|Image provided by Gregory Yankelovich|
Most Customer Experience professionals would find this question to be ludicrous, but in the article "Is Customer Experience Manageable? An Industry Pundit Says No," Esteban Kolsky lists 5 arguments to convince them otherwise.
It is critical to start any discussion with definitions of what is being discussed in order to prevent this discussion to become as pointless as debate about the gender of angels – as engaging as it may be, there are very few practical implications.
There are a few definitions for Customer Experience, but this is sufficiently appropriate for the discussion:
“Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.”
There are many more definitions for “management,” such as:
"Management in business and organizations means to coordinate the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management comprises planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization or initiative to accomplish a goal."
Any definition of organizational management that includes the word "control" supports Esteban's position: Customer Experience cannot be controlled by a company. However, if we agree that management means coordination, planning, etc., then Customer Experience is absolutely manageable.
A Twitter exchange with @billholland inspired me to think about it a little deeper than usual, where he pointed out that...
The objective of Customer Experience Management is very similar, if not identical, to original objective of Customer Relationship Management efforts – to allow an organization scale fast without losing its focus on customers. CRM has promised a 360-degree visibility of a customer and failed miserably to deliver it, sidetracked by inability to break organizational silos beyond Sales, Customer Service and Marketing. Specialization helps organizations to scale very fast and very efficiently, but the price it pays is a loss of effectiveness as every department is focused on their domain, while the goal of business gets out of focus completely.
Today, Customer Experience Management faces the same challenges and experience of CRM veterans, like Esteban, is very valuable. This is what he has to say (in bold):
1. Customers are not listening to what you have to say. This is because Social Media gives them more authentic, informative and relevant information about your company and your product.
2. Customers know more about your business than you do. In this chapter Esteban specifically questions value of "Customer Journey." I agree with him that too many customer experience professionals focused on customer journey too much – often to the detriment of the overall objective, like many CRM professionals before them, who proudly delivered glorified contact management to celebrate a "mission accomplished" moment. Personally, I think that customer journey charting is a valuable exercise, for some businesses more than others, to get better empathy and understanding. Just remember that customer journey is a relatively small subset (interaction management) of overall effort.
3. Customers create their own experience. Customers can create their own experience just as successfully as companies can control it – it is not possible. The experience is created mutually by all parties to this relationship. The more flexible and better informed the parties are, the better likelihood of the great experience for all parties involved. Today, customers seem to be better informed than manufacturers and retailers participating in the process of delivery.
4. Customer interactions are complex and unpredictable.
5. Customer (and user) communities are where the knowledge is at.
I am not convinced that the last two chapters gave good reasons to throw a towel on attempts to manage efforts for improvement of customer experiences. One thing to remember is – don't stop trying just because you cannot provide the best experience for your customers. That is not the goal. The goal is to provide better experience to your customers than your competitors provide to theirs, and live to fight another day.
Gregory Yankelovich is a Technologist who is agnostic to a technology, but "religious" about Customer Experience and ROI. He has solid experience delivering high ROI projects with focus on both Profitability AND Customer Experience improvements, as one without another does not support long-term business growth. Gregory currently serves as the Customer Experience (CX) Whisperer at Amplified Analytics, provider of software as a service for Customer Experience Measurement to support Strategic Marketing and Brand/Category/Product Management applications.