Customer experience management (CXM) in large companies has come a long ways, but there’s still a long road ahead. That’s essentially the takeaway from a new report by the Temkin Group

In a survey of 224 customer experience professionals in companies with at least US$ 500 million in annual revenues, The State of Customer Experience Management 2013 report found that most have a CXM executive in charge, a central team and a staff of six to 10 full-time customer experience professionals.

Four Core Competencies

As measured against the Temkin Group’s CXM competency assessment, however, only 6% of companies were deemed to have reached the highest two levels of customer experience maturity. Temkin has identified four core competencies that must be mastered by companies that want to be customer-centric. They are:

  • Purposeful Leadership: “consistently operating with a clear set of values”
  • Employee Engagement: “aligning employees with the goals of an organization”
  • Compelling Brand Values: “delivering on brand promises to customers”
  • Customer Connectedness: “infusing customer insight across the organization”

The report includes a self-assessment test, so that a company can evaluate their performance in these competencies, compared with the 224 companies already scored. Sample questions include:

  • "How would you rate the overall customer experience that your company currently delivers?”
  • “How long, if at all, has your organization had a senior executive in charge of customer experience across products and channels?”

From The State of Customer Experience Management 2013

Biggest Gaps

The two areas with the largest competency gaps were Employee Engagement and Compelling Brand Values, but the customer feedback component of Customer Connectedness was one of the competency attributes where many companies -- 48 percent -- “always or almost always collect and act upon customer feedback.”

Other strengths included celebrating and rewarding employees that exemplify core values (44%), having a “well defined set of target customer segments that guides priorities” (42%) and regularly communicating “that customer experience is one of the company’s key strategies” (40%).

Some of the least frequently practiced CX attributes: “marketing does as much brand marketing inside the company as it does outside” (17%) and “senior executives support decisions to trade-off short-term financial results for longer-term customer loyalty” (19%).

The report noted that companies with stronger CX competencies were focused “more on delighting customers and less on cutting costs.”

Key Obstacles

The vast majority -- 90 percent -- of companies also have formalized voice of the customer (VoC) programs and are reporting on CX metrics. The report said that this “makes sense,” since VoC and CX metrics are the most effective activities.

The picture painted by the report is one where keeping customers happy and paying attention to customer feedback has become an ingrained component in many of the surveyed large companies’ standard operating procedures, but reaching the top rungs of performance, as measured by Temkin Group’s metrics, is still a work in progress.

What are key obstacles for CX Competency Laggards? The most commonly cited factors were “lack of commitment from senior executives,” “lack of a clear customer experience strategy,” “limited funding” and “conflict across internal organizations.”

This meshes with Temkin’s overall finding that CX Leaders are more ambitious, have more leadership, are more successful engaging their employees in the effort, and -- although it’s not clear to what degree this is cause or effect -- have stronger financial results.