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Just What Is Customer Experience Management, Anyway?

by Leigh Duncan-Durst  |  
January 10, 2006

A growing number of books and articles are actively promoting the concept of Customer Experience Management (CEM).

Popular leaders include Bernd Schmitt, author of Customer Experience Management and Experiential Marketing. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, co-authors of The Experience Economy have also gained a great deal of exposure. You may have read Managing the Customer Experience by Shaun Smith or by Patricia Seybold. You may also have seen articles about and by Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman, author of How Customers Think.

There are also a growing number of agencies and consultancies claiming expertise in CEM—all with varying degrees of involvement and expertise in the arena.

While there's a clear reason to become a staunch supporter of CEM, there's a great deal of confusion over what it really is. As more individuals get on board the CEM bandwagon and build services, confusion seems to be increasing. It's time to demystify the hype.

Defining CEM

While no individual really "owns" the term "Customer Experience Management," it is often attributed to Bernd Schmitt, who in 2003 defined CEM as "the process of strategically managing a customer's entire experience with a product or company." Building further on Schmitt's definition: "The term 'Customer Experience Management' represents the discipline, methodology and/or process used to comprehensively manage a customer's cross-channel exposure, interaction and transaction with a company, product, brand or service."

When we look at the nature of Customer Experience Management, there are essentially five key areas that CEM practitioners or "Experience Architects" examine. While these are broken down by consultants in slightly different ways, based on individual methodologies, they can be described, at a high level, as follows:

1. The Customer. CEM analysis focuses on developing a multidimensional understanding of customers. This understanding includes cultural, sociological, behavioral and demographic analysis, and culminates in a detailed ability to articulate the needs, wants, desires, expectations, conditions, context, and intentions of various customer groups. This understanding informs audience segmentation and guides the prioritization of key segments. Customer analysis is proactively benchmarked against a company's capability to meet customer needs—both in a present and a future state capacity.

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Leigh Duncan Durst (leigh at livepath dot net) is a 20-year veteran of marketing, e-commerce, and business and the founder of Live Path (

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  • by Olga Verbytska Thu Aug 7, 2008 via web

    Very helpful article. My Master Thesis is about CEM and I found here some important info to get a better understanding of CEM

  • by Kevin O'Brien Mon Feb 22, 2010 via web

    This article has a great deal of shelf life. 4 years later and there is still significant truth to what you have written here. Nice work.

    Kevin O'Brien
    Chief Marketing Office

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