Ten Lessons To Succeed With CEM Now, Rather Than Wait For The Next Big Thing

Shaun Smith
Founder, Smith+co


I was speaking at a Customer Experience conference recently and was asked by one of the delegates “So what comes after CEM?” We have grown up on a diet of ‘TLA’s’ (Three Letter Acronyms) first being exhorted to embrace TQM, then BPR, through CRM, CMR and now CEM, so it seems perfectly reasonable to ask about the NBT (Next Big Thing!). But to do so runs the risk that CEM will follow a path of being a fad rather than a sustainable route to achieving competitive advantage and customer growth.

CEM has become well established in the US and UK markets and is becoming increasingly a ‘hot’ topic in the newer emerging markets. Unfortunately, with so many consultancies jumping on the CE ‘bandwagon’ it is not always implemented with the level of rigour needed to achieve significant business results. We hypothesised in Smith+co that the newer European markets would follow a similar trajectory as their US and UK counterparts along a path of awareness, enthusiasm, adoption and finally, for some, disillusionment.

But could we share the lessons of successful implementations to increase the probability of success of CEM in these markets? To answer these questions, we decided to conduct research in the Polish market with our local partners, Executive Conversation Polska. Our aim was to find out the level of awareness, enthusiasm and the current status of implementation of CEM. We used a number of dimensions identified in our book ‘Managing the customer experience -turning customers into advocates’[1]

In this series of articles, we shall share our findings. More importantly, we shall share some of the lessons we have learned in working with organisations world-wide to implement CEM successfully. We do this in the hope that we can encourage executives in some of the newer markets to implement best practice and for their US and UK colleagues to focus on what we already know about CEM rather than look for the next silver bullet.



1. Successful deployment requires the active and continuing involvement of leadership

Execution is the hardest part of creating a customer experience, because, in order to deploy successfully, we have to mobilise employees at all levels and align competing agendas, functions and executives. This is no easy task. Perhaps that is why so many of the exemplars of Customer Experience tend to be organisations led by passionate founders or CEOs, who see it as a primary source of differentiation. Think of Starbucks, Amazon, Southwest Airlines or Virgin and inevitably you quickly think of Howard Schultz, Jeff Bezos, Herb Kelleher and Richard Branson. CEM can work just as successfully and achieve startling results in large mature corporates too; but the need for leadership is even greater.

Leadership is vital for any significant organisational change. Yet, as we concluded in our book ‘Uncommon Practice – people who deliver a great brand experience’ [2], most leaders ‘stumble the mumble’ rather than ‘walk the talk’. They fail to clearly communicate its importance to the organisation and then fail to take decisive action to demonstrate that it is high on the management agenda.

Our survey in the Polish market revealed some interesting perspectives in this regard. For example, 63 percent of the senior management respondents in our survey agreed with the statement ’‘Leaders make decisions that are consistent with our customer experience strategy’ yet only 41 percent of their non-management colleagues agreed with them. This matters. No matter how committed to customer experience you feel, it is what you do that counts. We found the highest correlation in the survey between those respondents agreeing with the statement just mentioned and ‘Our company’s top executives demonstrate their commitment to our customer experience strategy’.

Our experience has shown, time and time again, that the most significant factor in creating strong companies are leaders who take personal responsibility for communicating, demonstrating and rewarding brand or company values. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos says “Our mission is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company”. Jeff Bezos and his executive team personally demonstrate their commitment to this mission through their actions and decisions. In the process, they have created an enviable reputation for reliability and one of the most widely recognised brands in the world today. Amazon reports one of the highest Net Promoter Scores (highly satisfied customers) we have seen.

(to be continued in Part 2)

[1] Managing the Customer experience-turning customers into advocates. Shaun Smith and Joe Wheeler. FT Prentice Hall 2002.

[2] Uncommon Practice-people who deliver a great brand experience. Shaun Smith and Andy Milligan FTPrentice Hall 2002.


Shaun Smith veti Helsingissä CX Masterclass –koulutuksen 24.1. ja isännöi CX VIP-brunssin 25.1. Nyt voit käydä tutustumassa tapahtuman tunnelmiin osoitteessa www.cxmasterclass.fi

Shaun Smith on kirjoittanut asiakkuuskokemusten johtamisesta viisi best seller -kirjaa, joita pidetään alan perusteoksina. Hänen käytännön kokemuksensa ulottuu yli 30 vuoden ajalta organisaatioihin ympäri Eurooppaa, Aasiaa ja Yhdysvaltoja. Smith on työskennellyt erilaisissa CX-hankkeissa maailman johtavien brändien tukena auttaen suunnittelemaan, kehittämään ja toteuttamaan erottuvia asiakaskokemuksia. Hän on muokannut johdon ajattelua taktisista asiakaspalveluun liittyvistä päätöksistä laajempaan ja strategisempaan asiakkuuskokemuksen johtamiseen.

Shaun Smith”The experience you deliver to your customers every day, through every transaction, direct and indirect,  either builds value for your brand or destroys it.
– Shaun Smith, Founder, Smith+co


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Asiakkuuskokemuksen johtamiseen aiempina vuosina tehtyjen investointien vaikutukset näkyvät nyt myös jo konkreettisina bisneslukuina. Yli kahdeksan kymmenestä kokee, että panostukset ovat kannattaneet ja kertoo aktiviteeteilla olleen positiivinen vaikutus myös yrityksen tulokseen kuluneen vuoden aikana, käy ilmi CXPA Finlandin ja Shirute Oy:n tuoreesta Asiakkuuskokemusten johtaminen Suomessa 2018 -selvityksestä, joka julkistettiin CXPA Finlandin tapahtumassa Helsingissä 23.8. Kokonaispisteissä Telia oli ykkönen. Veikkaus toisena ja kolmanneksi nousi Tieto.