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Are you a Top Gun Customer Experience Organisation?

October 1, 2012

The 16 CEM Disciplines.

Top Gun Movie Poster

Hopefully you’re old enough like me to remember Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in the great 1986 film, Top Gun. If you think your organisation might have “lost that loving feeling” with its customers, this article should help. It sets out the 16 Customer Experience Management (CEM) disciplines that Top Gun Organisations master. I like to call them Smart Organisations.

At the beginning of the Vietnam war, despite superior aircraft and weaponry the Americans were losing the aerial battle. Their pilots had become too reliant on the capability and had lost their dog-fighting edge. They needed to do something about it fast. The Miramar Top Gun academy, featured in the film is based on US Navy’s Strike Fighter Tactics Program (SFTI). The result was a move over a couple of years from a 3.7:1 kill ratio to 13:1.

Top Gun teaches quicker and better decision making

Imagine for a moment, you are in a cockpit flying at 600km/hr. You see a blip on your radar 10 miles away. Is it friendly or foe? What are you going to do? The next few seconds determines whether you live to fight another day or not.

At Mirarmar, they obviously taught a lot of advanced flying tactics, but the core of what they sought to improve is the pilot’s decision-making process, which when you think about it is quite simple:

Fighter Pilot Decision Process

The quicker and better pilots can go through this process, the more effective and successful they become. The same is true for your organisation’s customer experience management process. Fortunately, the decision making process is not seconds, its more like weeks and months. But, for those that can speed up and improve their core customer experience management (CEM) process, the improvement in fortunes can be equally significant.

Systems or Skills & Process?

Interestingly, there was a vigorous debate within US forces about whether improved pilot skills or hardware was the fix for the problem. Similar to the debates you might be having about how best to improve customer experience in your organisation? Of course, systems can be important enablers of better customer experience management but there is much that can be done to improve, whilst waiting for your IT roadmap to deliver. This process and model should give you some pointers.

CEM Four Stage Process

Understand – you systematically take in observations from the market place, your organization and customers
Design – Then you need to decide what you are going to do about it and design improvements/adjustments
Deliver – You need to deliver the core or revised experience effectively
Manage – And listen, capture and review results and make adjustments based on feedback

Think about how you go about this process in your organization.

Do you have a 360 degree view out of your business cockpit or are you missing some instruments? And how regularly are you checking them?
When you get the readings in, how do you ensure that the right people see them and make decisions? How effectively are they making them? And how quickly do they get implemented?

Chances are it will be the first time you’ve really thought about how effective this vital but cross-functional process is. And what difference could it make to your customer engagement and the new products and services you are currently developing?

A rapid review might help you pin-point answers and vital improvements.

Top Gun Customer Experience Management

And what of the key tactics? What is it that Top Gun organisations do? Over the last 15 years working with large blue-chips and innovative start-ups, at HOWTOEXPERIENCE, we’ve distilled the disciplines that the best deploy. Through this four- stage customer experience management process there are 16 Disciplines that the smart organisations master.

Customer Experience Management Model

16 Disciplines CEM Framework


Discipline 1 – Insight – Turning the right market and customer analysis and research reliably into insight
Discipline 2Customer Journeys – Understanding the end to end experience and pinpointing opportunities
Discipline 3 – Key Factors – Understanding the proposition elements and touchpoints where maximum value can be leveraged
Discipline 4Value – Quantifying the financial gain and prioritizing investments


Discipline 5 – Strategy – Being clear on how experience supports the business strategy
Discipline 6 – Brand – Amplifying the brand through the experience
Discipline 7 – Design – Utilising experience tactics to maximize customer impact
Discipline 8 – Proposition – Developing and communicating compelling customer offers


Discipline 9 – Culture – Working together to deliver results
Discipline 10 – People – Motivating and enabling staff to deliver
Discipline 11 – Capability – Enabling the business to deliver seamless experiences
Discipline 12 – Improvement – Ensuring improvements are identified and delivered systematically


Discipline 13 – Programme Mgt – Driving Changes through effectively
Discipline 14 – Measurement – Bringing the Voice of the Customer into the organisations
Discipline 15 – Mgt Process – Ensuring that the CEM process works effectively
Discipline 16 – Strategic Alignment – Embedding CE initiatives within the business plan

Our experience shows that organisations that reliably execute on these disciplines will rapidly improve their customer experiences and see sustainable improvement in results. And like the US Navy, superior weaponry is always desired, but you’ll be surprised what improvements can be made with the right CEM Disciplines in place.

If you want to see what it takes to be a Top Gun Customer Experience Management Organisation, please get in touch: Mail: . Also watch this blog as we’ll be publishing more on each of the specific disciplines.

HOWTOEXPERIENCE is a leading customer experience consulting business that offers benchmarking, practical tools and consulting services across all CEM disciplines. We also offer bespoke and packaged CEM training for leaders, practitioners and frontline staff through our Academy. Follow on Linked in Twitter

About the Author: David Williams has been working across the globe with big blue-chips and innovative start-ups on customer-based transformations for the last 15 years. He’s helped many customer practitioners and executive teams shape and realise their customer and business goals. A key note speaker and regular publisher of articles, including chapters on customer experience within the IDM Guide.

Acknowledgements: My thanks to Neil Woodcock, my ex-business partner at QCi, for providing the inspiration behind the Observe – Orient – Decide – Act example.

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