Voices of CRM

Jun 7 2011   5:11PM GMT

Group aims to sharpen focus on customer experience management

Rosemary Cafasso Profile: Rosecafasso

The term customer experience management has come to mean so many different things that it almost has no meaning at all.

But one group wants to change that.

The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) was launched in late April and last week reported it had built its ranks to about 200 participants. The good news is there is a big chunk of end-users in the group who are actually charged with managing customer experience programs at their companies. Although vendors are in CXPA, it isn’t just another vehicle for selling software solutions.

“The topic is so broad, there is a lot of demystification needed,’’ said Karyn Furstman, vice president of customer experience at Safeco Insurance in Seattle and a CPXA member. “For people trying to drive this work, there is a need for sharing best practices.’’

In general, customer experience management refers to the management of the full customer lifecyle, from when a customer may first be considering a product through the completion of a transaction and ongoing support. Because it addresses the full lifecycle, customer experience management hits every segment of a company‘s operations, making it a highly complex undertaking.

Industry consultants Bruce Temkin and Jeanne Bliss saw the need for a forum for customer experience professionals to exchange knowledge on what can be a very challenging topic. They created the CXPA with a group of founding members and a set of Gold ($25,000 annual fee), Silver ($10,000) and Bronze ($5,000) vendor sponsors. Annual corporate membership fees are $2,500 to $10,000, depending on revenue size and individuals can join for an annual fee of $195.

In exchange for the annual fees, members get access to resources such as white papers and webinars. Online forums and topic-specific communities are being set up for members to network and learn from each other.

For example, the CPXA plans to take on some of the thornier issues around customer experience management, such as the corporate politics that can get stirred up when an organization tries to implement a cross-functional project.

“You need teams of executives to manage the political issues, ’’ CXPA’s Bliss said. “We work to engage the executives. We ask, ‘Do you understand what it is that is growing your customer base? It is easy to say you want to do this, but here’s what it will involve: re-crafting your business.’’

Bliss acknowledges that a key sticking point is compensation. Too often divisional managers are compensated for their own team’s performance and therefore have little incentive to join a cross-functional effort. However, she also said it is a mistake to attach financial compensation to these projects at the start. “People can work the system,’’ she said.

Instead, Bliss advises companies start with simple process changes and reward managers “when customer complaints go south.’’

Adobe Systems Inc., a CXPA gold sponsor company, said it is sidestepping internal politics by relying on a small “SWAT team’’ to help implement customer experience management procedures, according to Ben Watson, a principal customer experience strategist.

Watson said his group is an off-shoot of marketing and is charged with providing customer-focused changes to a variety of teams within Adobe. “We can change a small part of a process if you simply put an outside-in focus on it. We can help people see why they weren’t being customer-centric.’’

Bliss said she thinks building a “community of like-minded people’’ will help advance the profession.

“One of the things about this work is you sometimes feel like you need a rubber room,’’ Bliss said. “So this is a community to share experiences with.’’

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