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North America's First CXM Master's Degree

Tom DeWitt's journey from Hawaii to founding North America's first Customer Experience Management Master's Degree Program is a testament to the power of vision, determination, and community building. His innovative approach to CX education shapes the industry's future and prepares leaders to excel in a rapidly evolving landscape.

As CX continues to gain importance in organizations worldwide, programs like CXM@MSU's Master of Science in Customer Experience Management degree (MS-CXM) serve as beacons of excellence, guiding the way toward a more customer-centric future. Tom DeWitt's story inspires us to think big, challenge the status quo, and create opportunities that transform industries.

What is The CXM@MSU Program Like?

CXM@MSU is dedicated to advancing the field of customer experience management through various initiatives, including conferences and online roundtable discussions. By offering a well-structured, in-depth curriculum and leveraging a flexible online learning model, it caters to CX professionals at various stages of their careers. As it expands globally, this program is poised to equip individuals and organizations with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in today's customer-centric world.

Program Structure

DeWitt's program is designed to provide a holistic understanding of CX through a well-structured curriculum. It consists of 15 courses, each lasting five weeks. These courses are taken sequentially over 20 months. What's remarkable is the diverse student body composition, which includes individuals at various stages in their CX careers. The program caters to a wide audience, from newcomers looking to enter the industry to seasoned CX specialists.

Specialization and Leadership Development

The majority of students in DeWitt's program fall into the specialist category. They are already working in specific CX roles, such as CX journey leaders, UX designers, or insight specialists. The curriculum's strength lies in its ability to help these specialists expand their knowledge and skills, enabling them to take on broader leadership positions within their organizations.

Global Expansion

The success of DeWitt's program has led to ambitious plans for global expansion. Starting with Asia and the Middle East in the coming year, the program is poised to make a global impact by spreading CX knowledge and expertise across continents.

The Curriculum

DeWitt adopts a logical and methodical approach when structuring the curriculum. The program begins by establishing the fundamentals of a customer-centric organization and the significance of CX management. This foundation is crucial since many CX initiatives fail due to an attempt to retrofit CX into an existing organizational culture.

The program then delves into critical areas such as change management, understanding the customer through qualitative research techniques, design principles, employee engagement, and customer relationship management. It emphasizes the importance of aligning business goals with customer experience goals and maintaining a customer-centric approach throughout the customer lifecycle.

Surprisingly, the program saves the discussion on Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the later stages, reinforcing the idea that true CX success goes beyond simple metrics and requires a deep understanding of customer-centricity.

Teaching Methodology

DeWitt's program employs a unique teaching methodology to facilitate effective learning. It is entirely online and structured to accommodate professionals' busy schedules. Each course includes two-hour synchronous class sessions, team-based learning, video lectures, readings, and individual exercises. The program's instructors collaborate with instructional designers to ensure consistency in course design, creating a seamless learning experience.

The curriculum also includes real-world case studies provided by partner organizations. These case studies allow students to apply the principles they've learned in a practical setting and receive feedback from company representatives.

Tell me about the community building your team does

DeWitt's dedication to community building in the CX industry demonstrates the importance of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and skill development. His Master's program, along with the various initiatives and events, serves as a beacon for professionals seeking to excel in the ever-evolving field of customer experience management. By bringing together diverse voices and experiences, DeWitt's efforts contribute to a stronger and more unified CX community.

Addressing the Skills Gap

As Thomas DeWitt delved deeper into the CX industry, he discovered a scarcity of skills and fragmentation in how CX was interpreted across organizations. This fragmentation led him and his team to create a framework to address these issues. Their ultimate goal was to help formalize the industry, and they chose to do so by launching an academic program.

Mastering CX Management Online

To reach industry leaders where they are, DeWitt and his team created an online Master's degree program in Customer Experience Management. They recognized that a full-time undergraduate program might not suit industry professionals already in leadership positions. The online format allowed them to cater to the needs of busy professionals seeking to enhance their skills.

The Growth of the Program

The journey to establish the Master's program was a three-year endeavor, but in May 2022, it was officially approved. The first cohort of students was admitted in August, and since then, they've had two more intakes, resulting in over 50 students currently enrolled. This accomplishment showcases the growing interest and demand for expertise in CX management.

Fostering a Diverse Community

DeWitt's program doesn't limit itself to the United States; it attracts students globally, with participants from as far as Vietnam. One notable aspect of the program is that 87% of its faculty members come from the industry, ensuring students receive practical, real-world insights.

Global CXM 360

One such initiative is the Global CXM 360, an online conference held every spring and fall. This conference covers various CX topics, ensuring participants stay updated with the latest trends and strategies. By combining physical and virtual attendance, it encourages networking and collaboration.

Monthly Online Roundtables

Additionally, DeWitt's team hosts monthly online roundtables where CX professionals can gather, learn, and engage in breakout discussions. These sessions provide valuable opportunities to connect with peers worldwide, sharing experiences and solutions to common challenges.

Future Expansion

To further expand the community, DeWitt and his team are working on launching Vietnamese-language roundtables and an English-language roundtable for Singapore and the UAE. They also plan to organize quarterly in-person events for more personal interactions.

Personalized Conference Experience

DeWitt's innovative approach extends to the conference experience itself. Attendees are encouraged to identify their most significant CX management challenges before the event. This information is used to help them create a personalized conference agenda focused on addressing their specific issues. After each conference day, strategy sessions are held to develop action plans based on key learnings.

What would your CX strategy focus on currently and in the future?

Thomas DeWitt's insights provide valuable guidance for crafting an effective CX strategy. The key to success lies in aligning CX goals with organizational objectives, illustrating the financial impact of CX initiatives, fostering collaboration across departments, and understanding the intricate relationship between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and profitability. As the CX landscape evolves, these principles will be instrumental in building a sustainable and impactful CX strategy.

Aligning CX Goals with Organizational Objectives

DeWitt highlights a pressing challenge in the CX industry: aligning CX goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) with those of the organization. As companies undergo reorganization and cost-cutting measures, it's vital for CX to secure a seat at the C-Suite table. The focus is on demonstrating the direct alignment between CX initiatives and the business's overall success.

Illustrating the ROI of CX

DeWitt emphasizes the importance of illustrating CX initiatives' Return on Investment (ROI) to senior leadership. While journey mapping and addressing pain points are crucial, demonstrating the dollar value of these efforts is paramount. Without this ability to convey the financial benefits of CX, teams risk being marginalized or cut when organizations face challenges.

Fostering Collaboration Across Departments

Effective CX strategies rely on collaboration across departments. DeWitt stresses the need for buy-in and collaboration across different organization segments. Establishing an effective governance structure with the support of leadership from all areas ensures that CX is seamlessly integrated into the company's DNA.

Understanding the Service Profit Chain

DeWitt references the Service Profit Chain model, introduced in an HBR article in 1995, as a guide for understanding the link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and profitability. However, he underscores the need to translate this theory into practical terms. Employee engagement isn't just an HR matter; it's a leadership responsibility at all levels. Managers should be held accountable for driving employee engagement, which ultimately impacts customer outcomes and the company's bottom line.

How would you measure success?

Measuring CX's success goes beyond mere financial metrics. It encompasses a nuanced understanding of transaction satisfaction, long-term loyalty, and the value of personal relationships. Metrics like NPS and CLV provide valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of CX. Adapting and reinventing traditional models in the ever-evolving customer experience landscape is crucial to ensure lasting success.

NPS and Transaction Satisfaction

While Return on Investment (ROI) is a significant indicator, DeWitt introduces another essential metric: Net Promoter Score (NPS). However, he cautions that NPS alone doesn't tell the whole story. NPS measures the likelihood of a customer recommending a business but doesn't consider the full breadth of a customer's experience.

Understanding Transaction Satisfaction

DeWitt delves into the concept of transaction satisfaction. Rather than focusing solely on long-term loyalty, transaction satisfaction captures the customer's immediate experience. It provides valuable insights into what happened during a specific interaction.

Building Loyalty Over Time

DeWitt emphasizes that loyalty is built over time through a series of satisfactory visits or experiences. He mentions the importance of recognizing emotional impacts on customers, which can extend beyond the individual transaction.

Exploring Customer Lifetime Value

A metric that often gets overlooked is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). DeWitt believes this metric is valuable as it encourages organizations to think about long-term customer relationships. CLV considers how long customers stay, their transaction frequency, and how their behavior changes over time due to loyalty.

The Personal Touch

DeWitt highlights the importance of personal relationships in business. Just as you may have a preferred place for a haircut, loyal customers are inclined to stick with businesses they trust. This loyalty can make customers less sensitive to pricing and more willing to pay for the added value they receive.

Democratizing Data

In today's data-driven world, DeWitt calls for the democratization of data within organizations. He believes that data should be shared freely across all levels of an organization, empowering employees to understand their role in impacting the customer's journey.

What is the future of CX?

The future of CX is a journey of integration, collaboration, and transformation. It's a future where the lines between marketing and operations blur, and the focus shifts to providing solutions and creating exceptional customer and employee experiences. As organizations navigate this crossroads, those that embrace change will undoubtedly thrive in the evolving landscape of CX.

Demonstrating Viability and Aligning Goals

Many CX departments face challenges, some even collapsing due to the inability to showcase their value at the C-Suite level. The crucial task is to align CX goals with broader business objectives, ensuring a seamless integration.

The Power of Consumer Influence

DeWitt underscores the power of consumers, who are now shaping how organizations evolve. Customers rely heavily on online reviews and information to inform their purchasing decisions. In an era where customer opinions matter more than ever, organizations must respond and adapt accordingly.

Reimagining Marketing and Operations

The heart of DeWitt's vision for the future of CX lies in reimagining marketing. He defines marketing not as promoting solutions but as providing them. This shift in mindset challenges the traditional boundaries between marketing and operations. DeWitt argues that these two functions must work hand in hand to deliver exceptional experiences.

The Service Marketing Triangle

To illustrate his point, DeWitt references the Service Marketing Triangle, a concept encompassing what organizations communicate externally and internally. He emphasizes that interactive marketing, or the actual customer experience, is central to this triangle. It's the holistic approach to the customer journey that will drive success.

The Merging of Marketing and Operations

DeWitt envisions a future where marketing and operations merge seamlessly to become "the experience." This transformation transcends just customer experience; it encompasses employee experience as well. He acknowledges that employees' attitudes towards their roles are heavily influenced by their work environments.

What else should we know about you?

Thomas DeWitt's extraordinary life experiences, passion for CX, and dedication to teaching the next generation of CX professionals make him a truly inspiring figure in the world of customer experience management. His vision for the future of CX emphasizes global perspectives, integration, and a fearless approach to innovation and learning from failure.

Thomas DeWitt's Extraordinary Life

When asked what more we should know about him, Thomas DeWitt reveals a captivating aspect of his life—he has lived in four different countries, primarily across Asia. His thirst to understand how people live in diverse cultures has taken him on an exciting journey across more than 40 countries.

As a marketer and CX professional, DeWitt's curiosity extends to how different markets respond to human needs. He emphasizes that, at the core, our daily needs are similar across the globe; the cultural nuances and responses fascinate him. For DeWitt, immersing himself in various cultures is not just fun but an enlightening experience.

A Future of Global Living

DeWitt envisions a future where he continues to live in multiple countries, embracing different continents and exploring new horizons each year. He acknowledges that his love for travel is shared by his wife, who joins him in these adventures. His goal is to balance living in different places and not feeling like he's perpetually living out of a suitcase.

Interestingly, DeWitt parallels his personal philosophy and the future of CX. He sees the merging of marketing and operations as the future, emphasizing that employee experience is an integral part of the CX landscape. Just as he seeks to experience different cultures, he believes organizations should aim to understand diverse customer and employee experiences.

Connect with Thomas DeWitt

Thomas DeWitt encourages anyone interested in learning more about him or the CX programs at Michigan State University to connect with him on LinkedIn. As an open book, he and his team are ready to provide insights into the program, answer questions, and help potential students explore the world of CX management.

You can also visit the Michigan State University website for detailed information about the Master of Science in Customer Experience Management degree, also known as MS-CXM., including course offerings, costs, and opportunities to engage with faculty and students.

About CX Chats

CX chats is an interview series with Ben Holland, where we talk to industry leaders in the field of customer experience and customer success. Each interview dives deep into the insights from each leader and highlights how they became successful, tips for aspiring CX professionals, and their thoughts on the future of CX.

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