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Episode #154: The New Customer Experience, with Danny Wright

Grad Conn

August 9, 202128 min read

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It’s an exciting time to be in marketing. Organizations are finally waking up to the fact that their brand isn’t what they say it is. Their brand is a reflection of the experiences they land with their customers. In this Adweek webinar, Danny Wright and I talk about the three fundamental shifts that are transforming customer expectations, and the steps you can take to make your customers happier.

Danny Wright is the Chief Brand Officer at Adweek. Find him on LinkedIn.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
Oh, yeah. Summer of Love,1969. Summer reruns, 2021. That’s right. It’s rerun season on the Unified CXM Experience. I’m your host, Grad Conn, CXO, or Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr, a New York Stock Exchange listed company, ticker symbol, CXM.

This is a really, really fun webinar. I just did this with Danny Wright who’s the Chief Brand Officer at Adweek. Super, super cool guy. We’ve had a lot of interaction. Danny and I’ve had, I don’t know how many conversations, but we’ve talked a lot and it’s one of those weird things where when you really get along well with somebody and there’s that kind of almost instant connection, it feels like ‘we should be friends’. It doesn’t happen as much these days and something about Zoom that seems to impede that a bit. I guess the chemicals aren’t in the air, but even over Zoom, Danny and I are killing it. And I cannot wait to just grab a beer with him or a coffee or whatever. And he’s in New York. I’m in New York, we have got to connect but Danny and I had a great time on this. I fact, I may have been overly enthusiastic, you’ll notice a couple parts where I was just going and Danny’s like, “Grad, Grad, Grad”, waving me down. So sorry, Danny. I was just getting into it.

But we had a good time, we went for 45 minutes, I think, and this is an event that Adweek is running called the New Customer Experience – a great event. And the people that preceded me were terrific. And people that came after me were terrific, it was a really great lineup. So you’ll see at one point, Danny actually, if you’re watching the video, and I’ll tell you how to see that in a second. Danny like, puts his hair down. He’s got this awesome hair and, and he was jealous of my microphone. It was all good. We were enjoying each other’s time. So enjoy this conversation. I actually found that I use some interesting historical analogies in this one; I think this is where Danny was trying to pull me back a bit, but I enjoyed them a lot. And if you’re a regular listener to the Unified CXM Experience, if you keep coming back, you must like them too. So I think you’re going to like some of these things. They’re not quite as good as the next rerun, which you can listen to in the next episode, but there’s some pretty good stuff in here. And I sort of wax eloquently a few times. So without further ado, we’re going to go to the new customer experience event from Adweek.

Danny Wright 
This conversation is going to be awesome. It always is whenever I get a chance to talk to Grad, very, very knowledgeable about what he does kind of fellow, a Sci Fi geek like me, so we’re going to cover it all from the AI experience to the DeLorean. Will you please welcome to the virtual stage, headphone ready, the Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr, that’s Grad Conn. What’s up, buddy? How are you?

Grad 
I’m good, Danny. Nice to see you.

Danny Wright 
You too. You too. I like the phones and the mic. And this is like,

Grad 
I’m on a Shure, I’m not getting paid for this, by the way. I’m on a Shure MV7. It’s basically their radio announcer mic and they’ve adapted it for podcasting. And it’s directional, so it doesn’t pick up all the sirens. So I’m in New York City, and I’m on 35th Street. There’s inevitably an ambulance down there just wailing away for hours. But you won’t be able to hear it now. So it sounds like I’m in a studio and it can get really intimate, which is kind of nice. Yeah. I’m in Vermont. Alright, I think we’re done now. Right? Always with the next level, Grad, always. Oh, yeah, here we go.

Danny Wright 
Okay, well, so what we’re going to do today, though, other than have a lot of fun is we’re going to talk about three modern truths revelizing customer experience. So before we do that, because that will be my first question, give me a three second, sorry, give me a 10 second elevator on Sprinklr for the audience.

Grad 
Sure, sure. That’s easy. So Sprinklr is a unified platform for customer facing functions. And what that means is that for any function that faces a customer, we can unify the way people work together and unify the way the customer interacts with you. It’s a compelling idea that’s kind of long overdue, and it’s been really exciting. I’ve been here for about four years now. It’s been a really exciting journey.

Danny Wright 
And your founder talks a little bit about, I found this concept fascinating, point solution chaos which is the problem that you’re solving for but dig into that just a little bit. I want the people watching to be aware of how fascinating the solution product and the solution set really is.

Grad 
Yeah. So Raji Thomas, our CEO and co-founder, founded the company eleven years ago. I was one of his very first customers. And the reason that I became a customer is that Raji was speaking the same language that I was at the time.

Danny Wright 
Like Klingon? Is he a fellow Sci Fi geek?

Grad
No, he is not a Sci Fi fan. But actually, I don’t know if he’s a Sci Fi fan. Raji just works. He may be a Sci Fi fan, I’ve just never had a chance to talk to him about it. So he was talking about how we aggregate these point solutions that are out there. And I was at Microsoft for quite a long time. And I had spent about five years in health care in the Health Solutions Group, building out a bunch of new products. And what I’d seen in the healthcare market was that in health care, which is typically ahead of almost every other industry, from an IT standpoint, they had initially invested in lots of point solutions, because in the beginning of any market, in the beginning of any sort of revolution in technology, you’re not 100% sure of what you’re going to need. And typically all the new early players don’t have complete functionality because they’re just starting. So you get a little bit of this, you get a young identity management, you get an EMR for this, you get the blood pressure management, so you had all these different things. Then as hospital started getting paid based on outcomes, they became really dialed into how do we make sure our patients are as healthy as possible. And what they’re finding is that all these individual point solutions, by not connecting to each other, made it really hard to manage the patient experience. Sounds familiar, right?

This is exactly what’s been going on in Martech last couple years. And so, if it was something like sepsis, there are three different readings, you need to detect sepsis early enough to do something about it. By the time sepsis presents, it’s 50/50 if the patient even makes it. And so there was one system, there’s one company called Epic Health Care based in Madison, Wisconsin, one of America’s great companies, but not very well known because it’s private. And they have been banging away at this unified healthcare idea for many, many years. And suddenly everyone said, this is the only way to do it. And next thing you knew, Epic was taking off. And I saw Epic go from being a relatively small to a major player. And today, they’re more than 60% of the market. They are kind of the market now. So that unified platform idea is something that always happens in every category. Another great example, and you’ve got it in your pocket, is your iPhone. There is a table full of devices that iPhone replaces – cameras and video recorders and voice recorders and telephones and all that stuff has been unified into the iPhone platform. And so, it’s a motion that just continues on and on. And so, Raji saw early on that in Martech, we were going to run into the same issue. Marketers were out there buying tons and tons of point solutions. The average marketing department has eighty-one point solutions. And HR is almost as bad by the way. But they’ve got tons of point solutions. I actually had one CDO once tell me when I shared the stat with him. He said, “We aspire to get down to that number. We want to be awesome, we’re at hundreds of points solutions”.

So it’s a real problem. And the result is that because all these individual point solutions are all from different companies, they’re theoretically integrated with APIs. But the APIs are relatively fragile, because they’re SaaS solutions, and they’re constantly updating, then if there’s an update or an upgrade to one, it can break the whole system. I had a whole team at Microsoft. And their sole job was to track the leads that were getting dropped between the different parts of our marketing automation solution. And so Raji’s idea was if you put all that into one platform, the way Epic did it, you can not only create a lot of more clarity around the customer profile, but you can allow the company to collaborate around the customer as well. And then the result of that will be a better customer experience. And customers can tell when we don’t know who they are. And but they also are kind of weirded out to a certain extent because customers know that we do have the information. There’s a great movie, it wasn’t super well reviewed, but it was one of my favorite films, called Fifty First Dates.

Danny Wright 
I know the movie

Grad
It’s got Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. And so basically Drew Barrymore has got a brain injury. That means every morning she wakes up; she doesn’t remember anything. She does know who she is. And so Adam Sandler is romancing her and she’s essentially meeting him for the first time every day. So it’s called Fifty First Dates. And it’s quite a charming story and …

Danny Wright 
… a terrible customer experience.

Grad 
Well, that’s what we do to people. You walk into a store, they don’t know who you are, you’re like, “I’ve spent thousands of dollars here. Sometimes I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars here, and I walk in as a stranger. I go to the website, I go as a stranger, this constant feeling that I’m kind of re-explaining myself to people all the time”. It’s weird and increasingly weird because customers know that we actually have this information. So why aren’t you using it? Well, the reason it’s not being used is the systems aren’t unified. So there’s no way to access them. There’s no way to get to it. And so the idea, the simple idea that Raji has is to pull it all together, and then give customers the experience that makes them want to come back again and again. So at the end of the day, you know, I want to drive revenue. The best way to drive revenue is to make my customers happy and keep them coming back.

Danny Wright 
I’ve given up my data and privacy. So I expect to be optimized, or my experience to be optimized, when I come to your site. That’s a fair trade.

Grad 
So there’s only 75% of customers expect a personalized ad experience now. Expect it.

Danny Wright 
And it makes sense. I’m surprised that number isn’t higher. I certainly do. I’m not liking the way my head is kind of morphing here.

Grad 
Really?  Okay. Oh, much better. Yeah.

Danny Wright 
Well, you’ve got the voice. So I’ve got to …  Okay. So back to business. We talked about the really unique kind of nuanced new customer experience expectation is to have a more personalized experience for the data. Is that one of the three modern truths? Tell us what the three modern truths are. Let’s dig into that.

Grad 
Well, so the way that I’m framing them these days is that the first modern truth is that we’re in the midst of a revolutionary change in the way we do marketing. Now, I can talk about that for a minute. The second thing is that we are in a new era of identity. So with cookies being gone, and with a lot of different interesting kinds of information about people out there, there’s a combination of transactional data and there’s a combination of experienced data. That whole identity issue has become a really important challenge. There’s a modern truth around that. And the third one is, we just actually talked about it, which is that unification of this data and these profiles, and unification of the experience is the only way to deliver great customer experience. And we’re seeing that across some of the world’s biggest companies today.

Danny Wright 
So then let’s dig in AI. Sure, we got to get the truths laid out. Yeah, let’s talk about how AI is helping to kind of empower and even accentuate this whole concept of the unified experience.

Grad 
Well, so if you think about how you have to interact with somebody, and I’ll talk about the first truth for a second, just to kind of frame it. My dad was a Mad Man, he worked at Young and Rubicam on Madison Avenue. Have you ever seen the show Mad Men? Have you seen that one? Okay. At the beginning of Season Three or four, there’s a scene where they’re dropping water balloons out of the windows of a competing agent, my dad was one of the people in that room. That’s a real story. He looks at that show like it’s a documentary. Actually, it is kind of drawn from a real story.

So the world they lived in was a world where mass communication was relatively new, television was new, radio had been around but not used in the way it is today; it wasn’t in cars, for example, until the 60s really. And then you had movie theaters and all these other things that became very popular. So mass communication became the thing. And that was amazing because you could reach millions of people very quickly. What was interesting is that the era that came just before that era, was personal one-to-one selling. And so we went from this very much one-to-one connected, “I know who you are, you know who I am” kind of selling modality into this very anonymous one, which you don’t really know who was producing those ads, and you don’t really know who is watching those ads.

When I started my career, I started at Procter and Gamble. And in the creative briefs we would be given, we would talk about who the ‘target’ audience was. The target audience at Procter & Gamble was always women 18 to 49. What kind of target is that? There’s very little that a 49-year-old mother has in common with her 18-year-old daughter but that was as much as we could target. And they basically were saying, we’re targeting women. And so the new era we’re in right now, and it’s actually Mark Pritchard, at Procter and Gamble, who launched this a Cannes a couple years ago, is we now know people’s identity and interests, and we still have mass. So we’re really in this Mass 1:1 era. So this Mass 1:1 era is the growth of conversational commerce, and this idea of conversational commerce is that now people have a back-and-forth relationship with the brand and with each other. So now the brand and the brand values are really being formed by what people say to each other and what people interact with the brand on and it’s very different, less controllable. The beauty of the mass stuff is a very tight control. Like you really put stuff in a box, but it wasn’t very robust communication.

Today, It’s more like a real conversation. And so that framing for me is helpful to understand that we’re in this conversational era. So if you’re going to be in a conversational era, what does that mean? That means you have to listen to every conversation about you. And not just the ones that are directed to your handle if you’re a brand, but about you, or even better about your category. Like, if I’m Nike, I would love to make sure I talked to everyone who says @Nike, I’m going to want to probably look at everyone who #s Just Do It and talks about Nike without an @ symbol. I really would love to know what the competitors are being talked about and what people saying about them, but don’t I really want to know about everyone who wants to do a marathon? You know, all the golfers … isn’t that really the conversation I need to be part of? And so in that the implication of that, if you do that, on a global scale, is there are, literally at a minimum, hundreds of 1000s. at a maximum, you know, billions of conversations, I was pulling in 125 million mentions a year at Microsoft, these are big numbers. And the conversations are complicated, because they’re a mixture of sentiment and mixture of brands, like Brand A made me sad. So I switched to Brand B, it was much better. But Brand C seems promising. Like, that’s a very complicated kind of conversation. It doesn’t neatly fit into a structured data set. And so AI becomes the only way to understand what everyone’s saying. And again, in a conversational commerce, in a conversational marketing world, you’ve got to listen to every conversation, you can’t just sample them. And then you’ve got to respond to them.

Danny Wright 
How does your artificial intelligence that you proprietarily own understand that the nuance of culture? Angie just talked about a really important point. She said, “We used to have very siloed conversations”, which is exactly what you were talking about, “at Samsung. And now we want to have kind of a unified narrative. And we want to not silo by geo and demo”, like you said, “we’re all women. But we want to do it more by culture and nuance”. So how are the machines able to now pick up the culture and nuance and you and I talked earlier about colloquialisms. How good has your AI gotten at that?

Grad 
Very, very good in some cases. Cultural nuance, we’re really looking at it from a language nuance standpoint so we’re across 75 languages now and we categorize it by industry. And so what we’ve done is we’ve kind of got that sort of base level AI model. And then the second level is we have an industry vertical. And we own all that AI and all that training. And because we’re sitting across all these billions of conversations, there’s a big training set. So it’s actually pretty robust. But there’s a third level, which is the company themselves. And so they’ll come in and help us refine it so we do these projects with companies. And in that case, the company actually owns the AI that they’ve refined. And in cases where we get that level of engagement, we get to about 95% accuracy, and understanding the intent of the message that somebody is sending to us. And then being able to route it correctly. And AI does lots of stuff. It sorts it and understands the intent, it suggests to agents things to say that have worked well, when you get this kind of comment.

It’s all about really taking the humans and helping amplify them. Because, again, the point about this conversational marketing world is that it requires a lot of conversations. And to do that at scale, you’re going to have to use AI to make it tenable. Otherwise, it just would be impossible to scale correctly. There’s one example I’ll use; we have two really interesting customers. Mayo Clinic is one of our customers and to them the word ‘sick’ is a very important word and very meaningful word. And obviously they want to see when that occurs, we have another customer named Red Bull – gives you wings, and Red Bull, you know, ‘sick dude’ is a completely different meaning but also very important and one that they want to listen to. And so be able to tease out that nuance, the AI projects that Sprinklr started actually, with my team at Microsoft, because we had products named after common objects like ‘Windows’, ‘Office’, ’Surface’, my favorite, “Word”. So separating those out was really hard. And so that was where the original project started because we were going crazy trying to separate this stuff. AI started sorting that for us and it made life a lot easier. It probably doubled the productivity of our community managers almost overnight.

Danny Wright 
Yeah. I was hoping you would give that example, we talked about it earlier, I even thought of one. So if somebody says, “I like your kicks”, if you’re working at Nike, you probably know they mean sneakers. If you’re promoting the Cobra Kai movie, it’s a defensive move or offensive. So, speaking of these companies, who else is doing it well? If you were thinking about who’s really getting this right and using the platform the best and getting the best ROI, you’ve got something also that talks about showing ROI in like two days of setup, which is an unbelievable thing to be able to boast. So who’s doing it really, really well for you guys?

Grad 
We’ve got a lot of examples, I’m going to highlight maybe two or three, but of the top 100 brands in the world 91 are Sprinklr customers so we’re really blessed with an incredible customer base, although I did share this with my dad the other day, and he said, 91, what happened to the other nine? I was like, just like a dad …

Danny Wright 
Bring him next time.

Grad
I’ll give him a water balloon and set him up. So one example I love using is McDonald’s all-day breakfast. And what they did is they listened to all the people that were saying they wanted breakfast during the day. They use that to help inform which menu items they would offer during the day when they brought in all-day breakfast. But what was really cool is that they actually went back to those people who said, “I would like to have pancakes this afternoon”. And sometimes it was years later. Because we can go back in time about five years. So they go back, and they’d say, “On November 16, 2018, you said you wanted pancakes in the afternoon. Well, now you can have them”. And people are like, “Wow”. One reaction is you were listening to me, second reaction is you responded to me. And the third reaction is goody, because I really like having pancakes in the afternoon. And so this is a little brain explosion that happened for people; what they did is they would then retweet it, which created a lot of really interesting organic amplification, then it became a top trending topic on Twitter, got picked up by the news media and kind of went to the offline world, and became a very, very successful launch that added billions to the bottom line of McDonald’s.

And Microsoft does this too, even today, they’ll do things like they will collect people who make feature suggestions. And then when the feature is launched, they’ll go back to them, again sometimes years later, and say you had asked for a button in Office that turns everything red to blue, or whatever; now it’s here, and people are just grateful, they’re appreciative. I would say that it’s interesting to me that more companies don’t do this. It will, I think become the common way of marketing in 20 years. But it’s still very rare. And you still get a huge bumped from just the mere fact that you’re listening to people.

The last one I’ll use is a little bit of unusual example, but Rustoleum, they make paint, they make the paint that goes on the Golden Gate Bridge. So they had a paint they came out with which was sparkle paint, people aren’t walking around the streets thinking I need some sparkle paint, like even the fact that sparkle paint exists, that’s not something people even thought was true, because it’s not the way your brain would work. And so they were struggling to sort of get it out there. And they couldn’t run media behind it because it’s a niche product. And so what that team did is they actually went to everyone who had sparkle boards on Pinterest, and Instagram, and said “You seem to like sparkles. Did you know there was sparkle paint?” The stuff flew off the shelves. And I think the Rustoleum team has 40 or 50 examples like this now of very niche products. And they’ll find people who would benefit from that product and essentially, rifle target-market them. And it’s a great, really great, way of demonstrating conversational marketing and really going after people in a way that you would never be able to do before.

Danny Wright 
Well, listen, Grad, I want to get to your takeaways; we’ve run out of time. Yeah, I could talk to you for days and marketers, I know you’re busy with your pens up. But put your pens down. There’s great insights and takeaways here. We’re going to get to Grad’s in a second. And if you have some more questions, pop them in the chat. I can get at least one more to him before we let the marketing genius go. But before that, let’s get to your take. I’m only speaking truth here, Grad, obviously. What’s your takeaway?

Grad 
Well, so I’ve kind of hammered on this a few times. But marketing is changing. It’s, I would say, the most exciting time to be in marketing. I tell everybody it looked like it was really cool in the 60s. And it was, but it’s way cooler now because we’re going to a whole new world. And what I would recommend is read some of the older writers like Claude Hopkins and Albert Lasker – great book called The Man Who Sold America and John Caples. They lived in a world where they were bemoaning the loss of conversation, and they would love this era. And so this is a great way to build your toolkit that way. The customer profile, you’ve got to think about not just your CRM data that’s transactional. But how do you bring in the experience data?

If I say I had a great flight, that should be part of my profile now. If I say I had a bad flight, it should be part of my profile now. And it doesn’t have to be just because I’m an airline. I would want to know if I had a bad flight if I was the hotel that I’m showing up at. Don’t ask him how his flight was because he had a bad flight. You can tell right now. Just give him an upgrade, give him some hot towels, give him a beer.

Take it easy, right. And so this getting a profile, that’s the real truth of a person. And both their experiences and their data around transactions makes a big difference. And then customer expectations have changed. You know, the people are expecting personalized information, the Fifty First Dates model, people are weirded out when we don’t talk to them in a personal way, because they know we know. And they’re just puzzled as to why we don’t surface it, and people are accepting of it and wanting it. And the one thing, the one number that I always sort of like to lay out there and kind of close on this is that these experiences, they’ve got great upside, I talked about McDonald’s, that was a type of experience, right? People loved it. When you deliver a great experience, people get excited. But when you deliver a bad experience, 95% of the time people share a bad experience with someone else. And remember, they’re sharing it on a global network. So the cost of that experience has gone through the roof.

Danny Wright 
Yeah, either way, they’re going to get excited. Excited in a good way or excited in a bad way. Let’s do one and let’s make it a quick answer. So you’re a marketer. I’m a marketer, listening, watching right now, what’s something that I could start doing today, right now, that will help me build a customer experience? Aside from working with Sprinklr? What’s one thing that I could do right now?

Grad 
Well, so, aside from working with Sprinklr, geez, wow, I don’t know. But you know, one thing I don’t see people do, and I would say everyone should do this, map out your current customer journey. Like if you’re a hotel what’s your current guest experience? How are they actually getting to you, finding you, and getting in the door? And what does that whole thing feel like? And then, what should it be? Just map it out. I mean, then you can start to say, “Hey, I’ve got a dream. I want to change the way this thing works. I want to change the way these customer experiences are working”. But until you map that customer journey out, it’s very hard to align the organization.

Danny Wright 
Welcome, Grad. Great to see you. How was the flight from New York? You live in Midtown, that must be noisy. We’ve got you double paned windows here. You’re going to have a really quiet sleep tonight. And here’s an upgrade and the kind of beer you like. On check in.

Grad 
I would never go anywhere else. That’d be it. Yeah.

Danny Wright 
So there you go. There’s a great tip from the one and only Grad Conn. Thank you so much for being here today. I can’t wait to talk to you again and doing it in person.

Grad 
See you soon. Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much.

Danny Wright 
Great to see you, Chief Experience Officer of Sprinklr. Thank you so much.

Grad
I was sad when this one ended, I could have kept going for another couple of hours and I don’t know what it is about Danny and I, but we’ve got to do like an all-day webinar sometime. There’s something there. We definitely have to do an evening. There’s no question that we’ve got a full-blown evening in front of us somewhere. And, Danny, if you’re listening, I’ll send you an invite and we’ll get together as soon as you feel comfortable, I’m ready to go. So that was the Adweek New Customer Experience Event. I had a lot of fun doing it. Adweek folks were terrific to deal with, incredibly well organized, they had custom backgrounds. It was great. If you want to see the video version of this. It’s in the podcast notes, and also in the blog post about this. So feel free to watch it if you want to see the full fidelity version. But I think podcast does a pretty good job because it was just a pure interview and there weren’t any slides. You do miss Danny’s hair coming down. But otherwise, you have to look at my face a lot, which is, you know, probably, let’s see, what’s the joke? No, he’s got a face for radio so not necessarily adding a bunch to the experience. So that’s it for today. I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and I will see you in another rerun … next time.

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