It’s the Experience, not the Relationship

By Heather Baldwin

When you get right down to it, CRM is largely about data: when the customer bought which product at what price; when and why the customer placed calls to your customer service department; which pieces of equipment were exchanged and why. CRM focuses on information that is important to the company rather than the customer – hardly the foundation for a great relationship, says Bernd Schmitt, author of Customer Experience Management (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2003). For companies that are serious about their customers, Schmitt recommends an approach called Customer Experience Management (CEM), which he defines as “the process of strategically managing a customer’s entire experience with a product or a company.” It’s customers’ total experience, after all, that determines whether they will be loyal clients or defect to a competitor. Schmitt’s CEM framework includes these five steps.

1. Analyze the experiential world of the customer. What is it like to use your product or service? How does it fit into customers’ lives? Most companies know how to extol the benefits of their product but lack a message that connects with customers. Says Schmitt, “Companies need to learn how to see the world from the customer’s point of view.”

2. Build the experiential platform. The experiential platform includes a customer-oriented, “dynamic, multisensory, multidimensional depiction of the desired experience,” says Schmitt. For example, Jamba Juice, a market leader in natural, made-to-order fruit smoothies and juices, says: Every time we take your order, we make our blenders dance and put the party in your cup – along with a straw tested for its suckability factor.

3. Design the brand experience. The brand experience includes features and product aesthetics, followed by logos, signage and packaging – in short, all the static elements a customer encounters.

4. Structure the customer interface. The customer interface includes all the dynamic exchanges and contact points with the customer – in a store, on a sales visit in a client’s office, at a bank’s ATM machine or on a Website. “Structuring the customer interface goes beyond CRM,” says Schmitt, and must incorporate intangible elements such as voice, attitude and behavioral style. For example, Eli Lilly’s new brand identity and slogan for the 21st century is: Answers that Matter. “The company soon realized that this message had to be more than just a new slogan,” says Schmitt. “It also required a new interface with the customer and a new conception of how everyone in the organization would view their jobs and interact with customers.”

5. Engage in continuous innovation. Innovations include anything that improves customers’ lives. They can range from major inventions to small innovations in the product’s form. Marketing innovations might consist of creative launch events and campaigns. Without innovations, the customer experience will sour.