Episode #50: How to Create One-on-One Relationships at Scale

Grad Conn

January 7, 20219 min read

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Marketers can learn a lot from software code management. Really. In our first episode of 2021 we look at how to use proven concepts from DevOps, to automate real 1:1 relationships with our customers. It’s all about scale and automation — with a personal touch.

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Well, Happy New Year. It’s 2021 and oh boy, expectations are high. So 2021, the pressure is on. My guess is 2021’s not going to be that different from 2020, it’s going to take a while to work through everything we’ve got to work through, and there’s going to be a lot of economic issues. So I’m not sure the luster will be as bright on 2021 come a year from now, but 2022 is going to be amazing.

Anyway, so let’s talk a little bit about DevOps. Hmmm, DevOps, what’s DevOps? So, DevOps is a set of practices, that combines a software development and IT operations. It aims to shorten the software development lifecycle, and provide continuous delivery with high quality software. That’s the formal definition of it. It’s very complimentary with agile software development. And several DevOps aspects come from the agile methodology, which started in the 90s.

So why am I talking about DevOps today? Well, this is the CXM Experience. And as usual, I am Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and experience is the new brand. And really, what is customer experience? And how do you make that work. And I want to talk about the one aspect of customer experience that I am most excited about. That I think is the most difficult thing to deliver. And I want to draw an analogy to DevOps and the way that that world is developing.

So about a decade ago, the standard way that you developed software is you would have a group of people working together, there would be a management platform for the software, and then you would do some kind of release cycle. Classically, an annual release cycle on something that was significant. And then maybe quarterly releases on patches, and sometimes monthly releases on bugs. And that’s still very much a methodology that’s used in many different places. But a few firms, specifically, Facebook, Google, and Amazon, found that that type of methodology just wasn’t working in a cloud based world. So at Cloud speed, it just simply wasn’t sufficient or possible to operate in a quarterly release cycle. You needed to have continuous delivery of software and continuous delivery of code.

And so they developed a set of very interesting internal tools. And what this allowed them to do is it allowed them to start being able to, essentially, continuously integrate new code, and then continuously deliver, and continuously deploy that new code. These are often called CICD. And it’s these combined practices. And the tools that they developed to do this, were internal. So you can’t just go to Facebook and say, Hey, can I use your CICD tool? That’s something that is proprietary, and a source of significant competitive advantage for Facebook. If anyone remembers Friendster, Friendster was Facebook before Facebook. Friendster’s failure was that Friendster couldn’t stay present, couldn’t stay up, kept going down all the time. And so I was a Friendster user, but I quickly moved on, because every time I tried to log in, the servers were busy, or it had crashed.

And so one of the things that Facebook solved early on was the ability to be continuously available, and make sure that as they delivered new code, they didn’t see the site go down. So you just always expect Facebook to be there, it is always there. If you were to go to Facebook and try to log in and get an error message, it’d be shocking. It’d be shocking, because you’ve never seen that before. That’s partly because they use these DevOps techniques, these agile development techniques in this sort of process of continuous integration, continuous delivery and continuous deployment.

Now there are a set of tools that help in this space. And there’s a bunch of different firms out there. The general classes of tools are software delivery automation, and software delivery management. If you’re a marketer, and you’re wondering what has happened to Grad and I don’t understand a thing he’s saying today, think of software delivery automation as marketing automation. And think of software delivery management as CRM, right? And so the software delivery management is kind of like a CRM system and helps you optimize the teams and the workflows. It allows you to connect cross functional teams to maximize the value of what you’re trying to do. And then software delivery automation allows you to automate and orchestrate across all the different teams that need to deliver software. Because you’ve got test, you’ve got code, you’ve got shared services, teams, etc, all working together.

And so the challenge in this world is you’ve got a few firms that have built some pretty impressive, extraordinary tools that are amazing pieces of competitive advantage, real motes, real motes in those businesses. And something people take for granted, because they just always work all the time. But without them, those firms would probably not exist. But now we’re entering a world where everyone is becoming a software company. And in a world where everyone is a software company, we all need to start running in a DevOps way.

Well, how are we going to do that? Like I said before, I can’t just go to Facebook and say, Hey, may I borrow your CICD system. So a number of firms are starting to grow up, it’s a relatively new industry, who are essentially making those types of tools that are used by the companies that have pioneered DevOps. And they’re allowing companies to be able to do that themselves. And so there’s some pretty interesting case studies, specifically from the banks, the banks have obviously got to stay up all the time. And they’re continuously delivering some very high end and very important software, because it’s your money. And they’ve got 1000s of developers that are doing it all across the world, they’ve got to coordinate that. And so that kind of coordination system is really impressive, really exciting, in a whole new future for code.

So how does that have to do with customer experience? Well, what’s really going on in customer experience, right? What’s really going on in CXM? Because when you boil it all down, I can wax poetically about workflows, and AI and governance, and all that stuff’s incredibly important. But at the end of the day, the thing that we’re all trying to do right now, that’s going to be extraordinarily difficult, is we’re trying to scale to a system whereby we are able to have a one to one relationship with all of our customers. No one has ever tried to do this before. Not electronically. And we can’t just put a bunch of community managers on it. This is going to require broad participation from around the company, it’s going to require a set of continuous delivery systems. See where I’m going here? It’s going to require a set of continuous management systems. There’s a whole new breed of essentially customer experience management systems that are going to have to come into existence.

And one of the things that’s very exciting about working at Sprinklr is that Sprinklr is on the leading edge of this customer experience management system. And I would say that one way of thinking about it, and if you think about some of the tools I was talking about a bit earlier in DevOps, they talk about software delivery automation. Think about customer experience automation, because the only way you’re going to be able to actually do one-on-one engagement with customers on a daily basis, is you’re going to have to automate that process. Because you can’t just have people do it back and forth.

I did an interesting test recently. I was on X, formerly Twitter. One of my favorite platforms. And I have a conversation coming up with a large car manufacturer. And so just to see how everyone is managing in modern channels, I did a really simple tweet. And I just said, Hey, I’m thinking about buying an SUV before the end of 2020. What would you recommend friends? And then I @ mentioned a number of different brands, about 10. What was fascinating to me is only three of those brands replied to me. One was a bit cheeky, and I had to engage with it. And then two were kind of here’s a link to what we think would be appropriate. But super interesting in all those cases is that that was it. I got the link, nothing else happened. I never had any follow up. I specifically said end of 2020. No one said What did you buy, are you still thinking, here’s a deal, want to do a test drive. There was nothing. It was one and done. And so this lack of actual true engagement meant that I started making up my own mind.

So, think about this a little bit. You know, if you’re thinking about customer experience, don’t just think about what the customer experience should be. But think about how you can automate it on a broad scale basis, and in a way that you can get a one to one relationship with all of your customers. And then think about the lessons that are coming from the DevOps world as they work to have continuous real time integration of code from potentially hundreds or 1000s of engineers all at the same time. If they can do it in that space, we’re gonna have to be able to do it in the marketing space as well.

Kind of exciting, going to be a really exciting 2021. Looking forward to a whole bunch of really great shows. Got a guest coming in this Friday, Paul Herman, ex-Nike and current Sprinklr Product Marketing lead. So we’re gonna have a fun conversation with him. And we’ll be talking about our usual potpourri of topics. So, for today, that’s it. I’ll see you next time.

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