Attention Tech Vendors: You Can’t Sell A Box Of Customer Experience Management

(This post was co-authored by Megan Burns and Andrew McInnes so appears on both of their personal blogs.)

Customer experience management (CEM) has become a marketing buzzword for technology vendors as of late. While this isn’t surprising given the current energy around customer experience in general, it is a problem. Here’s why:

  • Customer experience management is a discipline, not a technology. To truly manage customers’ experiences, an organization must understand its customers’ needs, how it intends to meet those needs, and how it is currently performing. It must also have people, processes, and tools in place to use that insight in order to design and deliver the right experiences and continuously improve them over time. Vendors that currently claim the CEM name (Adobe, Medallia, RightNow, Tealeaf, and others) help clients with various aspects of the management process like experience insight and delivery. But they can’t replace the overall discipline and activities required for a company to get customer experience right.
  • It involves every technology in an organization. As our colleague Kerry Bodine points out in her research, customer experiences are created by a complex ecosystem of people and systems. Every employee, every vendor, and every partner play a role. So does virtually every technology. For example, enterprise architecutre decisions don’t just affect IT. They make it harder or easier for companies to pull together all of the information employees need to get a complete view of customers. Likewise, HR systems that frustrate employees don’t just mean more time spent on administrative tasks but also less time spent on serving customers. Thus, a true CEM technology solution (ignore the people and process for now) would need to replace or control almost every other technology in a company. Good luck with that.

Customer experience leaders shouldn’t dismiss vendors that market CEM solutions altogether — there’s significant value to be had, and customer experience leaders should definitely be influencing technology decisions. Potential buyers just need to tread this Wild West of a space carefully. It’s immature, full of hype, and ultimately destined to shake out into a series of clearer categories.

Vendors should help customer experience leaders make smart decisions by clearly articulating where their solutions fit in the customer experience ecosystem rather claiming to supplant it.

What are your thoughts? Will a CEM technology category ever really exist? If so, what will it look like?



Nice post Megan - good points.

I agree, I once wrote on my own blog Who will buy this web engagement and made the comment that:

Everyone would want to wave a magic dollar bill, watch the world go fuzzy and instantly see service metrics hockey stick up and to the right – but of course the truth is as fanciful as buying “this wonderful morning”. The same is absolutely true of web engagement, being satisfied or being engaged is not something you can choose for someone else – they’ll decide.

In the same way that CXM expertise encompasses a number of disciplines within Forrester (I have had great conversations on this subject with your colleagues in other practices on CXM like Stephen Powers, Suresh Vittal and Joe Stanhope) - I agree the technology solution architecture of CXM is a heterogeneous one, covering a number of best of breed capabilities.

I also like your observation of the depth of reach of truly offering a differentiated customer experience, as far into the organization as HR.




Couldn't agree more

In our view, the power of CEM 2.0 comes from consolidating all the insight CSPs have across their organization, and using it to take the right action, at the right time, based on the business outcome they want to achieve. It is all about a new culture of customer engagement.

You are seeing what I am seeing

Megan your post is right on! I think though there are two more legs on this wooden stool to examine. Customer Expereince Managment is a discipline. A companies CE organization should continue to educate and teach the discipline across business lines to ensure a consistent delivery experience.

The second stool here is the technology provider. Having worked for call recording company and partner with another in my current role; I can say this the technology vendors and contact centers have built this industry. Consider this would we have a CEM discipline if quality, workforce management and CSR's had not been listening and advising what customers want? The technology vendors are only doing and marketing what their customers are telling them to do.

The thrid leg in the stool is what I call Customer Experience Operations. CE Operations should be QA, WFM and anyaltics. Today, these functions are in the contact centers. Many CE professionals and other departments in compnaies do not understand the expertise needed to drive the brand experience by aligning people, process and rechnology across business lines. Consider this, when was the last time you heard a CE team or six sigma project team partering with QA and WFM? WFM is responsible for forecasting consumer contact volume. QA is responsible for evaluating the consumer expereince. What happens 90% of the time is something occurs in the company which drives a campaign or letter making brand promises. when WFM and QA organizations are not invited to the party is the operational plan for handleing consumer contacts is incorrect. The incorrect plan creats customer chyrn when a CSR is not redy to handle their call.

We also need to remember the CE discipline has taken many, many years to be defined. If we didn't have vendors and front-line CSR's doing the CE work before the term was defined; then we won't have a discipline like we do today.

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Inspired by this article?

I knew I had read something almost identical to this post. Here's an other article that says almost the same thing from another blog: Is this just a coincidence? There seems to be a recurring theme developing here. What prompted this discussion? Are there some examples where vendors have run afoul of best practices or common sense with marketing product speak? It all seems pretty obvious to me that Customer Experience is not software, and that software may or may not be able to help a business support a CX initiative.