Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Emperor's New Clothes: Customer Experience Management

In the last couple of years the field of "Customer Experience Management" (CXM) has become a big focus for combining "Customer Relationship Management" (CRM) and "Content Management Systems" (CMS) or "Web Content Management" (WCM) with Order Management Systems (OMS), eCommerce platforms (plus mobile, tablets, etc.), and social media.

This would seem to be a nirvana of systems confluence, the holy grail of multichannel customer activity. The thinking underlying CXM is that this places the emphasis where it belongs, on how the customer navigates a Website (or possibly a store) to find what they want to purchase, and how the purchase itself can be most effectively supported and enhanced (from cross-sells and upsells to product reviews, guarantees, warranties, and so on). A lot of this, of course, will be based on analysis of customer activity, both in real-time and historically. Typical direct marketing database challenges.

One practioner refers to it as "a marriage that empowers the eCommerce platform to create experiences rather than simple transactions."

Fair enough. But there's only one problem with all of this: as Forbes pointed out a year and a half ago, "No one vendor offers all the components, though some – like Adobe, IBM, and Oracle – are working on acquisitions." I don't think any of them have achieved that goal as yet.

A Management Challenge
Which means that CXM is more of a management challenge than a systems challenge. It requires configuring each of the components to make the customer's experience as simple, straightforward, and pleasing as possible. And this is not at all easy.

Take site search, for example. In January 2011 I wrote a blog post on the subject, pointing out some of the complexities of this rather arcane functionality. Not for the faint of heart! But in many ways, site search and other "utilities" like it are probably at the core of any successful CXM suite.

Essentially, I see the problem as somehow juggling technology, statistical analysis, content, customer data and profiling, affiliate management, and corporate hierarchies on behalf of customers whose business you are competing with the rest of the world to earn and profit from. This is nothing new: back in the heyday of the specialty catalog (1975 - 1995), designers were very strategic about what they put on the catalog cover (they still are!), but that didn't mean you would always have it in stock to meet demand, or that customers would always be satisfied with their purchase. It was sometimes a "political" decision (as in "the company president and chief buyer just got back from Thailand and this is what they bought a thousand of"), and of course that is always a dicey proposition.

So CXM is going to be a work-in-process for some time to come. Maybe five years from now, with some new technology (including advances in interface tools and gadgets plus social media) and some new blood in middle (if not upper) management, things will be easier. For the time being, though, it's the same-old same-old, and CXM is just another acronym puzzle floating in the alphabet soup.

For some articles on CXM, see:
The Emergence of CXM Solutions: Forbes
Focus On Customer Experience To Navigate Digital Disruption: Forrester
The Content Repository is the Key to Customer Experience Mmanagement: mindtouch
A New King In Town For Managing e-Commerce Experiences: CMS Wire

And as always, I welcome your feedback, input, and comments. Very much so, in this case!


Bill Nigh said...

I'm not a practitioner by any stretch, but I know a little about CMS, and wonder how this user interaction would feed back to such a system.

Ernie Schell said...

I do, too, Bill. From what I can see, everyone is "skimming the surface" of this concept, and we await those who are willing and able to make a "deep dive" (although they may not want to want to reveal anything, if it's in-house; vendors will scream it from the rooftops!).

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