Now You’re All…Customer Experience, Huh? PROVE IT!

There are a lot of technology vendors claiming to be focused on customer experience where several months ago they were CRM or EFM or Customer Service or something else. Now they are either changed companies or just jumping on a trend bandwagon without substance. Sometimes they are denigrating what they proudly claimed to be a few months ago. Here's their chance to prove their claim.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

Okay, I’m now hearing software/cloud services vendors declare themselves…like…all “customer experience” and in the bargain throwing whatever it is they were  (CRM, EFM, etc.) out – both baby and bathwater – or relegating their prior categorical histories to the dusty shelves of an archive. 

Here’s the thing.  What are the things that six or eight weeks ago or a year ago when they were Social CRM vendors, EFM companies, that morphed, changed them from a CRM caterpillar to customer experience butterfly?  What was it, besides jumping on a trend that made them transform themselves? Even more importantly, what have they done that makes what I see they offer as different than it was when they were something else?  At the moment, what I do see is Oracle has a product portfolio they have aligned around customer experience that includes their CRM products (though I have different concerns about that not part of this) among other things. SAP has a book on the subject.  Beyond that, I just don’t know or perhaps am missing something.

I don’t know about you, but I want to know what it is that’s changed about them and their products and services and tools that makes their DNA so customer experience focused that whatever, the hand that fed them, the category that they declared themselves a part of, is now something they either haven’t been for awhile or in one or two cases never were.  Rewriting of history in a case or two.  Because if I’m a buyer, I don’t want them to make another change that will impact what I already bought from them – nor do I want to hear from a company that I’m treating as a partner in my business be inconsistent in how they approach what I ultimately am buying them for. 

A Bit on Customer Experience Itself

Don’t get me wrong.  I love that customer experience is in the forefront of thinking again and may even be trending on Twitter.   I love that because what makes a customer continue to do business with your company is the overall experience and its nuances that drive how much they like you…or not.  How they feel about you is the key to whether they buy from you. It’s as simple as that though the minute you have more than one or two customers, it’s a complicated thing to deal with. But that’s not the subject of this post.  In fact, this emphasis on the customer’s experience was seen to be coming when we began to hear (and I also began to say) that actionable insights, not big data, should be a major concern for business. Actionable insights are a better knowledge of what to do to enhance or support or mitigate an individual customers experience with your company.  Actionable insights are, at their best, about customer behaviors – which are driven by emotions – and in the context of interactions with a company.

However, what is particularly irksome is that customer experience is being treated like it’s a new thrust, and a revelation that we are privileged to become a part of.

No. Nononononono. Oh no.

This has been around since the 20th century and in fact has been the core of CRM strategy since day 1 of CRM.

I decided to find out when I first talked about customer experience, so I went back to the first edition of my book, CRM at the Speed of Light.  That would be 2000 when I wrote it (2001 when it came out).  On page xvii of the Introduction – literally as early in the book as I possibly could get, I took a stab at a first definition of CRM ever from me.  Here is what I said:

“CRM is a complete system that (1) provides a means and method to enhance the experience of the individual customers so that they will remain customers for life…”

That’s 2001.  And I wasn’t the first.  Just because they are now calling it CXM rather than CEM doesn’t make it new.  In fact, CEM – customer experience management – predates even CRM. It’s a management science that’s over 60 years old. Cheskin Group and LRA have been around a long time doing customer experience strategies. Companies like Sri Lankan Grade A telco, Dialog Telekom map their customer’s experience journey every single day and have been doing so for nearly a decade.  Bruce Temkin, who I consider the pre-eminent customer experience analyst and consultant – has been doing this since time immemorial – though of course, he is a young man. Really. So we need to eliminate the pretense that this is some new trend that all of these companies are now coming up with.  It isn’t.

Customer experience has been the core of CRM strategy and a singular management strategy for decades now.  Its merely resurfacing now – as well it should.  Regardless of the disingenuousness about this “newness” – it’s a welcome focus on what is essential in the company-customer relationship.  It’s the driver of company success when it is focused on the customer – which is where a company, at least in significant part, needs to focus.

The Challenge

So, here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to call out the names of the vendors who are claiming that they are all about customer experience and one way or the other they have either attacked or more likely seriously de-emphasized CRM, Social CRM or whatever it was that was the motor for their success, along the way. 

Thing is, if you were something that you are now claiming you aren’t, you have to be able to prove it.  How is it that you were a CRM company or had a CRM practice that made you a lot of money or at least some and now that same product or service or practice or company is no longer CRM and is now some amorphously named customer experience suite or platform or whatever?  How do you see CRM/SCRM now?  While I focus on CRM and SCRM, there are numerous other categories.  

I can’t speak for all of you reading this, but I want to hear the story. I want to see how these companies “evolved” or how they’ve completely or in part revamped their product/services offerings or enhanced their ecosystem, so that it provides some criteria that let them say to the public they are trying to impress that they are a customer experience focused company that is no longer CRM (or whatever).  I want to hear why they chose to do that. I want to understand what it is makes them throw CRM or whatever aside or diminish its importance if they’ve done that. If they feel that I’m misrepresenting their approach then show me how – though I find that might be a bit difficult since I’m not passing judgment on any company – just holding them accountable to something they are pushing in their messaging really hard.  Making claims will no longer be good enough. They will have to account for their claims – and prove them.

I’m going to give each of them a public forum to do that. Each company that I name who has significantly claimed customer experience as a core offering and has one way or the other de-emphasized its prior core offering  – at least as far as I can see – as part of this “new” emphasis – will get a guest post here to make their case.  If I were those companies, I’d see this as an opportunity to get their stories straight and their portfolios aligned and present their new features and functions that make them more than what they were months ago.  They will each have their own bylined guest post.  But, what I’d avoid is canned crap that uses lots of buzzwords. This isn’t a guest ad. Its meant to be a forum for them to explain their transition in a way that will make someone reading it think, “okay, that makes sense” and “yeah, I can see what they are offering is more than just what they were offering a couple of months ago. Its not just a new name.”  I’ll send back anything I think is a canned ad.

Anytime I name a company, the guest post to prove the case is automatically offered. So if they see this before I contact them, then they can send me an email at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com to accept the challenge.  Or to inquire about it.  Whatever they want. 

But, if they don’t want to do that – which is, of course, their prerogative – it’s my prerogative to continue to question what they are saying about customer experience being their focus and their reasons for diminishing an $18 billion industry if that’s what they are doing.  To be fair, most aren’t doing that.  They are just making CRM a recessive gene in the makeup of their DNA.

So, the criteria for being called out and getting the guest are:

  1. A claim that they are a customer experience focused vendor;
  2. A significant either reduction of their prior focus or an outright attack on it. 

So here are the companies that are making the claim so far – all companies that I have a great deal of respect for – though of course, never have seen as perfect. 

After consultation with some of the industry’s thought leaders, the first gauntlets are being thrown down to:

  1. Oracle
  2. SAP
  3. Get Satisfaction
  4. Medallia
  5. Allegiance
  6. Genesys Labs
  7. Clarabridge

I’ll be contacting each of the companies individually to offer them the guest post.  I’ll keep you all posted on what they are going to do. 

Also, anyone reading this, if you know of other companies that I’m missing here and that meet the criteria I laid out above, please let me know who they are and if they do meet those criteria, I’ll name them and make them the guest post offer.

Let the proofs begin.

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