How Singularity Kills Customer Experience Management

gregory yankelovich

Culturally we are conditioned to look for a SINGLE reason, element or root cause to solve any problem. Remember Curly’s “One Thing” in the City Slickers movie? Well, this concept of singularity does not work in customer experience management (CEM) by definition because of the complexity of customers perceptions’ of “management.”

But, how do you manage someone else’s perceptions? I have addressed this question Curly-300x200before, but the answers did not offer a single step path to customer experience heaven. The answers call for a review of the existing business processes and practices, and that costs money. Money to pay for analysis and improvement of these processes, money to pay for technology to automate these improvements, money for change and adoption management, etc. These is the money that would surely increase quarterly earnings per share and management bonuses, but instead will possibly increase “what and when”?

U.S. Nobel-laureate economist Herbert Simon, in his 1982 book Models Of Bounded Rationality introduced the term satisficing:

“Examining alternatives until a practical (most obvious, attainable, and reasonable) solution with adequate level of acceptability is found, and stopping the search there instead of looking for the best-possible (optimum) solution.”

Satisficing is a valuable survival skill for decision-making practitioners, who deal with endless uncertainties, but a liability for strategy/vision developers who are supposed to navigate the course to the best future destinations. That explains why visionary leaders have a better grasp of customer experience concepts than functional managers and corporate executives who came from the ranks.

Until customer experience began rising to prominence, corporate management was very busy minimizing the cost of everything associated with customer support and services, which is a part of the domain. For years, they enjoyed the blissful illusion that the technology investments they made allowed them to increase profitability without reduction in customer satisfaction. Is it really that surprising the same technology vendors re-name their products to pitch “new” solutions to the same buyers? The pitch may have changed, but the singular focus on cost reduction did not. And that will turn CEM into another fad – like it turned CRM into a more efficient, i.e. inexpensive, way to provide sales management reporting and low-cost customer support infrastructure.

We preach that long-term growth cannot continue without an adequate improvement of customer experience, but a short-term reality check shows our managers that customers, both consumers and businesses, are still focused on the price more than the experience. There is strong evidence of trends that make our case more persuasive, but we need to spend less time playing with “tools” and work more on re-framing the concept of customer experience management as an engine of growth, before it becomes a domain of corporate IT.

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