CEM A-Listers on the Web: The Shoemaker's Kids Have No Shoes!

I try to keep up with other leaders in Customer Experience Management (CEM) by periodically checking out their websites, presentations, weblogs, podcasts, etc. Today, I decided to do a little refresher, specifically looking for recent research, case studies and methodologies and compare them with my own experience, knowledge and approaches.

Frankly I was saddened by what I found when I perused the corporate web sites of several CEM “A-listers.” The feeling I got was scarily similar to the feeling that motivated me to write “Experience Evangelism: Get some Healing!” a few years ago. Evidently, not much has changed since then.

There’s something wrong when so many of the leading authors and speakers in customer experience haven’t updated their corporate site designs for years! I mean, how about a new promotional image or something? Some of these sites featured the same simple design with a little new content (zzz) , others were well, unattractive! Some others have added new content have obviously outgrown their original information architectures, yielding confusing navigation and cluttered interfaces, littered with a cacophony of content and media. In general, it seemed that these sites seemed to offer very little little new content (except exhortations to "buy the book!", "come to our conference or workshop" or hire "x" as a speaker.

In general, from a best-practices standpoint, many of these sites suffer from a gross overuse of stock photography. They also offer little online engagement and highly visible, high value, free content.

It follows, therefore, that I was surprised by the lack of integration of social media on the A-lister websites… including cross-linkage from the corporate sites to leader-authored weblogs… and from the leader web logs to social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarks, etc). In fact, to even find the weblogs for many of these leaders I had to wade through searches on Technorati. Most of them have blogs...disconnected from the corporate consulting sites... could only find the facebook and twitter addresses for one leader.

In short, beyond the shocking state of the websites, I found a lot of the same content and insights that have been present since early 2005… There was a LOT of talk…. a lot of egregious self-promotion … and of course, calendar links to conferences and speaking engagements, lists of books to read, complete with purchasing links. In honestly, I would rather have found:

  • Forums for discussion
  • Tangible, actionable best practices
  • Useful case studies
  • Discussion of new organizational models
  • Data about trends
  • Advice for the struggling CCO/CXO (Chief Customer/Experience Officer)

  • It's important to note that the software companies in the CEM space seemed to do a better job on the web than the high profile leading consultants at which I looked. Specifically, I was pleased by some of the free content (white papers and Forrester reports) available from Tealeaf, RightNow Technologies and Clarabridge.

    Disclosure: both Right Now and Clarabridge have relationships to Live Path, although I can't take credit for the good, free content they are providing.. ;-)

    With regards to the "A" list experts in customer experience management, their corporate sites left a bad taste in my mouth. They seem most interested in self-promotion, as evidenced by demonstrated focus in keeping personal information (books, bio) up to date, rather than focusing on creating more meaty, high value content for clients and prospects.

    We tend to invest our time where our hearts are… right?

    To me, this is not “customer centric”, innovative, immersive, creative or positively experiential - and would seem to fight the very principles these individuals stand for! This is surprising, coming from the same people that are advocating customer-co-creation and innovation... the same people who extol the benefits of being engaged with customers, listening to customers, providing value, building a "customer centric" organization, providing "seamless" experience... etc.

    If you ask me, it seems the CEM shoemaker’s kids don't have -- or aren't wearing -- any shoes!

    Now, to be fair -- my grandma always says that when you point one finger at someone else, there are more fingers pointing back at you.

    As such,even though my site is updated...and I'm active on on Twitter, Facebook and Plurk, I must reluctantly add myself to the wall of shame: I will admit that I haven’t managed to update my website’s resources page for a pathetically long time…nor have I incorporated my twitter feed or a few much needed links on my blog page.

    I won’t insult you with (even a very GOOD) excuse for this. I won’t remind you how hard it is to keep your own site up to date while managing your own client work. Please forgive me for my hypocrisy… I am resolved to correct these things very soon.

    The thing is, I’m an independent consultant with great partnerships and a wonderful, even impressive client list … but I am an independent. In contrast, many of these experience leaders have teams of people working for them. They manage large engagements with blue chip clients and have heavy, international exposure. As such, I simply can’t understand the lack of investment in what may perhaps be their most high profile and influential channel.

    I guess I'm surprised because I expected more! There’s definitely room for improvement on the web for CEM practitioners - an a lesson in it for us all.

    You tell me: Is it worth hiring CEM consultants if they don’t practice what they preach? Do you judge a company based on the engagement factor of their web presence? Are site experiences that are informative, interesting, attractive, and up to date important to you in your choice of a consultant? Can a CEM consultancy be credible if you can’t tell if its consultants are well versed in emerging technologies?

    …or am I over reacting?


    Mack Collier said...

    "They seem most interested in self-promotion, as evidenced by demonstrated focus in keeping personal information (books, bio) up to date, rather than focusing on creating more meaty, high value content for clients and prospects."

    Leigh I think that most company blogs are guilty of the same when they first start blogging. If they stick with it long enough, they'll figure out that they need to start promoting value and other people, instead of broadcasting self-promotion.

    LivePath said...

    Hey Mack,

    Point well taken, and this would be true if I were talking about the BLOGS, but I'm actually refering to their corporate consulting sites! Check the links! The blogs are a totally separate thing for these guys!

    Thanks, as always for your input! ;-)


    Anonymous said...

    I agree! We CEM conultants are definitely cobbler's children.. I have personally been trying to take the time to upgrade/update our Web site (www.customers.com or www.psgroup.com).. to make it easier to navigate and to find what you need.

    The good news is that we do have a bunch of case studies and lots of research. The bad news is that it's hard to find the CEM stuff among all the other things we offer (product reviews of customer-impacting technologies, for example)...

    So we are definitely guilty as charged!

    I like your hit list of things we SHOULD be offering.. We do have gadgets now, and polls, but we haven't integrated a customer community nor customer-created content.. It's high on my list of to do's!!!

    Patty Seybold

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    I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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