The 12-steps to creating a great CEM program

Customer Experience Management seems to be on everyone’s mind these days.  One of the questions that I’ve gotten asked a number of times is, how to build a great CEM program, what do we need to do, etc.  Based on extensive research, I’ve come up with a 12-step plan which should help in developing your own CEM program.  I’ve helped a number of firms to use these steps in improving their own CEM strategies, and I’m confident that this will be of use to you too.

Step 1:  Experience Mapping. Creating an experience map of what actually is the first thing that a company ought to do.  This will help us to identify all of the various points of interaction a customer has with a firm.  We may also want to find out what the customer thinks of the current level of service being delivered for each of the experience points.

Step 2:  Find out customer expectations. Finding out what the customer expects should be one of the starting point in the customer experience management process.  This will help the organization to understand what the customer desires, and what is of importance to the customer.  Often companies find it difficult to develop effective CEM strategies because they are unable to understand the requirements of their customers.

Step 3:  Examine the competition. A company can not work in isolation.  Knowing what the competition is offering will only help an organization to set goals and targets and figure out where they can meet and exceed the competition.  Customers will always compare a company with others, and hence it becomes imperative that the company know what its competition is up to.

Step 4:  Analyze and Plan. Once a company knows what level of service it is providing, the level that customers expect, and the level that the competition is providing, it should be ready to develop its own plan.  After analyzing the three types of data, it should be easy for companies to devise their own plans and set levels of ‘quality’ that each experience should deliver to the customer.  If the company is looking to provide memorable experiences, then the company should try to set high goals, where the standards in critical functions exceed both customer expectations as well as competitors.  This is similar to the delight concept for customer satisfaction.

Step 5:  Communicate the Brand Experience. Before a customer actually comes in contact with a firm, the customer gets to experience the communications about the brand.  Hence it is imperative that the various marketing communications media should reflect the brand experience that the company wants its customers to have.  It is important that not everything is given away in the advertising, as this may lessen the impact of the surprise elements within the experience framework.  However, all of the different communications media, including advertising, commercials, web sites, public relations activities reflect the brand experience that the company want to portray to the customers.  If this first level of experience is good, the customer will be attracted to continue to the next stages.

Step 6:  High Quality Product / Service: The experience is of little use if the actual product or service is not of the high quality.  It is imperative that companies work to make sure that the product / service on offer meets the customer’s expectations.  No level of customer experience can help sell a poor product.

Step 7:  Motivated Employees. Numerous researchers have called for having motivated and or satisfied employees.  The first step is to hire right employees and then to train them so that they are highly committed to providing the level of customer experience that the organization expects of them.  Making sure that the employees are satisfied and motivated will ensure that in the long run the customer receive a good experience, and can eventually lead to customer loyalty.

Step 8:  Customer Interface. The customer interface needs to embed the planned level of experiences.  This includes the physical aspects of the customer’s interactions and appeal to the five senses of customers.  Focusing on the right décor, the appropriate music, color schemes, the design of the equipment etc. will help customers to feel comfortable and make the experience an enjoyable one.  Technological aspects of the experience can also be included in this step.  This would include things such as ATMs, payment points, automated call centers, and web sites.

Step 9:  Senior Management Focus. Like other areas of management, senior management’s commitment to and focus on the desired strategy is imperative for its success.  Hence, for CEM too, the senior manager’s commitment is imperative.  Senior managers can not only set examples for the rest of the employees, but will also be more focused in the whole CEM process.

Step 10:  Integrate Functions. It is important that the whole organization is working towards providing a high quality experience for their customers.  The back office as well as the front end employees need to work together, so that the customer can have the best possible experience.  Companies have been cutting back costs by shifting some of their back office work overseas to lower cost centers.  Jaiswal found in a research (2008), many of these have not been able to provide the right level of customer experience as desired by the customers.  Although this may result in short term savings in cost, in the long run it results in customer defections.  Hence, it is imperative that companies make sure that all operations are working towards the same goal.

Step 11:  Post usage. The customer needs to have great post usage experience.  This can include things such as after sales service, warranties, upgrading, installations, etc.  Good after sales service is a way of reminding the customer, long after he/she has used the product or service that the experience with the firm was great.  This encourages the customer to return to the firm and to recommend it to others.

Step 12:  Continuous Innovations. Continuously innovating and improving the experiences is one of the ways that the company can make sure that it stays ahead of competition.  It is also one of the ways that will help the firm to make sure that the customer receives the best possible experiences, and perhaps even help to design memorable experiences.

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