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Enabling technology for customer experience management

Jonathan Whiteside
Jonathan Whiteside
Global SVP Technology & Engineering
7 min read
1 June 2013

Customer Experience Management (or CX, or CXM, or CEM, depending on who you talk to) may be a relatively new term in the digital industry but it’s not a passing trend. The term itself may be new, but Customer Experience Management is simply an evolvement of customer-centric service which has been delivered by customer-facing staff (shopkeepers, market traders, sales people, bar tenders, waiters, call-centre staff, and the list goes on…) since the dawn of business. It’s a concept which will continue to evolve with the emergence of new consumer technologies… but it will never go away.

What is customer experience management?

Whether it was in your local shop, pub or restaurant, we have all experienced a moment of excellent customer service, perhaps where a member of staff has remembered something about you (name, family, what you purchased/ordered last time) and then tailored the service given to you around that knowledge. Does it improve the likelihood of you returning to that place next time? You bet it does! My local takeaway (before I moved to a different town) used to predict my order upon picking up the phone, before I’d even spoken a single word (thanks to the wonders of a new invention at the time ‘Caller Display’). Ok, so maybe my food tastes are predictable but they still used that knowledge to good effect – to the point where I may have thought less about the quality of the food in return for the convenience of buying from them.

Everyone agrees that service with a personal touch will improve your experience and deliver an increased sense of loyalty. Yet in the online world, so few companies deliver this (or any) type of personalised experience. At the recent SDL Customer Experience Summit in Amsterdam, an industry analyst stated that less than 3% of large organisations are currently executing Customer Experience Management well. Does that mean this is an opportunity for companies to get-ahead of the competition? I think it does.

Talking (and listening) to organisations at these events, it appears that one of the most challenging aspects of Customer Experience Management implementation is the great operational divide; the understanding that communication and collaboration is required across multiple business divisions; usually Marketing and I.T., and in some cases Communications as well.

Realistically, both Marketing and I.T.’s needs still have to be met; Marketing want responsiveness, speed and flexibility whereas I.T. want stability, security and scalability. At the moment, the pendulum of purchasing power appears to be swinging away from the I.T. teams and back in the direction of Marketing, however responsiveness, speed and flexibility without stability, security and scalability is a dangerous concept.

What’s the answer?

The common denominator, the thing that can tick all of these boxes, is the platform, the digital infrastructure to build these experiences from. Implementing a solid platform has to be the first step in the journey to delivering outstanding customer experiences; trying to skip straight to step 2 is like trying to build the second floor of your building when the first has been built on a foundation of wood or straw, or worse, a mixture of both! Sooner or later, you’re going to experience problems.

The Content Management System (CMS) appears to have won the race as the natural candidate to be ‘the platform’, the foundation, the heart of the digital experience. It’s the natural choice because it’s the engine which stores the lifeblood of the digital channels (the content) and usually produces the corporate websites, associated micro-sites and mobile websites as well as the content for native applications, digital publications, kiosks and in some cases, E-Mails and SMS.

The platform has to be scalable, both horizontally as content and data grows over time and vertically, as the organisation rolls out new websites in new markets, languages and brands. The platform must also integrate well with other technologies, some of which are required to deliver a consistent 360 degree customer experience, independent of channel or device.

According to the recent Forrester report on Digital Experience Management, the market leaders are those vendors who are providing ready-made integration points with these technologies, or are able to provide the technology themselves as a complementary add-on or module.

These same leading Content Management vendors are now even labelling their user interfaces the ‘Experience Manager’. Initially this may have been a reaction to the market, however the vendors are now shaping their UI’s around the concept of Customer Experience Management and how they can best enable and empower the marketing team to deliver the experiences from a single interface, or at least as few interfaces as possible.

Is customer experience management complicated and expensive?

Most of the 3% that are doing it well appear to have dedicated teams, headed up by a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer. This isn’t a luxury afforded by every organisation and it doesn’t have to be.

Start by understanding your customers, look at your personas (if you don’t have them then create some) and identify what actions your typical customers are looking to undertake with your digital brand. Create seamless journeys through your digital estate; this could be a simple journey through your corporate website or a more complex journey spanning multiple devices.

We have recently been working with two travel brands, trying to understand the use of the smartphone as a core research tool (sometimes in conjunction with offline tools such as brochure) with tablet and desktop remaining as the primary booking channels.

Look at what data your organisation has about your customers and what data it needs. If you don’t have any, then make it a priority to start collecting it and learn more from every time the customer visits your website or store. Can this data, coupled with implicit data (e.g. geo-location, search term, content viewed) be used to personalise the journey and help to improve the experience?

Make sure that the content is consistent and consistently kept up-to-date (consider using tools like workflow to send update reminders to content owners every x months). Web quality management platforms can monitor content and ensure governance across complex web estates.

So what?

Customer Experience Management can be much broader than this but everybody’s got to start somewhere.

“Integrated technology will help to ensure that the view of the customer is consistent across all channels. Maintaining duplicated content or data in disparate systems will not cut it anymore, either operationally or experientially.”

Technology can’t/won’t tell you how to serve your customers but what it will do is enable you to deliver outstanding experiences through your digital channels. Technology alone is not enough but it is essential! It will help to provide an efficient and consistent view of content and customers in the faceless digital world.

Want to talk more?

We’re looking forward to and proud to be sponsoring the next event on Customer Experience Management, the SDL Innovate Event in San Jose. If you are attending then please stop by the DEPT® stand for a chat, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

P.S. My takeaway order was; large plain cheeseburger, no salad or sauce — portion of chips, no salt & vinegar, can of coke. No comments on my food habits please.

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