Over the last few days I’ve been to a few customer experience events, which included chairing a couple of sessions at a leading conference in London as well as hosting an executive roundtable.
During that time, I’ve had the pleasure listening to a whole bunch of people speak about the service and experience they are designing and implementing for the brands that they work for.
Reflecting on all the things that I heard, I was left with a question:
What’s the difference between ‘customer experience’ and ‘the customer’s experience’?
If you look at the two terms, literally, there is only four letters and an apostrophe difference between them. But, in reality, the difference can be much more significant.
Often when professionals and executives talk about customer experience, I find that the actual customer gets lost and customer experience becomes another functional specialism, where the customer is somehow disembodied.
That presents both a danger and a challenge to organisations.
Customer experience initiatives have to deliver benefits to an organisation by way of higher profits, increased revenues, cost savings, improved retention or better advocacy etc etc.
I get that.
But, customer experience also has to embody the customer’s experience. If not, then it is in danger of just becoming another function, another process or another system that does things to the customer. In turn, it also then runs the risk of failing to live up to expectations and failing to deliver on it’s promise.
This reminds me of a similar situation that faced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – and still does in some parts – where CRM was lauded when introduced and then failed to deliver on it’s promise.
In fact, back in 2002 there was an article published in the Harvard Business Review called: Avoid the Four Perils of CRM written by Darrell Rigby, Fred Reichheld and Phil Schefter. In it, they quoted a Gartner statistic which said that:
“55% of all CRM projects don’t produce results”
They went on to say that following ten years of research they had identified four pitfalls that brands fall into when trying to implement CRM. They were:
Pitfall 1: Implementing CRM Before Creating a Customer Strategy
Pitfall 2: Rolling Out CRM Before Changing Your Organization to Match
Pitfall 3: Assuming that More CRM Technology Is Better
Pitfall 4: Stalking, Not Wooing, Customers
Interesting, right? Imagine if you replaced ‘CRM’ with ‘Customer Experience’ in the four pitfalls?
Is customer experience at risk of falling down the same holes?
I hope not.
However, to minimise this risk, I’d encourage everyone involved with customer experience in their organisation to read the HBR article and learn from the experience of CRM.
Moreover, organisations need to be wary that their customer experience initiatives do not turn into another function and lose sight of, or touch with, the customer at all times. To not do so would risk repeating the failures of the past.
This post was originally published on my Forbes.com column.