Is Customer Experience Dead?
By Janet Gerhard Founder, Hospitality Gal, LLC | May 19, 2013
Reading about the anticipated rise of customer experience management (CEM) in 2013 got me thinking about its potential impact on hospitality. In an industry built so squarely on creating customer experiences, how do we even define customer experience management? A universal standard here is as elusive as my 5-year old's shoes on a school day.
Lou Carbone, founder of Experience Engineering and widely credited as the pioneer who launched the intentional experience management movement, offers the best definition of customer experience I've seen: "the intentional and systematic manner in which a company meets customers' articulated and unarticulated needs."
While our earliest versions of CEM have roots in the contact center and/or quality assurance departments, this definition conveys just how far customer experience has evolved beyond customer service. Despite this evolution, several customer experience professionals associations still seem to be geared directly at those working in call centers. Others appear to view CEM as a measurement tool versus a management strategy. It's no surprise their predictions for CEM focus on the reduction of surveys and the rise of text analytics, tapping into the big data warehouses that have been relatively underutilized for years. Big data is fast becoming the sound byte de jour, and organizations are scrambling to get data scientists into their midst. But, these efforts only scratch the surface in how many organizations outside of hospitality are currently approaching customer experience management.
So, where are our industry's customer experience professionals? If this role is going to become as commonplace as our finance, operations or marketing leaders, surely there must be CEM professionals within our ranks waiting for their chance to influence change at the highest levels of hospitality. Actually, not so fast. In my cursory view of the largest lodging companies, I could find only one Vice President, Customer Experience. Sure, there are people with responsibility for some subset of the customer experience. More often than not, however, it is tied to measurement and their tracking studies. (Even the one VP of Customer Experience I found in lodging doesn't actually own customer experience as a strategy, but rather components of measurement.) Many seem to reside in or report through strategy or marketing. But, in the largest of the lodging brands, I could not find any senior level leaders titled with customer or guest experience.
Does Hospitality Need Chief Customer Experience Officers?
My hypothesis is that customer experience management is assumed to be so foundational to the DNA of hospitality that all roles are responsible for it. Therefore, why tap a senior level officer with this specific responsibility? It is perceived redundant in the c-suite. And, who strives to be that easy target when it is difficult to justify the position when the going gets tough or the winds of priorities change? After all, a Chief Customer Experience Officer can only be successful when (s)he demonstrates value to the CEO through his/her contribution -- increased revenue, decreased costs or mitigated risks. Ultimately, this rationale or justification translates to no one being truly accountable.