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.


  • By Nick Wood, May 3, 2020 @ 3:26 pm

    Hi Osman

    Fascinating and I don’t disagree with anything you say. My company undertakes Customer Experience testing for a number of clients in the form of Mystery Shopping and I have also provided consultancy skills to clients in terms of designing the customer journey etc.

    One thing that I do also focus on and I don’t think it’s quite covered in your 12 steps is ongoing management focus. I tie in the Management of customer facing staff with a regular programme of observation and coaching by their line management in an effort to ensure that there is continual improvement of both the staff as well as providing the opportunity for process refinement too.

    Kind regards,


  • By Diane Chandler, May 4, 2020 @ 12:32 am

    I like your approach Dr Khan. I have found from my own experience in working with a variety of organisations, that there is often a piecemeal approach to CEM. In fact many companies have great customer data and feedback but don’t know how to translate this to their staff, particularly the frontline - where the experience actually occurs. I have found this area to be the biggest challenge and also the most rewarding - getting the customer expectations translated into measurable service standards and train staff based on actionable behaviours that deliver memorable experiences. It is all about ‘engagement’ and that includes your insights into how important it is to engage all levels of management in this quest to stand out from the competition. The key is to be clear about the brand promise and be able to define how this needs to be delivered across all customer interactions.

  • By Tony Coleman, May 4, 2020 @ 9:25 am

    Many thanks for posting this on lInkdIn. BUilding customer loyalty through engagement is something I am very passionate about. I look forward to more postings.
    Many thanks
    Tony Coleman

  • By Evie Bolomiti, May 4, 2020 @ 10:27 pm

    LinkedIn Groups

    * Group: LeadingLoyalty - Marketing Professionals
    * Discussion: What is the best way to build a great CEM program?

    Excellent list! I am printing this to have it in front of my desk not to forget any of the steps. In some of the companies I have worked so far I ve seen that steps 5 and 9 are the most neglected. The marketing communications focus too much on product specifics like price and are usually unrelated to customer experience promised. Also, top management tends to forget that they will be the example for the way employees will treat customers. They seem not to realize that how important it is to be aligned with the customer experience strategy we have decided can only be enforced by their own commitment to this. The optimistic view of the matter is that most of the times smaller companies’ management are better at this than large coprorations’.

  • By Peter Allen, May 4, 2020 @ 10:28 pm

    LinkedIn Groups

    * Group: Customer Experience Professionals
    * Discussion: What is the best way to build a great CEM program?

    Dr Osman Knan, - Thanking you puts a great structure to starting a CEM project, How ever, I have one question?

    I am interested in finding out more on step 1, “the experience map”

  • By Tony Coleman, May 4, 2020 @ 10:28 pm

    LinkedIn Groups

    * Group: Arts Marketing Network
    * Discussion: What is the best way to build a great CEM program?

    Well done on your 12-step CEM program. This is invaluable to arts organizations.

  • By Yuksel Ekinci, May 4, 2020 @ 10:29 pm

    LinkedIn Groups

    * Group: Customer Experience Professionals
    * Discussion: What is the best way to build a great CEM program?

    Dr Khan, I liked the 12 step CEM approach. I wonder if they are in the priority order. This is important because if the CEM project is not supported by senior management and embraced by employees in the first place it is difficult to achieve its objectives.

  • By Michael Morales, May 4, 2020 @ 10:29 pm

    LinkedIn Groups

    * Group: Customer Experience Management Professionals
    * Discussion: What is the best way to build a great CEM program?

    Dr. O - thanks for sharing. I have recently been tasked with creating a CEM program in my company. Your post offers some helpful tips and advice.

  • By Himanshu Dutt, May 10, 2020 @ 4:20 pm

    Dr. Khan, Thanks for these points, but i find mostly very basic. Please include examples from business cases to demonstrate more value of what you want to lay emphasis upon!!!

    Rest, it’s indeed great going through each point.


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