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What Is Customer Experience Management? Blog Feature
John Zimmerer

By: John Zimmerer on September 30th, 2015

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What Is Customer Experience Management?

Customer Experience

Gartner defines customer experience management (CEM or CXM) as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” CXM, therefore, considers all of the touchpoints through which your company interacts with your customers and the outcomes of those interactions—how each customer feels about the brand after each interaction and how those feelings influence future behavior.

In this article, we will distinguish between and show relationships among CXM and related acronyms and functions, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and customer communications management (CCM).

Customer Lifecycle, Customer Journeys and Touchpoints

Let’s put things into context. Remember the customer life cycle?

Customer life cycle refers to a person’s overall relationship with a company and its products or services, from before they are customers throughout their entire lifetime as a customer. Well, the customer life cycle is split roughly in half, with one side pertaining to the company’s efforts to acquire new customers and the other side pertaining to serving and retaining existing customers. And, within each life cycle stage are multiple customer journeys.

Customer journeys are the series of engagements a given customer, current or prospective, has with a given company, via one or more touchpoints (e.g., website, IVR system, customer service agent, correspondence, etc.), in order to accomplish a goal or objective, such as filing a claim, asking a question, or buying something.

The sum of those touchpoint interactions, or instances where the company and customer “touch” one another, equals the customer experience (CX). And the effort to manage CX and its outcomes (customers’ feelings and behaviors) is CXM.

How CXM and CRM Relate

A closely related concept to CXM is CRM. In fact, they are often mistaken for being the same thing, but they are not. Instead, they are complementary systems.

In contrast to Gartner’s definition of CXM above, TechTarget defines CRM as:

“The practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth. CRM systems are designed to compile information on customers across different channels – or points of contact between the customer and the company – which could include the company's website, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. CRM systems can also give customer-facing staff detailed information on customers' personal information, purchase history, buying preferences and concerns.”


Clear as mud now, right? Try this: CRM is a system of record while CXM is a system of thought. CXM deals with the process flow and user experience of systems of engagement (TechTarget’s “points of contact”, or touchpoints), which rely upon CRM and other systems of record for data used for personalizing interactions. Touchpoints can, in turn, feed data back to the CRM system as the outcome of experience. Systems of insight can then be used to operate on this “output data” to optimize subsequent engagements.

Still confused? Sandrine Prom Tep puts it most simply: “CRM comes after the experience, and CEM works hard on anticipating it.” Chuck Schaeffer further explains, “In several ways, CXM is intended to deliver the last mile of CRM – the intersection of customer knowledge with customer fulfillment – and the capability to deliver that customer information across channels and devices at the exact time and location where it can be leveraged to positively affect a customer experience.”


Customer communications management is also a piece of the larger CXM system. Like CXM, CCM is (or should be) concerned with delivering the right experiences (in the form of relevant and personalized customer communications) at the right place and the right time to facilitate customer journeys with effectiveness and ease. Fundamentally, though, CCM creates and manages content for touchpoints; it powers systems of engagement like web portals, applications, and customer correspondence.

In the past, CCM solutions have been focused on sending one-way communications triggered by events, like a Privacy Policy sent out once per year or a first notice of loss sent out in response to a property claim. CCM was concerned with individual customer touchpoints but not necessarily within the context of broader customer journeys, nor with building customer relationships or lifetime value. That’s no longer sufficient, though. In what Forrester calls the “Age of the Customer,” it’s not enough to reactively send communications to customers; we must now be able (and willing) to communicate with customers.

To that end, CCM and CXM must merge, with the CRM – still the main system of customer records in most enterprises – serving the entire customer life cycle, including the touchpoints CCM powers. But to be effective, CCM solutions need to connect into other systems of insight and engagement that are part of the overall digital experience delivery architecture; by doing so, we can “connect the dots” to build customer relationships, leverage data for relevance and personalization, and more effectively accomplish CXM goals.

Because of CCM’s humble roots as just a stand-alone tool for sending out necessary printed correspondence by physical mail, it’s not surprising that many companies still look at it from an operational standpoint rather than as a vital contributor to customer experience management. It’s an evolutionary step to see the opportunity around CCM that goes beyond its former utilitarian required existence to see how you can use it to extend and enhance your relationship with customers through digital-first omni-channel communications.

Are you interested in thinking about and discussing the future of CXM with other industry professionals? We’re gathering some of the best and brightest at the CX Architects LinkedIn group to talk about the tools businesses need to build an effective customer experience architecture within their organizations. We’d love to have you join us!

Click here to explore the  Customer Experience Architects  LinkedIn Group

Watch Gears: Golden image copyright Kellar Wilson.