customer experience evolution

What is the CEM maturity model and how does it help you develop a CX programme?

19th Mar 2019

In 2015 DHL Freight rolled out a model for customer experience maturity measurement to provide a platform for CX improvement, which would prove highly successful.  Here, one of the architects of the model outlines its evolution and how it can be used. 

MyCustomer recently examined how DHL Freight built its customer experience management programme and explored what we could learn from the preparation, planning, vision and implementation that the company had undertaken.

During the process of building the programme, DHL Freight realised that to deliver on its vision of a robust CX programme, it would need to develop a blueprint to guide its evolution and measure its progress.

The development of the model required collaboration with a team of experts from the University of Strathclyde, tech consultancy Ovum and research brand Gallup. And having road-tested the model on DHL Freight’s own programme to great success, it was decided that the model should be shared with the customer experience community at large as an open source model.

MyCustomer is now exploring the model in its entirety in a series of articles. In the following interview, Kim MacGillavry, who was vice president of customer experience at DHL Freight when the model was implemented, explains the evolution of the model, how it can be used to support CX development, and the experiences of other businesses that have been using it.

The need for a maturity model

As outlined in the previous feature, by 2015 DHL Freight had committed significant time and resources to its CX project, and had detailed the roadmap ahead, which included: defining a clear, compelling vision; outlining a value proposition; determining the priorities of customers; defining customer journeys; engaging the organisation around the project; and creating a performance management system.

“We came to the point where we said we've done our homework,” says MacGillavry. “We've worked out together what the customer-centric processes are and how they need to work.

“Once we concluded that and we figured out the blueprint for the organisation, we then had to bring that into the organisation. The hard part.

“It's exactly at that juncture that we said, ‘OK we figured everything out, we go from theory now to practice. We go from design into implementation. Before we do, let's do a stock take on how ready we really are.’"

Keen to gain an accurate assessment of its present customer-centricity and understand where it should be prioritising its efforts in order to fulfill its vision, DHL Freight enlisted the help of several external experts. These were: Alan Wilson, professor of marketing at Strathclyde University; Jeremy Cox, principal analyst, customer engagement, at Ovum; and Pa Sinyan, MD of Gallup Germany.

Once we concluded that and we figured out the blueprint for the organisation, we then had to bring that into the organisation. The hard part.

MacGillavry notes: “Alan is an academic with practical experience in marketing. Jeremy brought expertise from the IT side and the digital technical side to complement the model. Then Pa brought the people component into it because Gallup is the leading consultant and research company on employee happiness and wellbeing. We complemented each other very well to highlight the different dimensions of the customer experience management programme.”

Together, they developed a survey that would enable DHL Freight to assess the maturity of the organisation across a range of CX dimensions, and which then could be used by the leadership to obtain a holistic picture of its current capabilities compared to where it wanted to be.

The survey

The survey consisted of five questions that collated respondents’ opinions on the business relevance of CX across five areas. These were:

  • Vision, values and brand. Is there a clear vision for the company that differentiates the organisation and provides a desirable value proposition for the customer?
  • Customer-centricity. Does the company know what the customer needs and does it deliver it in a timely way to ensure that it can achieve profitable growth?
  • Visionary leadership. Does the company’s leadership manage the organisation in such a way that it is clear that the customer is the priority?
  • Employee engagement. Are employees happy at work and motivated to make customers happy?
  • Tools and processes. Are the systems and tools in place to provide customer information and feedback across the entire customer journey?

A further battery of 31 questions then drilled down into each of these five areas to get an assessment of how well the business is performing within these fields today.

“At the end of it we felt we had a very short questionnaire – because it is short in comparison to other maturity models – but one in which the questions are so well tested and synced that there is no need for further questions,” says MacGillavry. “Those questions alone provide you with a very good steer on the areas where you’re good or not good enough in order to do this.”

A model for all

Having successfully used the approach themselves Kim and the team were then keen that the model they developed should be freely available to other businesses, and in contrast to other maturity models, require no commercial commitment before it could be accessed.

“We created a model which we believe is good and testing well, and other companies should be able to use it too, and then they could save themselves thousands of dollars from having other companies do it for them,” says MacGillavry. “Customer experience management is a field where everybody is learning as they go – there are no general accepted customer experience practices around. We should be more open to exchange ideas so we build this discipline up into something more professional.”

Furthermore, MacGillavry believes that as well as being free to all, their model is also an improvement over the others.

“The other models are overly-complicated, which frustrated me,” he notes. “You overcomplicate the questionnaire and it just creates a huge amount of respondent fatigue, let alone just wasting the time of respondents. With all the experience we had - everybody was working on customer experience in their own way - we noticed that there aren’t too many questions you need to ask really. But other surveys often add in supplemental questions for commercial purposes.”

Applying the model

The application of the model is very simple, he insists. Organisations must encourage all board members and leadership teams to answer the questions, then discuss with them where there are gaps between their belief scores that indicate where they want to be and their assessment scores, which indicate where the company actually is today.

Organisations should let as many employees as possible take the test, so that the management’s perception can be mirrored against the employees’.

“Drill down on the gaps and agree on concrete measures to close them,” says MacGillavry. “Get the message across that if there are major gaps between their belief and self-assessment or between managers and employees the chances of being successful at implementing a CEM programme are unlikely.”

He adds: “I think the questions are so straightforward that when you see low scores where you expect to see high scores or where there's a big gap between where you want to be and where you need to be on a particular question, that'll start a discussion.”

If there are major gaps between managers and employees the chances of being successful at implementing a CEM programme are unlikely.

MacGillavry gives the example of the DHL Freight’s own findings from its Netherlands operation, which was its first pilot country, where the results demonstrated a shortfall in the belief of a need to have a vision and a clear brand compared to other companies in other countries.

He explains: “For me, it was clear I needed to do more there to explain the value propositions and why they’re important and what it means for all of us to deliver them. Therefore, we created a management deck and gave speaker notes to the country manager and told him to take his team through it during one of his management team meetings and to get everybody on board that way. We also organised classroom trainings on CEM and the company’s brand values for the senior management team. Country managers were coached beforehand so they were in a position to lead the sessions.”

He adds: “We wanted to make the questionnaire not only short but also very actionable. And while it may be true that some companies may need help or ideas about how to close a gap once they have identified one, these things aren’t rocket science. Most will be able to come up with some concrete things themselves while they can reach out to other companies or even to consultants to find out what other concrete measures they can take.”

Common findings and learnings

Several other companies have subsequently adopted and used the maturity model, across a variety of different industries, including a well-known global IT and consulting company, and a worldwide name in insurance. As adoption of the model increases, interesting insights are emerging that are common across CX programmes.

One interesting finding that has emerged, for instance, is how often people believe that the reason the organisation is not customer-centric is because they don’t have the right systems and tools in place.

“It is true that most companies don’t have the processes and tools to manage the customer experience properly,” says MacGillavry. “Usually the gap between where a company wants to be and where it is today is biggest in this area. I think this is why so many companies believe that investing in CX systems are a priority – that by closing that gap somehow the customer experience will get better.”

The CEM maturity model offers leadership teams a good insight into the gap between where the company is and where they want it to be.

However, he adds: “The right conclusion is that you need to work on all five dimensions at the same time. And if you are going to prioritise things, systems and tools are the last and not the first step. It is not because you have better systems and tools that your employees are going to be more engaged, that your managers will be better leaders, that the organisation will be more customer-centric and that that then leads to a stronger brand. It works the other way around.”

Indeed, MacGillavry recommends that brands should start by being clear about the brand values that matter, which enables you to build a customer-centric culture around those values, and which in turn gives company leadership the inspiration to lead the organisation in a customer-centric way. This then engages employees so they are able to use the tools and are willing to follow the processes that lead to a better customer experience.

With so many interconnected objectives, it is little wonder that organisations can find it difficult to get a grasp on the condition of their customer experience, and indeed what dials need to be turned to exact change. And it’s for this reason that the CEM maturity model can prove so valuable.

MacGillavry concludes: “The CEM maturity model offers leadership teams a good insight into the gap between where the company is and where they want it to be. It also dissects each dimension into the concrete things that it can - and should - do to improve and close the gaps. This is therefore a useful tool for CEM executives and practitioners to guide them and their leadership through the change process.”


Replies (2)

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By Rajeev Karkhanis
20th Mar 2019 09:33

Hi Neil,
Wonderful article again on DHL's journey.
Do you know where can we access their CEM Maturity model ?


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Replying to Rajeev Karkhanis:
By Neil Davey
20th Mar 2019 15:06

Hi Rajeev, you can find it as part of the series, and also here directly:

Thanks Rajeev.

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