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Twentieth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once reflected, “many [people] are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, [but only] few in pursuit of a goal.” But what does twentieth century philosophy have to do with customer experience? In our 2011 Global Customer Experience Management Survey, we discovered that most companies, with a few notable exceptions – are following a path. And a path is not a goal.
To clarify, our results indicate a paradoxical trend: companies with the most CE resource allocation are often providing the least effective CE. After analyzing data from more than 8,000 CE executives and more than 2,100 companies, as well as the responses to a series of 53 in-depth interviews with CE executives, we learned that while companies are allocating resources to customer relationship management (CRM), many are merely re-branding CRM as customer experience management (CEM).
The difference between CRM and CEM seems trivial, but as Nietzsche’s quote reveals—one word can mean the difference between pursuing an aimless path or a purposeful goal. CRM is a company-wide business strategy in which customer-interface departments play a part, where CEM is the strategy of customer-interface. One word, much like product differentiation, can make all difference in a marketplace increasingly characterized by commoditization.
The greatest CE challenges we identified in the “Big Four” industries (telecoms, banking, retail and IT) all result from a misappropriation of the term CEM. As a consequence, many of the companies with the most CE resources allocation are still ignoring the customer’s point of view.
How so? Existing operations staff is given new titles without any training in CEM. Furthermore, without the solid conceptual framework to envision successful CE projects, senior leadership typically maintains an unrealistic time horizon for implementation of such projects. Without an accurate vision of the target, CEM initiatives are following unsuccessful paths without seeing the goal.
To briefly summarize our results, we found that Vodafone and HSBC are the most active CE companies (in telecoms and banking, respectively), and that Apple is the most admired company in CE. Vodafone outranks Sprint Nextel, AT&T, British Telecom, BSkyB in its allocation to CE resources, as measured by number of CE executives and international market presence. In banking, HSBC outranks American Express, TD Bank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
Unsurprisingly, we found our interviewees consistently rated technology companies as most admired in terms of CE. The reason this outcome doesn’t come as a surprise is because technology companies (like Apple, Amazon, and Zappos) have mastered personalization of the customer interface through rich utilization of CEM.
The widespread “tech” admiration speaks to the most important finding from our research: social media is the next frontier for CE differentiation. Some CEOs react with fright when they realize that social media amplifies the customer’s voice to a newfound pitch – but we see it as the sharpest growth edge for the next decade. Social media provides high quality leads, crowd-sourcing solutions to client-support problems, loud-and-clear customer feedback and the ability to leverage customer-stated habits and preferences.
In conclusion, you probably don’t need to consult a philosopher to determine whether your company is following a path toward mediocre CE with a poor ROI. Instead, you can look at some of the hallmarks of exceptional CE we’ve developed and take the first steps in accomplishing a goal.
A press release featuring the highlights of the 2011 Beyond Philosophy Global Customer Experience Management Survey is available here.
Supporting charts and graphics, including lists broken out by vertical category, are available here.