For those of us who work professionally in what is known as "customer experience management" or CEM, it is common to be asked the question "hey, ... what's customer experience all about?" ... and it is not always easy to convince the interlocutor.

I think this is not unusual, as it is a new discipline that has been developed in the last 10 years worldwide, much less if we talk about our country.

It is also the case that depending on which "guru" we listen to, we will find different, seemingly contradictory approaches:

  • EMF as a strategy to provide emotional or sensory attributes to products/services, as purely functional attributes have lost their attractiveness.
  • As a way to generate "disruptive" interactions with customers, the famous "wow effect", as a way to achieve excitement, surprise and differentiation.
  • As a way of managing the customer journey in their relationship with the brand, systematically acting on the key moments of that relationship.

Pragmatically and from years of professional practice, I believe that each of these approaches makes sense and are not incompatible. The point is to apply the most appropriate solution in our business context.

Indeed, we already have well-documented cases linking the degree of emotional involvement of the customer and the brand with loyalty, recommendation and purchase behaviour, over and above other segmentation variables.

We have also seen how positive surprise (the wow effect) is very powerful at the time of the purchase decision or early in the customer's life cycle (during the "dating" phase with the brand) as a proactive recommendation generator.

Lifecycle management, as a process of needs detection, evaluation and design of "moments of truth", provides method and metrics to brands that have committed to customer centricity.

I believe the CEM approach is so popular because today's customers have "superpowers" that put them on a relationship plane never seen before. Managing them requires a deep understanding of their needs and habits, as well as a strategy to engage them emotionally, as a way to get them to choose us, buy from us and repeat or recommend us.

The good news about the EMF strategy, above all, is the methodologies and proven practice to achieve this in an orderly and measurable way.

In order to focus the definition a little more, I will use the old tactic of mentioning what is NOT EMF, without any desire to be exhaustive:

  • CEM is NOT something new, something that is talked about because it is fashionable. It has been in place for generations by good traders who know their customers and know how to serve them with empathy. What we are trying to do is to extend this to more complex situations.
  • It is NOT technology. It is clear that digital is changing customer behaviour, but the goal is to understand these new habits and needs, not to programme what appears on the screen.
  • It isNOT only what Starbucks or Apple do (although they do it very well). In fact, there are many more excellent examples in companies around us, including small and medium-sized ones.
  • It isNOT customer care. Service is a part of the customer relationship, sometimes not the most important part. Of course, many customers prefer not to need customer service and to have a better experience.
  • The experience is NOT owned by the brand, it is generated by each customer, each customer is the owner of their experience. We can only provide the means to make the experience more likely to be good. By the way, the experience will always be there even if we decide not to manage it.
  • The experience is NOT what happens at the time of the interaction, but what the customer remembers happening in the interaction, and memory has its own rules.


Going back to the beginning of the post and trying to explain what EMF is all about, I'll stick with what I heard my youngest daughter (aged 9) talking to a classmate:

"What does your dad do for a living?

"Well, my dad goes to the shops, talks to the people who are shopping there and takes pictures of them so that they will be happier and buy more things..."(literal). (literal).

It didn't sound bad to me, since then I use this version, more or less nuanced, to explain what I do.