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The Secrets of Great Customer Experience Organizations are not so Secret

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When a new business buzz makes headlines, a new buzz of how to’s follows.  Customer Experience Management (CEM) is no different.  But, to me, Customer Experience Management is mostly a new theatre for existing skills, not a new set of skills.

Forrester does good research but in this recent article: Three Secrets Of Success For Customer Experience Organizations, they may be looking for problems that do not exist and finding solutions that are generic.

The three Customer Experience Organisation secrets they uncover boil down to good leadership, collaborative teams and enough resources to deliver.  These are not the special and unique secrets of success for Customer Experience Organisations.  They are the secrets to success for every non-line management support organisation.

That is not to say that there is no specialization required to design and build great customer experiences.  There are indeed a range of domain specialist skills needed when running a customer experience management organisations.  These include a knowledge of the key customer focused tools/concepts such as Net Promoter Score and Moments of Truth. It is also important to understand and be able to apply techniques such as Touch Point Mapping.

Also, a working knowledge of how customers respond in different situations is important.  Understanding that customers don’t necessarily make rational (or even conscious) decisions about what is most important to them in a specific customer experience setting is an important, non-obvious, insight.

To be successful in CEM staff must care about making a difference in the customer experience.  They must also have an intuitive understanding that a great customer experience is not just great for the customer but also great for the bottom line of the company.  Designing an experience that customers will come back for is not as important designing one that customers like and meets the commercial goals of the company.

Beyond these domain specific skills, however, the skills required of the customer Experience Management team can be found in traditional quality management approaches and their later incarnations such as Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma.

In fact many of the “lead from the middle” attributes of successful business improvement teams can, and should be, found in the Customer Experience organisation.  Rarely does the customer Experience management team have a line management role; it is more often deployed across business units as an enabler, inspirer and facilitator to the business.

In this deployment, the cross-functional coordination skills of the team members are important, as is clear CEM leadership from senior line management.  Again these are not special Customer Experience attributes– they are attributes required for any non-line management enabler team.

Before I close, there is one specific item that I will disagree with from this paper and it has to do with resources:

Their own budget. When customer experience projects must compete with projects from operations and product management, they often fall below the funding line because those groups’ goals — like revenue generation — carry more weight.

In the Customer Experience Management work that we do we ensure that business cases are created to support all changes.  To be successful long term, CEM must stand head to head with the other areas of the business  in generating shareholder returns.  If it is treated as a “special case” it will never get an equal seat at the table with sales, marketing, operations and the other areas of the business.  And, as we know, “special cases” only last as long as they are fashionable.

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