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Customer experience management (CXM) is the management of customer interactions through each physical and digital touchpoint in order to deliver personalized experiences that drive brand loyalty and increase revenue, according to David Clarke, global chief experience officer at PwC. Brands accomplish CXM programs through a combination of software, analytics, research and data-management systems.

“Customer experience management oversees customer interactions,” according to a Jan. 22, 2020 blog post from Clint Fontanella, who manages the HubSpot Service blog. “It plans how a company will initiate or react to engagement at different points in the customer's journey. The goal of this effort is to increase customer satisfaction and drive brand loyalty.”

But it’s never easy. According to a December 2019 Deloitte study on customer experience, companies are challenged to pool the budget to pay for customer data management tools (55%), find a single solution that meets needs (43%) and create a unified data management strategy across all lines of business/teams (41%). As for customer experience data management maturity, only 5.6% of survey respondents had an average score of 4 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5.

COVID-19’s Impact on CXM

It’s hard, but it matters. Those responsible for managing CX for their organizations need to consider the consumer landscape and how it is affected by the COVID-19 world health pandemic, according to PwC’s Clarke. “In the blink of an eye the world changed, and people shifted their focus to essentials,” Clarke told CMSWire. “Americans became cautious: the savings rate skyrocketed to the highest level in decades, and people began to prioritize in new ways.”

Businesses are also focusing on the essentials: how to shift operating models quickly, what can open, what’s no longer necessary, who needs to work on-site and how to stay relevant for customers in-person, online and everything in between.

“Your new — and perhaps only — mission is to change with the times to be essential to your customers, whether you’re selling software, hardcover books or entertainment,” Clarke said. “By bringing your company's minds and talents together across business, experience and technology, you can transcend survival mode, boost productivity, reduce costs, solve tough problems more efficiently, and get to market faster.”

Digital Transformation, CX Mandate

Customer experience now looks different, Clarke added, and it will be crucial for companies to pivot to give their customers the experiences they want now, not what made them happy five months ago, according to Clarke.

“Consumer behavior may be forever changed, but it’s certainly changed for the next year or year-and-a-half,” Clarke said. “Companies, products and services that are essential in people’s lives will recover faster — and it’s not just toilet paper or baker’s yeast. It revolves around how you think, how you double down on digital transformation and what you leave behind.”

Companies that went half-heartedly into digital transformation have little choice now but to ramp up, he added. CFOs across the U.S. know this: while 58% say their company plans to defer or cut investments because of COVID-19 in PwC’s May 11 CFO survey, only 20% said those cuts would be made to digital transformation efforts. And only 14% said customer experience would be on the chopping block. “It’s clear: Digital transformation and customer experience falls squarely in the ‘keep’ column,” Clarke said.

Related Article: What Skills Do Customer Experience Managers Need?

Customer Journey Management: Historical or Hypothetical

Part of a strong CXM strategy includes customer journey management. That is the practice of using behavioral trends and technology to help minimize customers’ efforts across all channels and touch points, according to a post from Genesys. Customer journey orchestration engine software is designed to help organizations analyze customer interactions across multiple touchpoints, execute the best communications and predict future customer interaction.

Tim Linberg, chief experience officer at Verndale, told CMSWire that customer journeys can be either historical or hypothetical. “We can influence and enable journeys, but we can’t absolutely dictate them,” Linberg said. “And, moreover, a truly customer-centric organization wouldn’t try to. What we can do, though, is leverage behavioral data, customer insights, experience design and marketing technologies to better understand and optimize every step of that journey. Done right, customer experience management is just as valuable for the business as it is for the end user.”

How CXM Software Helps

A strong CXM program is only as good as the software behind it. Brands need to collect, track, manage, organize, analyze, personalize and execute relevant interactions with customers and prospects and can do this primarily through CXM software. Capterra, a product review site, provides reviews of nearly 300 CXM software platforms.

CXM software can also incorporate systems like CRM, web content management, personalization engines, web analytics, customer feedback, customer data platforms, customer journey orchestration and most platforms within the Digital Experience Platform (DXP) ecosystem. Forrester released on Feb. 11, 2020, its Forrester Wave: Customer Feedback Management Platforms, Q1 2020 in which it included what it calls “significant” providers: Clarabridge, Concentrix, Confirmit, InMoment, MaritzCX, Medallia, NICE, SMG, Qualtrics and Verint.

And, of course, there are plenty of CXM service partners that include, according to the Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM and Customer Experience Implementation Services published April 7, 2020:

  • Accenture
  • BearingPoint
  • Capgemini
  • Cognizant
  • Deloitte
  • EY
  • HCL Technologies
  • IBM iX
  • Infosys
  • NTT DATA
  • Publicis Sapient
  • PwC
  • Reply
  • Salesforce
  • TCS
  • Wipro

Related Article: The Great Restart: 3 Customer-Centric Steps to Building a Strong Offense

Right CXM Tools for the Right Prospect and Customer

Every company will tell you CX is central to their strategy, but in practice, it’s an extremely difficult thing to figure out how to create consistency across every touch point of the customer journey, according to Meredith Rodkey, vice president of product management for Brightspot. “As I make decisions about features and capabilities, I am always aware of who this benefits — the end user,” Rodkey said. “I think of it as ‘living in their shoes.’”

Having the right tools — instrumented correctly — is more important than having a lot of tools, Rodkey added. “A great customer experience,” she said, “allows a brand to meet customer needs and be seen as integral in helping each user do their jobs easily and effectively. To deliver this type of personalized experience across all channels, languages and content types, requires various technology solutions.”

Technology Does Not Define CXM Strategy

To effectively manage CX, brands should not get distracted by newly available technology, according to PwC’s Clarke. “Imagine your ideal CX: don’t let technology define it,” Clarke said. “Visualize all touch points across the digital and physical world. It is most important to ensure that you are providing customers with what they need, when they need it the most.” This may mean deploying chatbot-based customer service, and other times it may mean reducing the number of clicks to get to purchase.

Brands should be thinking about democratizing CX. “CXM,” Clarke added, “isn’t an out-of-the-box solution. Great customer experiences are owned by the C-Suite and only happen through a matrix of co-dependent connections.” It’s not just on the marketing department to execute CXM. And it’s not just about using a CRM. “It should be on the agenda across functions,” Clarke said. “Having the customer in mind even when thinking of back-office system functionality has an effect on the customer. Don’t silo the responsibility. Everyone affects CX.”

Related Article: What Medallia’s IPO Means for the CX Tech Industry

Getting Back to Digital Basics

Companies that want to be an essential business and give customers the kind of experience they want now need to reset, according to Clarke. Start, he said, by going back to the basics: the business equivalent of food, water and shelter. “A new reality requires a new kind of thinking, a double-down approach to digital transformation and new ways of working that weave in what we call BXT, the perfect balance of business, experience and technology,” Clarke said. “It doesn’t stop there — it hinges on faster management of uncertainty, and a plan for operational resiliency you can enact now.”

Ask yourself: Which products and services have seen top-line revenue impacted the most? Margins are irrelevant now, because they’re under pressure everywhere. Which of those top-line impacted items are likely to recover in 60, 90, or 180 days? What does the data tell you? Can you shift a product or service quickly and efficiently to meet a burgeoning demand or make it more relevant? “Focus on the most essential products and services for your customers and use digital tools to deliver them faster and more efficiently,” Clarke said.

Winning CX Examples

CXM is worthless without executing on good experiences for customers and prospects — and seeing more money for your brand's bottom line. Here are a few resources that include examples of excellent CX:

Related Article: Building a Big Picture Customer Experience for Now and the Future

Putting the Customer First

In conclusion, a good CXM program leads to a customer experience that is consistent across channels, frictionless and valuable to both the business and the consumer, according to Verndale’s Linberg. “The promise of CXM for marketers is the ability to purposely move from ‘ready fire aim’ acquisition and retention tactics to a ‘ready aim fire’ approach that puts the customer's unique needs first,” Linberg said. “There may be no such thing as a perfect one-size-fits all customer journey, but there can be perfect journeys. Embracing a one-to-one strategy, enabled through AI and machine learning, delivers both a better, more personalized experience for customers and also better business outcomes."

There has never been a more important time to get CXM right, Linberg said. As organizations navigate a global pandemic and a challenged economy, delivering an optimized digital customer experience has emerged as a critical lifeline for businesses across industries that are reimagining how they attract, engage and retain customers.

How do you bring good CX to life? By making connections, according to Clarke. Connect goals, POVs, responsibilities and ideas as they flow through the organization, according to Clarke. Connect cross-department teams and budgets to share in the commitment. Connect associate, customer and partner journeys. Connect systems and technologies to provide a platform for iteration, he added.

“Reducing friction in this time of disruption is incredibly important,” Linberg said, “and that will continue to be true as customer expectations evolve and organizations look to future-proof their business."