Episode #80: How to Put the Experience in Experience Selling

Grad Conn

February 18, 202112 min read

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Understanding how your customers actually engage with you is too often undervalued. Generally, we build a process and assume it’s working. Meanwhile, our customers are having little (or big) issues that hurt the overall experience. Finding these broken flows is critical to happy customers.

And, if you’re selling B2B solutions, helping your prospects identify these broken flows can put you on a path to success. It’s called Experience Selling, and it’s an idea whose time has come.

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All right, and welcome to the CXM Experience. As always, I’m your host, Grad Conn, CXO, chief experience officer at Sprinklr. And I’m gonna have a fun time today. We’re gonna take a bit of a break from potato salad, and our usual potpourri of recipes. And today we’re going to talk about experience selling.

This is something that’s near and dear to my heart, because it really goes to: how do you explain change? How do you explain the process of experience? How do you get people to understand and buy into experiences? And this is actually one of the key issues in most experience transformations inside companies. In that often we tend to approach it from a tool standpoint. Here’s the tools we need to buy. Here are the platforms we need to buy, here are the applications we need to connect. Here are the APIs we need to have. Here are the databases that we need to connect to, it’s a very technical, back-end type discussion.

And often in all that discussion, there’s a sense that when this is all connected, something will happen. But there’s not real clarity around what is going to happen. And what’s been interesting to me over many, many years in my career, is that this is the typical motion. And it’s amazing how often we don’t actually prototype the type of experience we really want to land with our customers.

I don’t know why. I think it might be because there’s a lot of alternatives. Like I could click here, I could click here, I could click there, right? So, it’s almost overwhelming in the number of choices and so we choose nothing. Or it might be, what tool do we use to do that? There’s not really a tool. There’s that sort of issue. Or maybe there’s something around, hey, that’s just not the mindset. Because the mindset is this seems to be an IT project.

I’m going to push against that gently and forcefully today, and talk a little bit about experience flows, something we called broken flows at Microsoft. And something that we’re doing at Sprinklr in experience selling, which I’m super excited about. And we’ve got some incredible people in the company doing some really great work.

Let me go back to a little bit of a story, it’s a fun story. I feel like I’m not really telling tales out of school anymore, because this is from a pretty long time ago. It would be the launch of Windows 8, which was in 2012. So, October 2012. It was a “bet the company” move by the executive leadership team. And it worked out actually amazingly well, but not necessarily in the way we all expected it to work out.

Windows 8 was a bit different from previous operating systems because it used an app framework, Steve Sinofsky was the head of Windows at the time. And it allowed you to basically have a tablet form factor on your PC, or a PC form factor. And I loved Windows 8, just for the record. That’s much maligned. But I love the idea that the OS was off the edges of the computer screen. We did produce a really nice frame that showed where all the OS functions were. And I think if we had delivered more of those, it would have made a big difference. But I loved the idea that there’s essentially an extra set of interfaces that were in the invisible air around the machine. Most people hated that. I was definitely in the minority on that. But it was pretty neat. I loved the swiping motions, I thought the initial UI of Windows 8 was gorgeous, almost poetic using it. So that’s kind of perspective on Windows 8. Nonetheless, it was a total failure.

And part of the challenge was to get people to build apps for it. And if you didn’t have the apps, it was really hard to get customers to buy it and use it. Because if you couldn’t use your bank app, you’re not going to buy that. This is also one of the major problems for the Windows Phone. Ultimately none of the banks built apps for it. And if you couldn’t at least check your banking balance on your phone, what good is it? So, we had to build apps.

Now, when Windows 8 was coming out, I thought, hmm, I’d kinda like to be one of the first developers to have an app on the Windows 8 machine, right? Now I had at the time a little side hustle called Site Shuffle. Which was a bookmarking site for websites. It’s kind of a fun little launchpad for websites and for favorites. And it was no revenue. It was like, literally, for fun and for experimentation. I used all my Apollo space pictures to do the site. And I had a really, really fun time building it. And it was pure amusement value. But I thought Site Shuffle would be well suited to a Windows 8 app. And I thought, why don’t I get a Windows 8 Site Shuffle app built? And then be one of the very first apps in the Windows 8 app store? Wouldn’t that be cool? Wouldn’t that be fun? Hey, wouldn’t that be a nice way to support the company and the place where I was working?

So, that’s what I did. And it was not a very complicated build. The swipe controls were really well suited to what Sight Shuffle was trying to do. It was actually almost a better app in the Windows 8 swipe context than it was in the desktop context of Windows 9. Or excuse me, in the context of windows 7, People sometimes ask what happened to Windows 9, because we went from 8 to 10, right. And they say that 7, 8, 9.

Anyway, so I am totally geeking out on Windows 8 right now. I have not talked about Windows 8 in so long. I have this giant grin on my face right now just remembering. It was a fun, crazy time in the company. I miss those days.

Anyway, so coming back to this, I got the thing built, it was great. And then I proceeded to put it into the Windows 8 App Store. And it was a free app. So, it didn’t cost anything to download. And it was rejected. And the first reason was some kind of privacy thing. And then I put it back in again. And then it was rejected. And it was some other issue. And then I put it back in, and it was rejected. And, and then it got lost. And then over the course of several months, my fun little idea, just like… you know, Christmas Vacation, when he can’t get all the lights to work on the house, but he’s gonna make the Santa light up, with the little reindeer. Just something simple, something beautiful. That doesn’t work either. The same idea, I just wanted my little free app. I’m not trying to make any money on it, never made any money on it, never charged for it. Just wanted my little thing to work and be a beautiful little example of Windows 8 swipe controls.

Well, at some point, I went from that wonderful sentiment to red hot rage at how difficult this was to get this thing — and it was just a simple app — to get this thing into the store. I was talking to my manager, the legendary Allison Watson. And I was just venting. I think it was probably a Friday night. And we’re probably in one of our many Friday night drinking sessions as a team. And I was just waxing eloquent about how ridiculous this was. And Allison said, Well, you know, maybe you could detail that for us. Because if you’re having trouble getting it into the store, maybe everybody else.

And I thought to myself, Oh my god, she’s right. If as a Microsoft employee, with a free app, if I couldn’t get that thing listed, what nightmares are the other developers out there going through to try to make it happen?

So that was the birth of the first broken flow. And what we did is we actually detailed the process… and there’s typically breakdowns between marketing pass-off to an engineering function. So, there’d be sign ins that would be run by engineering, and there’d be marketing flows. And that juncture point was typically where things would break and not work well. And it ended up turning into a whole discipline around broken flows.

We did dozens and dozens, maybe potentially even a hundred of different broken flows over time, showing how we can optimize different parts of the company, different trial flows. It was an amazing exercise. I ended up having a whole little tiny department, inside the marketing organization devoted to broken flows. We had the agencies working on it. And what it did teach me is it taught me the value of experience flows, showing how people experience an application, or experience some kind of operating system or whatever.

And so, here I am a Sprinklr. And we’re talking to all these customers who are looking at transforming the way that they interact with their customers. And then we end up in these discussions with marketecture diagrams, and, middle layers, and data layers, and all these connected this and connected that, and APIs. And they all look like engineering diagrams. And I realized we’re going about this the wrong way.

And so, as I started working across the company, there are some of the people in the company, mostly in our Solutions Group, who have actually started making flows that show what the consumer does. I’ll give you a quick example. There’s a really nice one done the other day for one of the large banks in the UK. And basically, they profile the person. A 29-year-old software engineer was looking for a new flat. Aware of the bank, sends out a tweet saying, Hey, I’m buying my first flat, do you know any good mortgages. Gets replies from people. And then the bank itself weighs in.

And then it goes through a process of the bank engaging with her in a conversational commerce flow in order to help her connect to a mortgage, find a mortgage, buy a mortgage, get her flat, make her a fan, bring her into the community, allow her to be an advocate for the brand, and have ongoing interactions. And this whole flow uses AI, uses bots, uses conversational commerce, uses engagement, uses customer care, it’s both mobile and desktop. I mean, it uses all the parts of the Sprinklr Buffalo, right? Like the whole Dakota buffalo sort of philosophy, every single part of it’s in there.

But what’s beautiful about this is that artifact that the team created, and this is Will Eves that created this, by the way. Shout out to Will. What will did is he created an artifact where the people in the bank could actually go to each other and say, Is this the kind of customer experience that we want to land? Is this something that we want to have happen to our customers and for our customers? And how would it feel if we did that?

What it does is it enables people to imagine what a new experience would be like. We call this experience selling. And if you work with Sprinklr you’re going to see a lot more experience selling in the future. There are multiple examples of it already. But what you’ll see us do is show up, not with a bunch of speeds and feeds, and back end, you know, this is what the veeblefeester needs to be connected to the geewitzer. But it’s going to be much more about What experience do you want to land with your customers. And then based on that, we’ll talk about what needs to happen in order to make that a reality. All that technical stuff is superduper important, but it needs to come after the experience that you’re benchmarking against.

So, experience selling. If you’re not doing it right now, look into it. Look into thinking about prototyping experiences as a way of aligning your organization around the type of experiences you want your customers to have. That’s all for today on this, but we will be talking about this a lot more in the future. This is a pretty important part of what we want to do at the CXM Experience. So, stay tuned, somewhere in between potato salad recipes I’ll be slipping in more of these as well.

And that’s it for today. So for the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn CXO at Sprinklr, and I’ll see you next time.

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