Why CEM is all the rage

Client Experience Management (CEM) is all the rage. It was the theme of last year’s PM Forum conference, there have been fantastic PM Forum events by Paul English of Grant Thornton and other notable experts, and I recently led our first training workshop on the topic.

But it’s not new. Decades ago there was stuff on services marketing and service blueprinting. There’s a long-running history of service excellence and client care initiatives throughout the legal, accountancy and property professions. And, if we think about it, it’s at the heart of our strategies, brands and cultures. It’s at the base of the pyramid which starts at sector specialisation, through key account management (KAM), client life time value (CLV) analyses, day-to-day client relationship management (CRM) as well as making sure that everything is fine in reception. Because CEM is ultimately the result of “how we do things around here” on the creation of all client perceptions, expectations, satisfaction and loyalty.
But whilst CEM is one of our greatest challenges, it’s also one of our greatest opportunities.

The challenges? It’s potentially so big and far-reaching. You have to take a helicopter strategic view of how it touches the whole firm including marketing, branding, digital journeys, business development, on-boarding, recruitment, staff engagement and training, work process and project management, technology, billing, relationship management and referral management. And I probably missed a few along the way. And there’s a danger that we can get lost down there where the devil is in the detail of journey mapping in a complex multi-market and multi-service professional services firm.

Then there’s the old thorny issue of how do we engage the fee-earners beyond the initial excitement of another shiny new initiative launch? They are way too busy already with numerous other claims on their time and attention and they are change weary. So building a compelling business case with really attractive potential outcomes (that means enhanced profits by the way) is going to tax even the sharpest brains and stretch our management information, analytics, performance management and reward systems to their absolute limits.

There’s also the fundamental conflict between “doing what’s right for this particular client” at the heart of the Trusted Advisor model and the need to “consistently provide the same high quality branded, differentiated and valued experience”.
And the opportunities? As with our marketing role of driving the client-centric view of the world, so CEM puts us in a prime position to orchestrate revolutionary cross-functional and collaborative change projects, working at the heart of the professional-client relationship, to create innovate new products and services that lead to sustainable competitive advantage and those seductive higher profits.

But if we marketers don’t lead the charge – and get the Board on side fast – someone else will. And it’s just too good an opportunity to miss.

Kim Tasso, Editorial Consultant in Chief, PM magazine