I once heard customer relationship management (CRM) described as a "vertizontal," meaning CRM has some of the characteristics of a horizontal technology, like databases, and some of the characteristics of a vertical, like health care. Over the years, the words have changed. Customer experience management (CEM) is in vogue, while plain old CRM has gone somewhat out of style. Characteristics of the market have not changed - it is still a vertizontal. So, this month I discuss smarter decisions in the context of customer service, customer experience and customer relationships.

Customer experience is made up of lots of very concrete interactions, such as visits to a store or Web site, calls to a call center and mail or email received. The cumulative effect of these interactions is to create an overall experience. A key measure of success in those interactions is what got done and how quickly. It is not the only measure, but it is really hard for a company to deliver great experience in those interactions unless customers actually do what they wanted to get done.

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