No Jitter is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Where to Find Proactive Customer Experience Management


Illustration showing 24/7 customer service
Image: Tierney -

Stick the word “customer” in front of any technology initiative and you command attention. Customer experience (CX) in particular is a hot button, a set of practices, recommendations, and tools that aim to improve the way an enterprise relates to customers. The problem with CX is that it hasn’t kept up with the transformation that the Internet created. Today, many enterprises know that, and they’re increasingly focused on the “digital experience” or DX. Unfortunately, the customer experience management (CEM) element of CX hasn’t fully aligned with the modern DX thinking. Enterprises know that too, and in this blog and the next two, I’m going to talk about the CEM/DX revolution, and the positive and negative forces that are impacting it.

Good revolution stories are always grounded in the past. For both consumers and businesses, the process of buying and selling used to be fairly personal. You went to the store, pawed the goods, and bought things, checking out with human clerks. Same with banks and restaurants. Today, you buy online after researching on websites, you bank online, and you order takeout online. There’s often hardly any human contact involved, which is why many enterprises see customer practices evolving from person-to-person CX to online DX.

Of 341 enterprises who have offered me views on CX, 331 said that their customer interactions were more online than in person, if you measured either by the number of interactions or the total time spent interacting. They say that the primary reasons for this are the need to manage the human cost of commercial exchanges to boost profits, and the perceived convenience of online experiences. All 341 say that they’ve changed their customer experience management procedures to accommodate the growing online dependency, but over the last year, a growing number admit they simply started too late and aren’t as far along as they’d like.

As one CIO commented, “We didn’t realize that the Internet was now the biggest part of the customer experience.” In all, 248 of those enterprises said that their CEM changes didn’t fully address how profound the online shift was to their relationship with customers. Of that group, 201 said that their website was now the primary face of the company, where before it had been product advertising or sales calls. For support, 226 said that online support was at least as important as other support channels today, and 233 said that they believed that customers did online product research and price comparisons in an average of two-thirds of purchases of products costing over $50, or on any recurring services. The digital experience has taken over, and that’s created two challenges. 

First, because online interactions determined by what links users click, companies have lost control of the experiences they’re trying to manage. Companies said that their analysis of web traffic suggested that prospects and customers abandoned their interactions before completion in over half of all cases. Of the 248 who admitted that changes were needed, 205 said that a major problem was managing how users navigated to the information they wanted, and that the companies wanted them to see. “We thought our site organization was very logical, but apparently it was logical only to us,” one said.

The second challenge looms as the major challenge, which is that the online experience itself now has to be assured, because it’s the focus of CEM overall. If a website is down, the cloud is down, anything along the chain of connectivity is down, the company is down as far as customers and prospects are concerned. Of the 341 companies with CX comments, 214 recounted experiences where a problem with their website or cloud services impacted an email campaign. They found that if a recipient clicked on a link a couple times without a response, there was a better than one in three chance they would never try again, so even when the problem was fixed within an hour, the campaign would fail.

Going back to the 341 companies with comments, 227 said that their surveys of satisfaction with their online customer interactions showed that satisfaction declined in 2023. Part of this seems related to the ending of the pandemic lock downs, that a period when any online experience that could substitute for going out and risking infection was considered a positive. Online expectations rose when going out to shop in bricks-and-mortar outlets or eat in restaurants competed with pure online ordering experiences, and companies found their DX/CEM couldn’t cope with the renewed competition from the real world. What was fine in 2020 was now disappointing in 2023.

What, specifically, was wrong with those online experiences, beyond hard failures in the network, the cloud, or the data center? According to enterprises who dug into the details, the big problem users had was that online interactions had to be more proactive than reactive. A live human sales/support contact can adapt, but online navigation has to anticipate. That need has given rise to both the need to control a DX, and the need to assure the elements that make it up.

The control dimension of FX is trajectory management. When someone goes to your website, they are there for a reason. In some cases, as with an email campaign, you may supply them a link but in others, such as if they read a story about you or your product/service, they’ll simply start with your homepage. Why are they there? Will they find, from their starting point, the trajectory that leads to the information they’re looking for? They’d better, or experience says they won’t just wander through web pages aimlessly, they’ll give up after a couple of clicks and you may never see them again.

How can you be proactive in trajectory management? One good strategy is to link your web content to any announcements you’ve made, any stories about you or your product. If you just made a big announcement and somebody liked it, they’ll go to your website for more information. I’ll bet that in almost every case, there is no link there that will take them to where they want to be. Where there’s no new trigger for a visit, ask yourself what would make a prospect interested, and be sure you capture the potential reasons.

The assurance dimension isn’t just about keeping things running, it’s about information personalization. This is very critical in customer interactions, so it’s important to first know who the customer is, and second, to know about anything they might be looking for. Let’s say they enter an account number, or that you can identify them from an IP address or cookie. If they’re a customer you have their order history, the status of any requests or complaints. You want to present them with information demonstrating that you know them, because you should.

Personalized information is the core of CEM/DX. It consists of the information resources associated with the customer, the state of the applications that frame that information into transactions, and the state of the delivery network that connects it all to the customer or to employees who interact with the customer. While online systems or DX has reduced the human component of CX, it’s increased the IT component. We knew how to manage people in CEM, but we’re finding out that managing all the IT stuff we now depend on is a lot more complex, especially since we have to proactively plan customer experiences instead of simply responding. Information personalization keeps DX itself from being depersonalized, artificial, ineffective.

Or at least it’s a pathway to that goal. There’s hope for the future, and also risk. AI offers a possible way of organizing all the issues associated with CX-to-DX evolution, but virtualization threatens to undermine a company’s ability to present the state of customer relationships, applications, and network services. I’ll address how both AI and virtualization impact CEM/DX in my coming blogs.