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These days there are few organizations who are doing absolutely nothing in the customer experience arena, whether they label it this or not. But there are many - in fact most, who are trying to work out how to take their customer experience to the next-level. That can mean many things to many people. It can mean 'simply' consolidating their existing customer feedback, filling in the gaps where there is a paucity of information or taking a more progressive stance by shifting the emphasis of their efforts to the proactive management of their customer relationships and customer touch points.

When companies move toward proactive management, they are undoubtedly considering the implementation of a more advanced platform for the collection, analysis and distribution of the voice-of-the customer in order to engage a broader constituency in consuming and acting on that feedback. This is where VC's CEM or Customer Experience Management platform excels - in connecting those responsible at all levels for delivering customer experiences with customer feedback that puts the voice of the customer at the heart of the organization.

CEM can provide the vital fact-base upon which a company can make more timely and informed decisions, and in doing so take actions that impact and increase their customer loyalty. But CEM - or any other enterprise feedback management system alone is not enough. When the information fire-hose is turned on, there is a danger of it becoming an uncontrollable deluge if the corresponding organizational ground work has been ignored.

CEM has the greatest success where the client organization has given fore-thought to preparing the ground before-hand, by achieving senior management buy-in regarding their customer experience management strategy objectives. Successful customer experience strategies don't throw data into a vacuum or overlay it on organizational chaos. Like any other component of a company's strategy, customer experience needs a governance structure, dedicated senior management and a roadmap to assess and prioritize initiatives. The whole effort requires a clear vision of what experiences your organization is trying to deliver (and therefore measure). Moreover, customer experience is not itself an initiative; it's a state of continuous improvement requiring top-down sponsorship and ongoing sustainment. Like all things these days, nothing happens without data integration and the intersection between CEM and CRM is critical to leveraging its value to the business. Don't under-estimate the need for engaging your CIO.

The prize for better customer experiences is a huge pay-off to the bottom line, in terms of reduced operating costs and cost of customer acquisition and higher revenues. Like all things in life if they are worth having they are worth working hard for. Customer experience and CEM is no different - like sowing corn, CEM will reap great rewards if the ground into which it planted is richly prepared and fertile and the crop is nurtured and tended.

If this all sounds daunting don't be discouraged - implementation and preparation seldom follow strict linear patterns in the real world, and this doesn't mean put your customer feedback efforts on hold - it could be a long wait. Just be cognisant of the breadth of the undertaking and corral the support and resources to forge ahead.

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