Customer Experience Manager? What's That?

Last Updated May 5, 2010 7:45 AM EDT


Meet Elizabeth Garber, part of a growing number of managers whose brief is 'customer experience'. What does she do? Well, it's a role that's still evolving. She begins her BNET UK blog with a summary of her career in customer service so far...
Customer experience is a buzz-term with momentum. It's creeping into job descriptions, titles, corporate strategy... your objectives.

It's a good thing -- good for businesses, good for consumers. But what does it mean?

I am a customer experience manager. Like many in this emerging field, I was plucked from another department. I was working in a call centre when it happened and was chosen for my 'strong customer focus'.
At its very core, the purpose of customer experience is to understand customers to such an extent that you deliver designed, differentiated experiences so fantastic that people stay with you (£), return to you (££), and introduce you to everyone they meet (£££). It's about advocacy. It's about profit.

But in three years, two businesses and a few more restructures, I've seen customer experience mean quite a few different things in practice.

When I started, the CE's job was in marketing at a major telecoms company. The team was expanding from being purely market research-driven to having much more involvement in the customer-facing channels and product development. Then the business changed and my team was perceived as a dispensable luxury -- a single change in management saw our visionary department head mysteriously resign. A few months later, we were all on gardening leave.

Tough as it was, this led to a better opportunity.

This time, there is no pre-existing team. As the only customer experience person, I'm afforded a certain amount of autonomy in developing the program. That said, it means something different here -- instead of marketing, I'm a part of customer services.

There are big differences. Before, the team had some input to the product development process --sign off. Within customer services, the role is much more about managing experiences once they've been designed.

I've seen customer experience mean research, customer service, usability and design - even copy writing. The fact is that truly to manage customer experience, wherever it sits within the business, it has to mean all of these things (and more).

So, before I start talking about what I find most interesting... how does it work in your organisation?