Last week we looked at Customer Experience management (CEM) and the three reasons I think we’re doing it wrong. Reason #1 was forgetting that at the beginning, middle and end of all customer experiences is emotion.

Reason #2: We focus on the problem

I think car dealers have figured this one out. Most , Many Some of us remember a time when taking the car in for service was a greasy, intimidating and thoroughly unpleasant chore. Gruff service managers, bad coffee stewing in a filthy pot, car part magazines and sticky vinyl chairs were pretty much all you could hope for. If you were very lucky, someone had put a dying TV in the room tuned permanently to Welsh cartoons.

These days, service managers are trained to tuck in their shirts, make fresh coffee and understand that the person in Admit Onefront of them has just had their car flat line on the way to a big meeting or that the last thing they need is a four-digit repair bill. The grubby waiting room is now a sleek lounge with wi-fi, lattes and comfy chairs, well removed from the noisy service bays. In the face of after-market completion, a near-death experience in the first part of the century and more years to wait between repurchase, the auto industry discovered the very clear connection between customer experience and loyalty.

They’re not the only ones: 92 percent of companies in an ICMI study said they thought engagement and loyalty were good things. Well that’s hopeful. Plus 81 percent recognize that there is correlation between customer experience and loyalty. (Frighteningly it suggests that almost a fifth of companies don’t see a connection)

But if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll see that this study, like so many around retention, focuses on the point where there is a problem – the bit where Rage turns nice folks into porcupines.

To be sure, a problem is an inflexion point in the relationship, and if you screw it up by trying to process all the emotion out of it, you’re probably not going to turn it around. But what about the experience of customers who don’t have a problem big enough to get them to complain? What about the ones who get a mostly accurate bill each month or whose product ticks along without much trouble or the ones who are too busy or too weary to bother complaining to you directly?

What’s your strategy for when the thing they bought needs replacing? And I don’t mean slapping a 50-cents-off-your-next-purchase coupon on the back label. I mean how are you making it an impossible idea that they would consider replacing your product with anything other than a new one of the same?

Great customer experience needs to consider the entire lifecycle, however brief, and needs to make an emotional connection over and over and over again until the brand is somewhere between the family dog and a favourite sweater in the preference department. This is where ownership comes in.

Reason #3: Nobody Important Owns CEM

That same survey where almost everyone believes a CEM strategy is key to retention also finds that very few take it seriously enough to make customer engagement a C-level responsibility – just 27 percent. Uh oh. How does this make sense?

One word: money. Corporate Overlord ownership follows investment; sometimes, not often, it actually drives it. The companies which don’t have senior CEM ownership are the ones which are likely not spending very much money on it. I would suggest that if you aren’t spending significantly on CEM, then you are spending significantly on less pleasant things like the cost of customer whininess (COCW).

We can measure when a customer leaves the brand (churn); but what does it cost when that customer sticks around but goes all Porcupine on you on their Facebook page? What is the cost of them vengefully discouraging others from buying from you? What is the productivity hit to your sales channels when they have the headwinds of discontent and declining reputation?

If you are one of these companies, consider this nifty chart by Watermark Consulting showing that companies ranking as CEM Leaders in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index also generate 26 points more return than the S&P 500. Laggards show a negative return.

Watermark CEX

Next week we’ll look at how we solve all of this and why marketers should care.