For Customer Experience Practitioners, Do Words Really Matter?
- At a recent customer engagement event, the issue of definitions and terms came up in multiple conversations
- Words do matter, so we need to take a stand on developing common terms and understanding about their use
- Because customer experience practitioners come through varying paths, we don’t have a source document to use
As the customer experience profession matures, it matters more and more that we decide on a common nomenclature for the work we do, the organizations we structure, and the correct reporting structure for appropriate access and execution: customer experience, customer advocacy, customer success, customer marketing, customer service, customer support, CX, CEM, CRM…and the list goes on.
In the early days of my customer experience career, I was part of the customer advocacy organization. This new function introduced the concept of a team whose primary focus was advocating for our customers. We reported directly to the CEO, were unaffiliated with any single organization, and had the remit to gather customer insight and develop and manage cross-functional teams/plans to address customer issues and fix broken processes. We also reported results, plans and progress to executives and the company more broadly.
Imagine my dismay as the term “advocacy” grew to mean cultivating and leveraging advocates primarily via customer reference programs. This was so contrary to how I viewed the body of work that it took a couple of years from when I first heard the term to not cringe when it was used.
At a recent customer engagement event I attended, the issue of definitions and terms came up in multiple conversations – on stage, over lunch and at the cocktail reception. We pondered whether we could gain true legitimacy if we don’t have clear, shared terminology that is routinely implemented and understood. Not to mention the universal pet peeve about having to explain what we do – when, where and with whom – over and over again.
Because customer experience practitioners come from different beginnings and through varying paths, we don’t have a source document to refer to. After all, none of us majored in “Customer Experience” in college. Some may say that it is actually in our best interest to be forced to slow down and explain what we do to every new employee, colleague or client. Perhaps these conversations, in and of themselves, help to solidify understanding and provide value.
To me, customer experience is an ecosystem and should be used as an umbrella term to include customer marketing, insights, advocacy, support, success, loyalty, retention, engagement and other terms to come. This doesn’t mean that all of these must report through a single organization, but there must be a clear and compelling strategy, along with and tactical interlock with other functions.
Ultimately, we should view this through what organizations are trying to accomplish – i.e. the business strategy to support or problem to solve. The next step is to begin to evolve a common set of terminology that is widely understood and utilized.
Personally, I say that words do matter, and am ready to take a stand for developing common terms and understanding about their use. How about you?