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Customer is increasingly becoming the focal point of business transactions. Customers are indeed more than statistics. They are people, with hearts and minds and behaviors, feelings and thought processes that could be tapped into to make your business lifecycle more efficient. Customer Experience Management (CEM) is the modern contouring of the way companies look at their customer relationships. It is definitely a step up from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and shows a renewed interest that business executives have in the individuality of customers to embrace new technologies.

Customer Experience Management (CEM or CX) can seem a bit futuristic; indeed it was portrayed in the forward-looking, sci-fi movie, Minority Report. In the movie, talking billboards and point-of-purchase signs greeted Tom Cruise’s character by name, in the store and on the sidewalk, and asked him specifically about his last purchase – in detail but conversationally. In reality CEM is as old as retail. The only thing that is new about CEM is that companies have renewed interest in the individuality of customers and have embraced new technologies to gauge individualism on a grand scale. This new-found interest in customers as individuals was born from necessity. Both these disciplines were born out high-order strategic business discipline that shifts its focus from the profits and revenues to customer preferences. This discipline is called customer centricity. In early days of customer management, CRM was synonymous with customer centricity. It was a purely business disciple and an all-encompassing one at that. From a high-level customer strategy point of view to customer-centric operations and processes, it captured customer intelligence to some extent by making use of customer information architectures. As the vendor community seized the acronym to denote a class of software, and focused on the front-end functions, the discipline lost strategic ground, becoming purely operational and even tactical. Thus sprang the need for a revolution in customer centricity. CEM was the new spin and served to fill in the loopholes. It is loosely defined as:

“Customer experience management (CEM) is the collection of processes a company uses to track, oversee and organize every interaction between a customer and the organization throughout the customer lifecycle.” (Margaret Rouse)

Some analysts argue that there are no clear boundaries between the two approaches to customer management. The wholesome customer experience, all-inclusive of customer interactions at each and every touchpoint, matters. It was found through a study that although CRM at each touchpoint is important, where companies lagged behind was the entire customer experience. CRM fails to account for what the customer ‘feels’ when they engage with your brand. It only captures transactional data and quantifies an experience according to how much a customer spends on your brand. They could be delighted with the experience you are providing them even if they spend a really small amount. This ‘delight’ of sorts is what CEM aims to gauge.

Customer experience management emerged as a discipline to fill out the vacuum left by the chosen focus of CRM, bringing back the ‘R’ in CRM. Relationships are complex entities and each one is a two-way street. CEM introduced an interest in customer perspective and focused on customer preferences to delve into the least manageable aspect of relationships: perceptions and emotions. Within the chaotic narrative of customer centricity, real people and their varying perspectives on things, CRM tries to streamline and helps companies perfect customer experience.

To try and locate the place and role of each discipline within the bigger picture of customer-centric solutions is a significant debate. However, neither CRM nor CEM are above or below in merit or should chronologically precede or follow in the maturity of a business. In order to provide a holistic and superior customer experience, both CRM and CEM complement one another and are essential for the growth of revenues in the long run.

While CRM is the hard tool that you gather data through from your customers, it indeed treats them as data and numbers. Unless you invest in a CEM platform, you are unable to make sense of those numbers. As the old proverb goes,

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Albert Einstein

In order to understand your customers who are your brand’s raison d’être, Customer Experience Management is becoming increasingly important.