment (not just buy-in); without it, we won’t get the resources (human, capital, or other) to improve the experience.

    Companies need to focus on the employee experience and not forget that the employees deliver the customer experience. If employees are not engaged, happy, satisfied, aligned, passionate, or having a great experience, your customers won’t be, either.

    You need a governance structure in place to ensure enterprise-wide adoption and action.

    You mentioned journey maps, which are a must! We need to not only understand the experience (via mapping) but also understand our customers, i.e., develop personas and listen to customers. And act on their feedback.

    A customer-centric and customer-focused culture would also be nice. 🙂

  10. One of the issues Customer Experience Professionals face on a daily basis is Customer Experience being perceived as an ‘initiative’ or ‘project’ in the first place. Whilst at certain stages of the evolution of CX within an organisation it may be right to see it as a ‘thing’, ultimately the challenge is to enable a business to do what it does in a manner that truly puts people (customers and employees) at the centre of everything it does.

    In my experience, it is most likely a business will be able to achieve this ultimate goal if it is able to establish and embed an effective Customer Experience FRAMEWORK – a good framework (there is no right way or wrong way to do it) should contain all the things that you mention in your post – they put the core activities, tools, techniques and competencies into a manageable and actionable context.

    The simplest way of thinking about constructing a framework is to think about these following questions:

    1. Do you know who your customers are and the purpose (why) your organisation is interacting with them? This is all about strategy and proposition
    2. If you have clarity of your strategy and proposition, do you know how capable you are at delivering them – in the eyes of the customer and from the organisations perspective. This is all about Measurement – obtaining the facts. The get the facts, you need to know what the journey(s) look like that bring the proposition to life.
    3. Do you know how engaged your people are with your strategy and proposition and continually improving it. Are your people advocates (fans) of your brand

    For me to consider if a business is operating in a customer centric manner, I would want to see evidence of a framework of this type as well as a clear deployment of the skills and competencies required to be a truly customer centric organisation.

  11. Bob,

    Thank you for sparking such a lively conversation! I agree with a lot of the points made above and, of course, have a few others to add!

    One item I would add is Enterprise-wide purview. Customer experience success is realized when the journey is designed, improved and viewed from beginning to end. There cannot be any areas of the organization declared as “hands-off” for the CX practitioner.

    And I would emphasize organizational patience as a critical success factor. Most organizations have built their current cultures over many years and becoming more customer-centric is not going to happen overnight! Rather than a single large effort, the change will occur with thousands of small changes (and, yes, maybe a few large changes, too!) over multiple years.

    Great conversation!


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