(This post was co-authored by Megan Burns and Andrew McInnes so appears on both of their personal blogs.)

Customer experience management (CEM) has become a marketing buzzword for technology vendors as of late. While this isn’t surprising given the current energy around customer experience in general, it is a problem. Here’s why:

  • Customer experience management is a discipline, not a technology. To truly manage customers’ experiences, an organization must understand its customers’ needs, how it intends to meet those needs, and how it is currently performing. It must also have people, processes, and tools in place to use that insight in order to design and deliver the right experiences and continuously improve them over time. Vendors that currently claim the CEM name (Adobe, Medallia, RightNow, Tealeaf, and others) help clients with various aspects of the management process like experience insight and delivery. But they can’t replace the overall discipline and activities required for a company to get customer experience right.
  • It involves every technology in an organization. As our colleague Kerry Bodine points out in her research, customer experiences are created by a complex ecosystem of people and systems. Every employee, every vendor, and every partner play a role. So does virtually every technology. For example, enterprise architecture decisions don’t just affect IT. They make it harder or easier for companies to pull together all of the information employees need to get a complete view of customers. Likewise, HR systems that frustrate employees don’t just mean more time spent on administrative tasks but also less time spent on serving customers. Thus, a true CEM technology solution (ignore the people and process for now) would need to replace or control almost every other technology in a company. Good luck with that.

Customer experience leaders shouldn’t dismiss vendors that market CEM solutions altogether — there’s significant value to be had, and Customer experience leaders should definitely be influencing technology decisions. Potential buyers just need to tread this Wild West of a space carefully. It’s immature, full of hype, and ultimately destined to shake out into a series of clearer categories.

Vendors should help customer experience leaders make smart decisions by clearly articulating where their solutions fit into the customer experience ecosystem rather claiming to supplant it.

What are your thoughts? Will a CEM technology category ever really exist? If so, what will it look like?