Actually, the title of this book is somewhat misleading because Smith and Wheeler have as much of value to say about how to create an appropriate customer experience as they do about how to manage it effectively. In fact, the two are not only connected, they are interdependent. The ultimate objective is to establish an ever-increasing critical mass of customers who are “advocates” or as Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba would characterize them, “evangelists.”

Obviously, customer relationship management (CRM) is a multi-stage process which begins with obtaining sufficient and relevant information about the target customer (or customer segments), proceeds through the design and implementation phases, continues with refinement and modification based on rigorous evaluation of CRM initiatives and measurement of their impact. Effective marketing creates or increases demand for whatever is offered whereas effective CRM ensures that “customer satisfaction” becomes “customer loyalty” which, eventually, becomes and remains “customer advocacy.”

At this point, it is worth noting that, in several dozen research studies on what customers consider to be most important, three attributes were almost always ranked among the top five: feeling appreciated, convenience (i.e. easy-to-do-business-with or ETDBW), and perceived value. Cost? Depending upon which research study is consulted, it was ranked 9-14 in importance. By the way, Warren Buffett once observed something to the effect, “Cost is what you charge but value is what they think it’s worth.” Marketers and service providers would be well-advised to keep that in mind.

Credit Smith and Wheeler with providing a remarkably thorough analysis of how to manage the development of relationships with customers which evolve from their satisfaction to loyalty to advocacy. As Bernd Schmitt correctly notes in the foreword, “Towards the beginning of this book, the authors distinguish two key routes toward a Branded Customer Experience’: `experiencing the brand’ and `branding the experience.’ Experiencing the brand…begins with the brand, turns it into a promise, and delivers on it. Branding the experience is about creating an innovative experience for customers and then branding it…”

Starbucks offers an excellent example. Under Howard Schultz’s leadership , the international chain of gourmet coffee shops demonstrates how to combine “experiencing the brand” and “branding the experience.” The result is that Starbucks has become, as Schultz proudly notes, not a “trend” but a “lifestyle.” Perhaps no other organization treats its part-time employees treats better (both compensation and benefits) and they reciprocate with a consistency high level of service (both competence and cordiality) and thus function as - yes - advocates. According to Schultz, “What we’ve done is said the most important component in our brand is the employee. The people have created their magic. The people have created the experience.” Appropriately, Schultz entitled his autobiography Pour Your Heart Into It.
One final point. Most organizations which have problems retaining valued customers probably also have problems retaining valuable employees. Hence the even greater relevance and value of what Shaun Smith and Joe Wheeler share in this book. Peter Drucker once observed, “If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business.” There corollary to that insight: “If you don’t employees who are competent and cordial as well as committed to the enterprise, you won’t have any customers.”

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out McConnell and Jackie Huba’s Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force, Leonard L. Berry’s Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success and On Great Service: A Framework for Action as well as Theodore Levitt’s The Marketing Imagination (which includes his classic HBR article, “Marketing Myopia”), Kenneth E. Clow and Donald Baack’s Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications (Second Edition), George E. Belch’s Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective, P. R. Smith and Jonathan Taylor’s Marketing Communications: An Integrated Approach, and Noel Capon and co-authors’ Total Integrated Marketing: Breaking the Bounds of the Function.

Also, Irving Rein and co-authors’ High Visibility: The Making and Marketing of Professionals into Celebrities, Kellogg on Marketing (edited by Dawn Iacobucci), Kellogg on Integrated Marketing (co-edited by Iacobucci and Bobby Calder), and finally, Harry Beckwith’s What Clients Love: A Field Guide to Growing Your Business.