home Customer Experience What to buy when shopping for Customer Experience Management (CEM) technology

What to buy when shopping for Customer Experience Management (CEM) technology

Over the last decade numerous technology vendors have hitched their wagons to the term Customer Experience Management (CEM or CXM). As a software or technology category the term is fairly elastic. It can mean many different things to many different people. Deciding which technology is best for your CX initiative can be a mammoth and daunting task.

Gartner defines Customer experience management (CEM) as the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. Using this definition of CEM, a CEM system may refer to any technology that helps an organisation design, manage and improve its customer interactions.

Ian Harrison, Director Customer Experience Optimisation for Verint

According to Ian Harrison, director customer experience optimisation at Verint, CEM as a software category, “has become a bit of a catch all term for anything and everything that relates to the changing call centre and customer service landscape.  As opposed to there being a single type of technology or platform that can be called customer experience or customer experience management it’s more about putting together different platforms and technologies to solve customers’ problems”.

Solving problems for the customer

In distinguishing CEM from other software categories such as CRM or marketing automation, Danny Phillips co-founder of Arkade and Omneo CX, believes it’s not about what the software does or its functional features but to what purpose it’s being used for.

Danny Phillips, co-founder of Arkade and Omneo CX

“If marketing is using customers to solve a brand problem like helping to meet sales targets or to encourage customers to switch service channels, then I don’t see the software systems or the technology used to enable this as being a CX platform. If on the other, the brand is being used to solve customer problems, then the enabling technology behind it can be called a CX platform or a CEM system.”

Darren Bowman, Director Solutions Consulting of Medallia

For Darren Bowman, director solutions consulting of Medallia, CEM and the technology systems that support it, is about the ability to drive action at scale. He comments, “The best CX platforms drive action at scale. They provide the ability to understand and qualify the real issues impacting customer and employee experience. More importantly they allow quick action to rectify those problems.”

Likewise, Vicky Katsabaris, Head of CX Strategy and Solutions at Qualtrics APJ, doesn’t describe CX technology from the point of view of functions or features but from its purpose. “We view CEM as a discipline and as a system for action. As such it has two components. One is about listening to every conversation and interaction involving your brand. The next component is an intelligence layer. We want to identify, immediately, the next best action not just at an organisational level but at the team and individual employee level.”

Vicky Katsabaris, Head of Customer Experience Solutions & Strategy, APJ

Even though the term CEM may encompass a wide range of technology systems, there is a range of applications and tools that it is more commonly and specifically applied to. This range typically includes:

  • Customer feedback and survey systems
  • Knowledge management systems
  • Customer service, support and help desk applications
  • Customer analytics software and tools

Customer feedback and survey systems

A key component of any CX initiative is the ability to collect customer feedback. In the 1990s to the early 2000s, alongside the development of the Internet, companies like Qualtrics, Medallia, Confirmit, Nice and Verint emerged. Also known as Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) systems, these tools allow companies to centrally manage the deployment of customer and employee surveys.

Knowledge Management (KM) systems

Established as a discipline in 1991, KM refers to any process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organisation. By leveraging Knowledge Management (KM), organisations can respond proactively to customer queries, provide timely answers and solve complex customer problems.

Customer Service and Support

Customer service or support software, such as Zendesk, are tools that help businesses in the management, organisation and tracking of customer queries and issues. They store all information relevant to customer service.

Customer analytic tools

Customer analytics is the process companies use to capture and analyse customer data to make better decisions. According to Gartner, customer analytics tools “are used to segment buyers into groupings based on behaviour, to determine general trends, or to develop targeted marketing and sales activities.”

The above list is far from exhaustive. We could easily add collaboration tools, chatbots, journey mapping software, CMSs, ecommerce and a range of other technologies to the ecosystem. The range of technology tools and platforms available can be overwhelming. To make matters worse, they are constantly changing, with a steady stream of new products and tools regularly entering the market.

To provide the customer experience you want for your customers, may also require many of these systems being integrated or linked together.

Things are constantly evolving

As well as the vast array of technology solutions available in the market, as Bowman points out, all these technologies and the trends that are shaping their development are in a constant state of flux. He states, “It’s such a fast-moving space and as customer expectations and behaviour changes day to day, minute by minute, experience management programs need to be ready to adapt”.

“Feedback systems need to evolve beyond traditional surveys, integrating customer and employee data with expanded modes of capture like video and voice to text. As customers interact with the brand more frequently across more channels, learning and action needs to be ‘live time’. Organisations now have access to understanding the customer experience as it happens, they need to be able to learn and act on that.”

Customer feedback and analytics systems, observes Katsabaris, need to be able to quickly rout the right information to the right teams and individuals. She says, “Organisations may be collecting feedback from a digital channel but the feedback is relevant to the product team or the marketing team. To rout that feedback requires a fast way of listening and learning and serving the right insights to the right team.”

AI and Machine Learning

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning are having a big impact on all areas of CEM. Bowman says, “Companies are looking to use AI and ML across the customer and employee journey to showcase insights recommendations on the best actions to take to impact different customer segments and identify new growth opportunities.”

Making the decision

Any decision, regards to technology, should start with a definition of what the organisation wants to achieve. What sort of customer experience do your customers expect? What processes do we need to design to create the customer experience we want?

Phillips advises, “Don’t get caught up with what features or functions a particular piece of software may have. The biggest mistake you can make is to design you CX strategy around the features of a particular technology platform or series of platforms.”

Rather than thinking of implementing a specific CX platform or CEM system, advises Phillips, it’s better to think of CX as an ecosystem that can incorporate as many technology platforms or systems as needed to create the customer experience you want for your customers. He comments, “Every department or function within an organisation can have a role to play in creating the customer experience. Any technology or system that supports those functions is part of the organisation’s CX ecosystem.”

“Start by defining what you want your customer experience to be. Then draw a diagram of your current CX ecosystem highlighting the current technology platforms you have deployed. How well can the current systems achieve what you want? Decide what needs to be added or, alternatively, what needs to be replaced.”

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.