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Episode #161: Boost Your CXM Success with a Unified Approach

Grad Conn

October 5, 202128 min read

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A recent Forrester study found that 82% of firms said CX is a top priority, but only 46% feel they’re getting a comprehensive view of their customers. In today’s podcast I talk with Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, about the journey to great CXM, and how to give your organization a competitive advantage.

Watch the webinar, and download the full Forrester study here:
https://www.sprinklr.com/resources/boost-experience-success-register/

Maxie Schmidt is a principal analyst serving CX professionals. She leads Forrester’s research on CX measurement programs.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
All right. It’s the Unified CXM Experience. And as always, it’s Grad Conn, CXO, Chief Experience Officer, at Sprinklr, coming at you live with a recording. So today we’re actually going to be playing a webinar that I did very recently with Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian. Maxie is the VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. And we did a webinar on ‘Boost your CXM success with a unified approach’. So it’s actually a very, very cool webinar with some great content in it. And we’re basically talking about a study that Forrester just did on the advantages of unified platforms in marketing, or specifically, a unified CXM platform. And they did a survey of people, whether they wanted something like that, most do, whether they have something like that, most don’t, whether they know there is something like that, most don’t. That’s some work we have to do here at Sprinklr. But it’s a really great study by Forrester and Maxie and I had a great time, great energy, she was wonderful, really great sort of time as we went through this. She adds a lot of interesting examples. And the two of us kind of geeked out a little bit on customer experience and customer experience management; was a super fun time. So enjoy this webinar, boost your CXM success with a unified approach, featuring myself and Maxie Schmidt, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester.

Grad 
Hi, everybody, my name is Grad Conn. And I’m here today to talk about unified CXM. I’m really excited about today’s session; I’m going to be joined today by Maxie. Maxie is the VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. And she’s going to be working with me to talk about how we think about unified CXM. And whether the unified approach is a good idea or not. Let me just frame this up a little bit for a second and talk a little bit about what you’re going to see today, what we’re going to do, and then we’ll jump right into it. So first of all, the thing that is, I think, very exciting about today’s session is that Forrester has done some brand-new research on platforms and CXM. And really probing into whether the unified approach makes the difference and is something that people want to move towards. So we’re actually going to look at that research together, Maxie and I will have a pretty open discussion about it. And you’ll be able to download that research and that link will be provided to you at the end of the webinar in the last page. Let’s talk a little bit about the work that’s been done by Forrester on this study. And this slide here, which I’ve had up for a couple minutes really has essentially one point in it, which is we talked to people, director and up, mostly directors, but quite a few VPs and C level as well. And we did it very broadly around the world across multiple industries. So this is a very broad-based study, we talked to more than 300 companies. Anything you want to add to that, Maxie?

Maxie 
I think just the cross-functional nature of the sample, I think, is also interesting, especially given the kind of questions that the Forrester Consulting team had.

Grad 
That’s awesome. Okay, so three key takeaways. And maybe what I’ll do is I’ll quickly summarize these, and then we’ll just dig into it, and you and I can kind of go back and forth on it. So we had sort of three conclusions coming out of the study. One is that the journey to great CXM continues. And it’s not nearly done per our conversation of two minutes ago. Number two, the stack, the Martech stack, the sets of point solutions that people are attempting to integrate is causing problems in achieving number one. And number three, there’s a bunch of issues around data unification, and the lack of that causing problems around coordination. So let’s dig into all three of those, I’ll sort of start with the first one, which is the journey to great CXM continues. And here are the results. So Maxie, why don’t you quickly summarize these, and then we can talk about this slide for a couple minutes.

Maxie 
So you can see when you’re looking at this that when we asked the respondents to talk about how good their companies are doing just normal things when it comes to customer experience, very few of them said that the companies are doing well, using the top three there. The customer experience highly fragmented, yes; the engage condition, address one to one issues, not really, also fragmented. So there’s fundamental problems in this. I would add something that maybe didn’t come out of this research but comes out of our research, and that is that we see a lot of companies who don’t have any discipline behind the customer experience management. So not just the technology, but even what kind of priorities or what kind of functions and tasks we need to put in place to create a vision of the experience and to then create a strategy that helps us achieve that vision. That kind of discipline is also lacking. And I think that’s partly also to blame for some of the struggles that we’re seeing. Or, as you put it, some ESEA headroom, we still have to improve.

Grad 
You know, I talked about this, I’m the Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr. And I’m, by the way, I’m not going to pretend that we’re perfect by any stretch of the imagination, although we certainly work on it a lot. But I spend a lot of time talking to customers about what they’re trying to do. And just check me on this a little bit, the thing I find fascinating is how difficult it is to get people to talk about the experience in terms of the actual journey that their customers are going to have. So I was talking to a hotel chain. And it was striking to me how long it took for the hotel chain to start to think about what a reimagined guest experience would be like, versus thinking about the systems that they wanted to set up and the data that they wanted to move around. And I think this inability to first imagine the guest experience or whatever you call your customer, to first imagine the guest experience in a compelling way. I think it makes it really difficult to do anything else. But tell me if you’ve seen that, or what do you think that is? Because I’m running into it more often than I would expect to.

Maxie 
You know, I agree with you, we find these companies can’t conceive of why customers do business with them. And what’s the value that this customer was getting out of it? I can never tell. The value might be that I can be alone in my room. And then “No, thank you. I do not want the reception person to knock on my door five minutes after I arrived asking me if I want anything”. Right. But if the value is that I want to be pampered 24/7 then I might want that so there’s this complexity around different people. I might be the ‘not going to be bothered’ person and Grad, you might want to be the ‘having a knock on your door at all hours’ person.

Grad 
I may be different people on a different day? Right? Some days I’m a ‘knock on the door’ person; some days I’m a ‘leave me alone’ person. That’s really challenging.

Maxie 
It is challenging, but even just thinking about the fact that that these different scenarios that people are in and might be in and what should this experience feel like; what should this experience feel like for our guests or member or customer or whatever? Right? And in our research, we often find that boils down to what’s our customer’s vision. But most companies, when they create a customer’s vision, they pull some words out of their sleeve, they say some words that sound great, like reliable, innovative, or whatever it is right. But they don’t do the research necessary to figure out what actually customers want to feel in this experience.

Grad 
And I think at the end of the day, people want very specific things. I went to a hotel last weekend or two weekends ago. Yes, I was in Greenwich. And I went to a hotel, and they didn’t have parking. Like their parking lot was full. And it had a very negative effect on my guest experience. And so they’re asking if there’s anything else they can do to help you. And I’m like, yeah, have parking. I don’t know what to say. And I think they’ve got all these sorts of overlaid systems. But at the end of the day, sometimes people just need parking. Yeah. Or, you know, they’ve created a set of stairs into the hotel. So to get your bags into the hotel, you had to drag your bags up about eight to 10 stairs, which was relatively awkward, because we had a lot of bags, and it was just like, yeah, have a ramp and parking. Like I don’t know, do I really need to say these things out loud?

Maxie 
It’s as if they’ve never seen their customers struggle with their problems, which is why we talked about customer care earlier, right? That’s where you explain the struggles you had, “hey, I was in your hotel. I couldn’t get up the stairs. Excuse me, please. That’s ridiculous”.

Grad 
It’s as if they’ve never been to a hotel themselves or checked in anywhere. And I it was so funny because they actually reached out by text to see how things were going. And I said, you know, a little frustrated that I can’t park my car. And then I got a “sorry to hear that”. And that was it. That was it. I never, never had another piece of follow up. And so I think that to a large extent, some of the CX stuff was being set up as like, the system’s doing a query or ask questions, but they don’t really get at the core of the issue. And I’d say it’s really funny, I haven’t really talked about this publicly, I’ll have to put this on the podcast. I’m actually more frustrated at this very minute than I was even at the time when I was at the hotel because they didn’t fix anything. I almost wish they’d ignored me completely. And I’ve just be like, “Oh, I guess that’s what you get for booking this hotel” as opposed to constantly asking me questions about how it’s going, how it’s going and me saying it’s not going well. And they’re like, “sorry”. Oh my god.

Maxie 
You know what this is, Grad? I think of this as a two piece – the perfunctory question like in the supermarket ‘Did you find everything you wanted to find?’ ‘I’m checking out. Why are you asking now?’ That’s kind of placating. I remember I went to Nordstrom, I had real trouble with finding better drops off. And I said, ‘You know what? This was really hard because the center…’ ‘Yeah. Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry’. ‘Wait a second, I haven’t explained. I want to explain. Do you want to hear about the problem? Why are you thanking me for the feedback and shutting me up?’ Right. And that’s the other thing – that placating ‘Oh, so sorry to hear that’. And as you know, like, when you’re looking at the new money customer conversations, you know that the ones that are better, that end up with customers being happy are the ones where the customers are allowed to say what they wanted to say, they’re allowed to say, I was really upset and frustrated, and then they get heard, and then they get out of that valley again, but that’s the thing, the perfunctory question and the placating?

Grad 
You’re dead on. I’m actually toying with the idea, because I’ve got this podcasting experience, I’m toying with the idea of coming up with a really esoteric grocery item. And then when someone says, “Did you find everything you’re looking for?” saying, ‘Yeah, no, I mean, I was looking for Peacock kidneys, and I couldn’t see them anywhere. But could you maybe go down and help me find them?”, and just see what happens? Just enjoy the hilarity. Right. So anyway, let’s move on. We’ll come back to this. Or we can stay on ridiculous experiences for a long time.

Maxie 
But also, Grad, remember, these people are the cashier, they don’t get paid well, so you might have to go to the store manager, who probably also doesn’t get paid pretty well. But these are people who are the frontlines that aren’t set up for success.

Grad 
Somebody asked that question. Right. And you’re absolutely right. They weren’t set up for success. Yeah. Alright, so let’s talk about the stack. The stack is causing problems. So go to this one. So, you know, there’s a lot of tools out there, there’s a number of people who have a CXM label on their tech or their company, take us through take us through these findings. Let’s talk about this for a minute.

Maxie 
So we asked these people, what are you currently using, because there are a lot of tools. And you can see that people use a lot of tools, they use a lot of different tools – goes from content management to BI tools, service platforms. And then there’s a whole host of feedback related things like surveys, or as of customer specialist, customer feedback management, you see social speeds, listening, journey orchestration there. So a lot of stuff that they are currently using. And what stood out to me here is that what they’re planning to implement, it’s kind of more of what they know, more of what they’re very familiar with. So think about the highest share that potential to practice that that 51% survey focused tools. And now we’ve already talked about the fact that surveys are probably not going to go away. But is this really where you want to get your insights from customers. But most of these people want to invest more in surveys, even though and I don’t think that’s the data point in here. But even though quite a lot of people said, they kind of know that surveys aren’t the best way to get insights about customers, they might help us flag issues, but not really get good insights. Yet still, this is a tool that people know, and they’re going with it. That’s something I think is really interesting.

Grad 
There’s so much momentum inside organizations, I think part of it sometimes is that BI is set up, or measurement, or sometimes even reward systems are set up against, say survey results. So these things become really hard to change. Because people think “I get paid based on my NPS, or wherever the survey says, so I got to keep doing it every year and got to keep trying to figure out ways of tweaking it. So my score goes up. So I keep getting paid”. And I think one of the things I’m always coaching sellers on is that when you’re pitching to somebody in a room, remember that the top-of-mind issue for them is their job. They’re like, I want to keep my job. And I want to do well on it. But mostly I want to keep my job. And so they’re thinking about those issues. And so I think what happens is that the self-interest starts to overwhelm the corporate interest. I’m seeing this over and over again, where people are more comfortable doing what they’ve done before, because that feels safer. And that feels safer for my job. Now what I think the irony is, again, check me on this if you don’t agree with me. But the irony is that, increasingly, the safe approach is actually the way to lose your job. Because you’re not making the sort of strides that you need to make. And what happens is eventually somebody like us comes along and we’ll say, “How come your experience is this way?” or “How come it’s not working?” or “Quite frankly, the business isn’t doing as well, because customers are leaving”. And staying with that sort of safe approach actually becomes a real hindrance, because now you can’t revolutionize what you’re trying to do with customers.

Maxie 
Right. But it is a hard uphill battle. When you think about some of the companies who are trying to replace surveys, even just in the customer care environment. It is so hard because people are used to surveys even though the surveys probably cover only about 5% of all customer interactions.

Grad
It’s really less than that.

Maxie
So yeah, yeah, but there’s still so much riding on them. Grad, I think you really nailed it. It’s easy to do. It’s also easier for a manager to say, “Your rating was 4.2; you shall not be promoted” than to say, “Oh, we have this sentiment analysis that I can’t quite explain to you, but I know it’s great.” Easy does it.

Grad 
Yeah, it sounds like my career, mostly. I’m always walking in with my hair on fire, we got to try this new thing. They’re like, whoa, slow down there, cowboy. You know, it’s very interesting. I would say one of the things that we found pretty effective at Sprinklr is we’ll go into companies and say, “keep the surveys; don’t get rid of them. They’re working, they’re running, you got that system locked and loaded”. And then we do even have a survey tool in Sprinklr. But you should add all this public sentiment that’s out there. Because it’s very rich. You made this comment a bit ago, people say a lot of things and it’s very rich, they want to be heard. You can hear a lot of stuff about brands. You hear a lot of stuff about products, you hear a lot about sentiment, and there’s complexity in them, of course, because often they’ll be “Brand A made me sad. So I switched to Brand B. Brand B’s making me much happier, I’m curious about Brand C. I’ve heard good things about it”. That’s all in a single post so to be able to pull that apart and make sense of it is a skill that we’ve had to work really hard on at Sprinklr but for our customers, when they start adding that really deep sentiment analysis, they start getting product insights, they’ll get location insights if they’re running a franchise or something that’s got a lot of retail locations, they’ll get all sorts of media insights from it. So there’s a lot of really deep insight tools that come out of being able to understand that and add it to the survey data, so you have a broader picture of what’s going on.

Maxie 
Right? But just I think that complementing the survey data often gives you a flag, “ooh, our scores in zones will go down”. This, especially when you think about in person experiences, there’s very little data that you can gather about them in the moment that’s easy to do, the view is afterwards. But in the moment, you can get the surveys and you can see, okay, scores are pretty poor. You think about this, and then you have all this other data that you go into for the insights. And the root cause, the analysis that you can do in a company is that idea that I often see that people overlook their surveys, because they’re trying to get to actionable data. I hear this all the time. Actionable data, there is no actionable data in surveys, the only way that surveys are actionable is to point you to a problem. What the insight behind it is, and how you can solve it, is completely outside surveys. And that comes in from other data sources, for example, but also from working internally with stakeholders to figure out why is this happening?

Grad 
I sort of made this point earlier in my introduction about Sprinklr. When people ask, what’s the difference between Sprinklr and other things? Part of my answer is that Sprinklr pulls in all of the comments, every single one of them, because we’re connected to 400 million data sources. So by pulling in every single comment, it allows you, theoretically, to take action on every single comment. And you’re right. With surveys, but even listening tools that do sampling, all they do is so give you a sense that people are angry at the color of your product, and you might change it, but it’s hard to know what it is. Whereas with Sprinklr, what happens is people will actually say, “I don’t like the color of your product and say, “what color you would like it to be?” you actually start to have a dialog, you have a conversation. It’s called conversational marketing. “Well, I really think instead of red, it should be blue”. “Okay, great. Why is that?” “Well, because … “, and then you actually get somewhere and then when you do change it, you can go back to all those people that have complained and say, “I know you didn’t like the color of our product, got your input and feedback, so did many other people, and good news, we’ve changed the color of the product. And now it’s blue”. And people be like, “wow”. We have customers like McDonald’s and Microsoft and many other people who do that, like when I was at Microsoft, what we would do, and they still do this now, is we would collect all the feedback from people on products like Office and Dynamics, etc. And then when those new features were introduced, we would say, “Hey, you asked for this feature” sometimes two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, it could be it could be up to five years in the past, “and now here it’s live”. People are like, “Wow, I can’t believe it, you actually did this, a), and b), you’re telling me.” So what would happen is instantly people would retweet that and it would create all sorts of really great goodwill. But you know, that’s not something that most companies have figured out or mastered and your point’s dead on. Alright, so let’s go to the third finding: unify your data. So there’s a whole bunch of stuff around data in a unified platform. And obviously, when you get a unified platform, you get unification around the data as well. And that helps people be more proactive and more thoughtful about what they’re doing with the customer. But why don’t you take us through this finding? And let’s talk about this for a minute.

Maxie 
Right? So here’s the question. Okay, if there is a platform like that, what benefits do you think are transformational versus nice to have? And what popped up probably not super surprisingly on top is increased customer satisfaction, but also what I think is super interesting, competitive advantage. Because here is the thing, most companies in CX right now seem to all go into one direction. Why are they all easy to do business with? And most companies frankly need to improve how easy they are to do business with, right? But how does this differentiate from anybody else out there? So what is the very particular thing that you can do better from the customer feedback, you understand the particular reasons they want to do business with you to see if these customers are even a match to what you have to offer? And if they’re a match, if they are stereotypically big fans, you serve them better? Right? And then you build a competitive advantage over others. So I think this was a really important one that I want to call out.

Grad 
Awesome. Yeah, for me, this data issue is a really interesting one. Almost every company I talked to, not every single one, but almost every one has some kind of failed data-like project going on, you know, like, multi-year, millions of dollars, people slaving away at it and nothing’s coming out. They don’t know what to do with it. It doesn’t work, the latency’s so high that it’s essentially useless for any kind of customer interaction. And so there’s a sort of clamoring for a new kind of CDP. And so a number of people use Sprinklr as a CDP. And the beauty of having the data unified is not only can you see everything about a person, but for me, it’s the latency issue. Because when systems are querying each other, particularly over API’s, the latency can be so high that it doesn’t result in a recommendation that you can get in front of the customer before they’ve left the website. And so by having everything in a single place, you address latency, and you have a complete profile, and everyone in the company can collaborate because they know what’s happened. It is going to take a while though, I think this whole issue around CDP’s and data lakes and the primacy of customer data, which system does it live in? You know, many people want to put in the CRM system. The problem with that is that CRM systems, no matter who makes them, are not built to handle emojis and images, and memes and videos and all that kind of stuff that exist in this experience data world. They’re meant to handle transactional data, they’re very good at that. But you need to have a CXM system for the experience and a CRM system for the transactions; you need to bring them together. It’s good. So this is a I think the biggest part of the journey we’re on as an industry. This slide here, firms differ in how they choose CX tech, I’d love you to talk to this for a second. Just give me your thoughts on this one because I certainly have a lot of points of view on this, too.

Maxie 
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, it’s this question, “What kind of companies are buying so called best of breed solutions versus like a Swiss knife Audubon solution?” And I know you have a very particular opinion also about is it really even two separate things. But what I’m seeing is a lot that people in the customer experience setting, for example, they just don’t have access to some of the, let’s say, best of breed tools that their organization uses. Maybe the organization has pretty advanced business intelligence, or dashboarding tool, but they don’t have access to it. So then it’s really hard to wait to get access to that. And it makes much more sense to buy a technology that you have everything in one place, including some of the functions like dashboarding analysis that you might otherwise want to do in a company outside the platform company tool. So that’s just my observation from the market that I find that the tension between wanting to use something that’s already in there in workflows that the employees already know, putting your dashboard into Salesforce so that people who are already in there can see it, versus the ability to actually get in there. And actually be integrated with that.

Grad 
Yeah, and I think there’s a maybe a false belief that you can’t actually integrate the three letters that I hate the most in marketing are API. I’ve become so cynical about it, because I had so many people tell me, oh, yeah, we’ve got an API, we can just connect anything, and no, they can’t. And both of these SaaS applications are both upgrading continuously, you know, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly, certainly weekly. And so you’ve got two fast rotating cloud applications with an API that’s not well-managed and so they’re fragile, and they break all the time, or one upgrades and the whole system goes down. So let’s talk a little bit about this slide. Very interesting. Kind of builds off what we’ve been talking about, a lot of interest in implementing a unified CXM platform. So what are you seeing here?

Maxie 
Right, just because people see the problems we just talked about, right? The problem of not getting time with the IT people to do any integration, the problem that integrations break down, the problem that integrations cost a lot of money. So having a place that they can control, call it room, to do customer experience work. seems exciting to people. You can see this in the data here, right? Very likely interested as nearly 40%.

Grad 
It’s really amazing. It’s exciting to see when a new category comes into being. It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking to see how people are going to take to it and do people understand it and where we’re going to go next with it. But it looks like unified CXM is going to be here to stay, people are excited about the possibility. They’ve got these three key takeaways; I’ll just quickly summarize what we’ve just gone through. But the journey to great CXM continues, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, everybody. So get cracking, and try to visualize more, try to think about the guest experience, or whatever you call your customer experience would be. The stack is causing problems. It’s not working, and we’re going to need to come up with something better, like unified CXM. And data, when unified, can cause a lot of great outcomes, and not only for your customers, but also for your own management and your own understanding of what’s going on. When someone says that to you, “How do I get started?” How do you coach them? What advice do you give them?

Maxie 
My go-to is start with a journey that your customers are going through, it could be a customer care support journey, but it could also be an onboarding journey, could be a selling journey, whatever it is, but pick one that is important to the company and the customer, of course, but also that you can get data and when you have somebody who owns that journey that will work with you. So sometimes people think they need to go the hardest possible way, like work with John in Accounting who really hates your guts. But you don’t have to do that. But pick a place where there are people who are waiting for you but what’s in it for you is what you have to explain to them will be easy to do.

Grad 
That’s great advice, great coaching, and then we’re going to end on that. Maxie, thank you very much. That’s it for today at the unified CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr and that was a webinar between myself and Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian. She’s the VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. I want to thank Maxie; she was fantastic to do this with. We had a really good time, I thought we dug into some really fascinating content. Just, you know, it’s clear that as an industry, we’re at a crossroads. People realize that the Franken stacks that they’re working with right now are not tenable, can’t work anymore. We have to go to a unified platform. People are just beginning to understand that that’s necessary and then how do I get there and what do I need to do to get there? And my answer to that question is simple. One word, Sprinklr! Unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you … next time.

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