Customer experience management

March 28, 2024 •

9 min reading

Customer experience management: Business vs. Customer expectations

Written by


  • Customer experience is paramount in all industries today, not just hospitality.
  • Close monitoring and enhancement of every customer touchpoint is crucial for meeting expectations.
  • The gap between business leaders' perceptions of good customer service and customer expectations is a significant challenge.
  • Customer experience management involves systematic monitoring, analysis, and improvement of customer interactions at each stage of the journey.

If you operate in the hotel or hospitality industry, you’ll know that the customer’s experience is EVERYTHING. From a customer’s first online search and the booking experience to every customer touchpoint and interaction during their time with you, it’s the customer experience management that drives repeat visits and those glowing online reviews.

But it’s not just the hospitality industry where customer experience is king. These days, excellent customer experiences and a high quality of service are expected across all sectors. Businesses that fail to meet these expectations risk losing customers, damaging their reputations, and seeing revenues fall.

One of the biggest challenges for many businesses is the growing gap between what business leaders think good customer service is and what customers want. In this article, we’ll cover a few of the basics, discuss how customers’ and leaders’ perceptions often differ, and provide tips to close the gap and get your CX strategy back on track.


What is customer experience management?

Customer experience management (CEM) is the process of systematically monitoring, analyzing, and improving the interactions your customers have with your brand at every stage of their journey.

Customer experience used to be easier to manage simply because there were fewer touchpoints for businesses to worry about. Now, social media platforms, online review sites, and third-party booking platforms can all influence potential customers before they’ve even tried your products or services. That’s why it’s so important to closely monitor and enhance every part of the process.

As an example, a typical journey for a customer booking a hotel room could involve:

  • Searching on Google – If they search by location, not for your hotel, they may end up on an Online Travel Agency site (OTA) like There, they will see your hotel rating and compare it to other hotels. Already, reputation is key.
  • Visiting your website: If they search for your hotel by name online, and your hotel website is well done with good SEO, then they will probably go to your site for the booking. Your website should be easy to use, nicely designed, and provide all the information customers need to make a booking.
  • Visiting social media platforms - 92% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations over advertising, so make sure you know what your guests are saying about you.
  • Checking review sites - 49% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations - are your reviews positive?
  • Making a booking - What sort of booking options do you provide, can consumers get human assistance, and how quick and easy is the process?

All these customer experience touchpoints occur before they even arrive at your hotel. You then have to think about the service when checking in, the cleanliness of the room, the dining experience, and all the other opportunities you have to delight your guests in person.

Customer experience management allows you to cut through the noise of the many touchpoints to understand what customers want, what you’re doing well, and where you’re falling short. Once you know that, you can put an end-to-end strategy in place to enhance their experience and ensure consistency throughout their journey.

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The gap between business and customer CX perceptions

To deliver a high-quality customer experience, you must first understand what your customers expect from you. You can then start to shape your interactions to meet and exceed their expectations. That sounds like an obvious step, but there’s often a disconnect between what brands think their customers want and what they actually expect.

Recent surveys of 1,000 consumers and 500 business leaders shed some light on that disconnect:

  • 76% of customers expect better service than they receive
  • 85% of companies believe their brands deliver excellent CX

These numbers indicate that companies have a blind spot when it comes to looking critically at their own organizations, and that can mean customer experience issues often are not identified or resolved.

Failing to meet customers’ expectations can have serious consequences. One report found that 51% of customers were disappointed with the interactions they had with businesses over the past year, with 66% saying they would refuse to buy from a brand they previously had an unsatisfactory experience with.

Another reason for the CX disconnect is that those responsible for key customer experience decisions are often not high enough up in the business to drive the change that’s needed. One survey found that 78% of CX decision-makers are director-level, but only 43% are in the C-suite. Without representation in the C-suite, it can be difficult to drive the customer experience transformation that’s needed.


Aligning customer perceptions with service quality

This is where a customer experience management system comes into play. By monitoring all the touchpoints in the buyer’s journey, you can identify where your customers’ experiences do not meet their expectations. You can then put a process in place to deliver consistent encounters and communications that can differentiate your brand and drive growth.

Here are three steps to success:

Step 1: Mine the data

The first stage in the process is the systematic collection of guest data to understand what you’re doing right and where things are going wrong. You can do that by analyzing relevant sources of customer experience data, these include:

  • Online reviews, customer surveys, and feedback forms to see what customers think.
  • Surveys and focus groups with customer-facing staff to gather their insights
  • Website analytics can show you where customers get lost or drop off
  • Customer service by telephone data can also show waiting times, lost calls, etc.

These sources will give you valuable insights into customer preferences and expectations so you can make immediate improvements.

Step 2: Take a customer-first approach

Businesses tend to adopt a promotional approach by putting their products and services first. However, a lack of focus on the customer can create disconnects that often lead to unsatisfactory experiences. You can overcome that by putting the customer at the forefront of everything you do.

In the digital age, customers are overwhelmed with information and choices, particularly in an industry that’s as competitive as hospitality. That’s why you should focus your efforts on helping them make informed decisions. Investing the time and money to personalize customer interactions and create data-driven engagement tools to simplify their journey will improve your service.

Airbnb serves good CX to both types of customers in their industry: people wanting to rent out their place and people looking for a place to rent. By creating a simple search experience for both audiences on the same platform and having consistent branding and design across their mobile app and web browser, this company successfully merges UX and great customer experiences

Step 3: Invest in technology

Investing in technology can be a game changer when aligning customer and business CX perceptions. Depending on the insights from your customer data, you might identify AI tools, such as chatbots and virtual assistants, that can provide quick answers to customer queries and free up human agents to provide more complex and personalized guest interactions.

Other solutions that can enhance the customer experience, particularly in the hospitality industry, include:

  • AI-powered review reply generators can craft human-like responses to guest reviews and address guest feedback to ensure a 100% response rate.
  • Online booking CRM systems provide a centralized source of guest data, such as preferences, special requests, and booking history, so you can offer personalized experiences and recommendations to improve their stay.
  • Facial recognition technology may help to streamline the check-in process and reduce waiting times
  • Voice-controlled rooms allow guests to adjust the temperature, lighting, and entertainment systems effortlessly.

All of these tools can create a more luxurious experience, yet hospitality remains a business where real human interactions are essential. So, while technology is a great tool for improving CX, it should not create a barrier to real human interactions nor reduce the humanity of a brand.

Don’t let outdated or inefficient technology ruin your CX!

It’s important to note that poor performance in customer service is often linked to problems with the back-end technology supporting customer service teams and processes.

Long wait times, multiple transfers and inefficient CX technology were the most cited frustrations affecting customers when it comes to customer service technology.

Narrowing the CX gap

Customer experience issues are relatively easy to solve by gathering relevant insights, shifting to a customer-first mentality, and investing in technology. Often, the most problematic part of the process is getting business leaders to recognize the organization’s faults. Only by acknowledging your shortcomings and getting buy-in from the C-suite can you deliver customer experiences that consistently delight.

To learn more about excellent customer experiences, and how to achieve them, check out these articles.

Are you looking for training or education related to this topic? As the world’s top-ranking hospitality school, with over 125 years of experience, EHL Hospitality Business School’s Graduate School (GS) offers programs for the leadership sphere focusing on human-centricity, and thereby improved customer-centricity, which elevates the customer experience by involving all levels of an organization.