Building a CEM Center of Excellence

By: Gabby Wong

May 29, 2014

roadsign to excellenceThe data and analytical-focused nature of Customer Experience Management (CEM) makes it challenging for most organizations to adequately operationalize and drive corporate decision-making at an enterprise-level. Organizations struggle with the gap between the volume and multitude of channels of customer data and turning that data into insights and action. The gap exists for a number of reasons, including:

  • Lack of frameworks, including metrics, standards, and best practices that provide meaning to the data in a way that is consumable and targeted to key stakeholders;
  • The need to embed these frameworks into governance structures that drive actual decision-making;
  • The growing skills gap in analyzing the data and using that data to drive change;
  • The inability of organizations to create structures that manage change, but are nimble enough to evolve and grow themselves.

Whether a CEM program is small and targeted towards one business unit, or set-up at the enterprise-level, a growing trend is to establish a Center of Excellence to address these gaps.

Jeffrey Henning, president of Researchscape International, a survey-research consultancy, and pioneer of the enterprise feedback management product category, answers some of the questions that companies encounter while building a Center of Excellence:

What are the pillars for a Center of Excellence?

Jeffrey: There are three pillars for a Center of Excellence: Enterprise Feedback Management, Social Media Analytics, and Customer Experience Management. First, EFM, or enterprise feedback management, involves implementing a central panel system tracking all survey activity integrated with CRM – Customer Relationship Management systems – to profile customers in depth. Without EFM, decentralized surveys lead to declining response rates, incomplete customer profiles, and inconsistent data. The second pillar is SMA, Social Media Analytics: where the first pillar is about asking, using structured questions, the second pillar is about listening, to the unstructured conversations of consumers and prospects. The third pillar is CEM or Customer Experience Management. In the 1980s, it was all about customer satisfaction, then in the 1990s it became about customer loyalty. In the 2000s we recognize we need to better measure the customer experience itself. A good CEM framework will structure the learnings from EFM and SMA into the most appropriate customer loyalty segmentation for the organization.

How do companies establish metrics and standards to help drive consumption and action-ability of the customer data? Most people gravitate to NPS, but are there other metrics to drive more actionability?

Jeffrey: There is no ultimate question that works for every organization. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. Instead, in our work, we use a battery of 10 questions that enables us to segment customers by NPS, the Apostle Model, the TNS Loyalty Model, the Vovici Champion Model, the Forrester/Temkin CX Index, Business Over Broadway’s RAPID segmentation, and Ipsos WAR. See, every consulting firm has their measure! We integrate the survey data with sales data to determine which of these segmentations offer the greatest predictive validity for each unique organization.

Does tighter centralization of an organizational Center of Excellence means better standardization?

Jeffrey: Yes, because you can offer survey templates that anyone in the organization can use. These save individuals time and energy and produce standard measures.

Does better standardization means greater adoption?

Jeffrey: Yes, this is true in an environment without systems, because managers don’t have to reinvent the wheel. But it is false in an environment with systems, because now the new method has to displace a wide variety of trackers with their historic data. One organization I profiled had 14 different ways of asking for the customer satisfaction rating.

Getting executive buy-in can be challenging for new CEM programs, no less getting senior management to buy-in enough to fund a centralized Center of Excellence. What is the best way to approach senior-executive buy-in?

Jeffrey: In most organizations there is a gap between what middle management wants, and what they think the C-suite wants, and what the CEO and their direct reports actually want. Middle management is concerned about tactics around existing customers, reaching where those customers are now. But the CEO is concerned with where customers will be, with strategic direction; he or she wants to understand the changing needs of customers and prospects. And this is how you can prove ROI – by helping the organization align with strategic customer needs. Middle management, for ROI, will look more towards retention measures and CSAT interventions.

What are three best practices in establishing a Center of Excellence?

Jeffrey: First, do not incent employees based on customer satisfaction measures. It corrupts the entire process, leading to gaming and skewed results. No, instead, compensate employees based on business performance, and use CSAT to improve business performance. Second, bring in a research expert – most programs suffer from easily avoidable problems, including unrepresentative samples, acquiescence bias, leading questions, and so on. Every one thinks they know how to write a good survey, when in fact few do. The best practices on this are decades old yet rarely followed. Third, this is a system integration challenge: some organizations like the idea of a central CRM system so much that they have 2 or 3 of them! Automate the integration of your EFM, SMA, text analytics, call center automation, and CRM systems. You can’t have a 360-degree view of the customer without this!