XI TERM

Customer Experience Management

Customer Experience Management is vital for all industries, including food service, retail, B2B and beyond

What Is Customer Experience Management?

Think about the last time you stopped by your favorite cafe, or into a clothing store with whom you have an account. That visit consisted of a few interactions, right? Perhaps someone asked if you needed help as you were browsing, you found what you were looking for (or not) and interacted with an employee one more time before leaving. Did a survey pop up on your phone at some point after you left, with questions about how your visit went and what, if anything, could’ve gone better?

Even if you didn’t receive a survey after leaving the store, chances are pretty good that that brand was using a customer experience management program. According to the research firm Gartner, customer experience management is defined as “understanding customers and deploying strategic plans that enable cross-functional efforts and customer-centric culture to improve satisfaction, loyalty, and accuracy.” In other words, managing experiences to customers’ contentment.

Why Is Customer Experience Management Important?

Investing time and effort into managing your customer experiences (and trying to meaningfully improve them) is of self-evident importance. If you take care of your customers and demonstrate a keen interest in their relationship with your brand, they won’t just appreciate the added attention—they’ll reciprocate it. 

Customer experience management can thus be used to retain existing customers, cross-sell to those individuals, acquire new business and lower the cost to serve. It can strengthen your bottom line and ultimately improve your connections to your customers. In other words, customer experience management is essential to business success in this digital age.

How Customer Experience Management Started

At its simplest, customer experience management is a broad term that refers to evaluating and managing a customer’s every interaction with a brand. Though many companies have taken strides to provide great customer experiences for many years now, the idea of customer experience management as its own science or discipline really didn’t come about until the early 2000s. 

That’s about when advancements in technology allowed customer experience to go from being an abstract goal to something more quantifiable. Suddenly, companies everywhere could use the internet to track site visits and other metrics, opening up a whole new dimension to the idea of caring for customers. If these elements were quantifiable, that meant they could be managed. And if they could be managed, then perhaps they could be meaningfully improved to create a bolder, more human, and more invested relationship with every customer!

Though today’s conversation focuses on customer experience management, it’s important to remember that this technology and science doesn’t ‘just’ apply to customers. Many brands also use tune experience management tools to their employee experiences. The idea with this approach is to create a better workplace culture, reduce employee churn, and create the same kinds of fundamental relationships with workers that brands aspire to build with customers.

Customer Experience Management’s Early Days

Now that they were armed with the technology needed to evaluate a lot of customer experiences in little time, companies turned their attention to the next frontier of feedback collection: digital surveys. Surveys had, of course, been around for a long time, but mailing them out or publicly soliciting customers to take them on the spot was expensive and produced inconsistent results. 

Suddenly, though, these companies had access to newly developed survey deployment technologies and, before too long, tools that allowed them to build their own questionnaires. Both approaches, combined with email, suddenly made sending massive numbers of surveys directly to customers much simpler and much more cost-effective. Surveys thus became a cornerstone of customer experience management, a role they still have to this day!

Customer Experience Management’s Continued Evolution

With these new survey tools, methods, and partnerships in hand, brands rolled up their sleeves and got creative in the pursuit of feedback. Whether it was promising a free soda upon survey completion or a discount the next time customers came in, countless organizations spent the 2000s attempting to gather as much feedback as possible. 

At this point, the terms “customer experience” and “customer experience management” weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now. Rather, a lot of organizations and the vendors that provided survey tools used phrases like “brand protection” to describe why it was important to adopt an approach like this. Over time, though, the term “customer experience” became a mainstay of this discipline, and terms like “customer experience management” soon followed. Because of the employee experience approach we mentioned earlier, it’s common nowadays for this science to be referred to simply as experience management (XM).

The Rise of Big Data Within Customer Experience Management

Once organizations got their feet wet building surveys, analyzing data, and figuring out how to incentivize customers and employees to respond, they had to take the next step in the customer experience management journey: making sense of feedback. No small task, especially when the field was in its infancy, but both brands and experience vendors were determined to make sense of all the feedback they were receiving.

This was about the point that the term “big data” entered the experience conversation, and it became a bylaw of experience programs throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s. Having a ton of data was suddenly all the rage, and organizations spent a great deal of time and money gathering mountains of it in pursuit of better customer experience management. Frankly, there was no tech or business problem that a lot of brands thought they couldn’t solve just by throwing data at it.

However, this is the part of the story where the customer experience management revolution ended up stalling out for a lot of brands. They’d gathered lots of data, yes, but what a lot of these brands and the vendors that partnered with them didn’t quite grasp at the time is that big data alone cannot solve your business and customer experience problems. Nonetheless, big data remained the north star of many experience programs, which, frankly, is why a large number of them failed.

Customer Experience Management Hits a Plateau

After it became apparent that simply gathering data and feedback from surveys didn’t bridge the gap to actually fixing problems, the next step for customer experience management vendors and their clients was figuring out how to, well, fix problems. These brands had business challenges, and they had big data. What did building a connection between the two end up looking like?

The truth is that, whether back in the day or right now, a lot of organizations still haven’t quite figured that out. You might say that brands should simply take a look at their data and infer solutions from there, but for many companies, their big data is literally too big to make that idea feasible. There’s simply too much noise and no easy way to find signals in it. Or at least… that was the case until relatively recently.

Going Beyond Customer Experience Management 

Until the last few years, one of the biggest bywords of customer experience management was basically to gather as much data as possible and hope that brands could use it to adequately react to customer and employee complaints after the fact. This philosophy played out in the form of customer experience teams who kept their data siloed or vendors who offered entirely reaction-based and DIY solutions without much customizability or human expertise.

At InMoment, however, we believe that the experience management story should be an Experience Improvement (XI) revolution. As you’ve seen by now, while data and metrics are certainly very important, just having a large pile of them doesn’t actually translate to solutions for business challenges, customer relationships, employee retention, or countless other experience factors. Successful customer experience management demands much more.

From Customer Experience Management to Experience Improvement

There are a few factors to bear in mind for making a difference with your customer experience management. The first is to remember that truly great experience management doesn’t start with gathering data; it starts with figuring out which tangible business goals you need your program to accomplish. We call this designing with the end in mind, and it’s a strategy that will make your data so much more manageable than older approaches aimed at gathering as much of it as possible.

This strategy will also result in much more relevant customer sentiment, which is key to understanding what they love (and don’t love) about their experiences with your brand. You can then apply this heightened understanding toward meaningful transformations within your business and its associated customer journeys, realizing that success in the form of those goals we mentioned earlier (retention, acquisition, saving costs, etc.).

That idea of being selective with your data, as well as proactively sharing the data you do gather, feeds directly into the very best elements that effective customer experience management and Experience Improvement have to offer. More accurate personas, better defined marketing segments, better touchpoint evaluation, and knowing what your customers want before they themselves do are but a few perks to this approach.

Taking the Next Step

InMoment is the marketplace leader whose combination of high-end software and human expertise can help you achieve all of the outcomes that we’ve talked about today! We recognize that solving business challenges requires much more than gathering a lake of data and then trying to throw it at customer challenges after they arise—proactivity and real-time capabilities are what make a customer experience management and Experience Improvement program truly exceptional.

Reach out today to see what our take on customer experience management can accomplish for your organization; our experts and tools will be there with you every step of the journey toward Experience Improvement!

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