The End of Customer Experience Management?

My former colleague at Gartner, and good friend, Ed Thompson is an exceptional analyst.  He probably did more to advance the understanding and knowledge of Customer Experience Management that just about anyone else in this world.  He is the one who got me more interested in this aspect of life, and we wrote a lengthy paper together on how to do CEM properly which is still one of the best read documents at Gartner.  He used to have a set of slides to explain Experiences that was outstanding, and in one of those slides he had examples of people paying more money for more exotic experiences.  For example, people that would pay more to go to an ultra-luxurious hotel instead of a 5-star hotel – just for the added experiences.  He reasoned that customers were willing to spend more in better experiences and if you provide better experiences to your customers you can then charge more and justify the cost of the extra benefits.

I  agree with the concept, and I have helped countless clients do just that.  They enjoyed great benefits for their commitment to the idea of providing a superior experience at the same or higher cost, and their customers saw that and gladly paid for it.  Fast forward to today’s depressed economic situation (no, I did not say depression – we are a long way from that).  I wrote an entry last month about how some companies are realizing these days that they need to preserve their customers and they need to improve customer service with better experiences.  Back then I said that this behavior probably would not last the downturn, and as soon as things got back to “normal” and revenues increased these “new” experiences were gone and service would go back to what it was.  Service providers had not made the necessary investments in superior experiences, they merely had more time to provide better service (less customers, more time spent per customer).

I have been thinking lately about all this and where does it end, or where does it go.  My conclusion? Regardless of the outcome of these economic hard times, customer experience management is approaching its long, but certain, end.  Hear me out.  I was listening to the radio today and someone was talking about “the thrift syndrome”, whereas people in bad situations committed to saving money and change their lifestyles, spend less in the future regardless of their situation (the theory is that they lived well with less they’ll continue those habits to be ready for the next downturn).

Now, this is where it all comes together… 1) people spend more money for a better experience, 2) companies see they can provide a better experience without spending oodles in customer experience management, and 3) “the thrift syndrome”… get it? people will spend less and won’t care about the experience, companies will do better without caring about the experience – and we have the end of customer experience management!

What are your thoughts?  Am I wrong? Am I a sophist in the making?