Understanding Customer Experience Management and Where It's Heading

Having just finished attending the Clarabridge C3 (Clarabridge Customer Connections) event in San Diego, it’s clear that the Customer Experience Management (CEM) space is continuing to grow, mature, and settle into the fibers of Fortune 1000 companies. The C3 event is the longest-running conference focused purely on Customer Experience Management. I’ve had the opportunity to attend all five of them to date, but this year’s event was the biggest, and the best one yet! With over 400 attendees from the largest companies in the world, such as Walmart, GE, Verizon, Dell, Amazon, Marriott, United Airlines, State Farm, and USAA, this event focused on existing Clarabridge customers, as well as industry thought leaders who shared what they are doing, and how they are doing it, to drive increased success within their organizations.

For those new to CEM and Text/Sentiment Analytics, it is important to understand that the proliferation of social media and mobile devices now allows customers to speak their minds whenever, and wherever they want. The volume in which this happens can be overwhelming for any company to understand. With true “Brand Loyalty” facing a slow and painful death, organizations are now forced to listen and make sense of all the solicited, unsolicited, internal, and external sources that contain information from their customers. Why? Because if they do not listen, their competitors will, and the cost to acquire a new customer is significantly higher than maintaining existing customers. While the conference focused on all things CEM-related, I’ve broken down the key take-aways into three areas that resonated most with me, as someone who has been deeply involved in this space for the last seven years. These three areas include Current State, Future Trends, and Technology Advancement.

Current State

There is clear evidence that organizations who are truly focused on CEM are seeing significant positive changes in customer loyalty, satisfaction, and overall revenue, compared to their competitors. Daymond John, Founder of FUBU and star of the TV show Shark Tank, served as the Keynote Speaker this year. Mr. John kicked off the conference by sharing his own experience in starting from nothing in a poor urban section of New York, to building a global urban brand in FUBU. He credits his success to never forgetting to stand up for, and deliver, your products to your customers. Not the way you want them to have it, or think they should have it, but rather, the way the customer wants the product. Customer experience is something you must focus on and build into your overall corporate DNA in order to be truly successful.

Following Mr. John’s keynote, leading company executives shared their honest struggles to get their organizations to change the way they look at customer data, and leverage it in everyday decision-making. The biggest most common challenge is getting one's organization to properly fund Customer Experience Groups, in order to allow them to properly service the needs of the organization through customer feedback. Most internal CEM groups are limited to only a handful of resources; the good news is that it’s quickly growing. By continuing to prove the value of CRM to one's organization through analysis and results of the data, the purse strings slowly loosen and the value/results migrate into all facets of the organization. The real key is persistence in knowing that you will never fail when doing the right thing for your customers.

Future Trends

While many individuals shared their thoughts on the future of CEM, I continued to be drawn to the vision from Bruce Temkin, former Forrester Analyst and founder of The Temkin Group. I have highlighted some of the trends that Bruce shared in his session, with a description of what they mean within an organization. Organizations need to transition from “Tracking” Metrics within an organization to “Improving” business processes in an ongoing fashion based on CEM data. Today, most organizations are overly focused on creating and tracking NPS (Net Promoter Score), satisfaction, or some other metric, rather than improving the business processes necessary to rectify the problems causing the metrics to be out of the desired state.

  • Transition from “Analyzing” information based on statistical events, to “Operationalizing”: This transition will increase the value of the data by having the right information, sent to the right people, at the right time. The good news is that people are paying attention to customer data, and spending time required to mine it, understand it, and find the root cause of issues. However, there is untapped opportunity in pushing this data into the fibers of how the business operates, so that what’s important to each stakeholder in the organization is known, and the data that can assist/guide them is pushed to them when needed.
  • Transition from “Sampling” to “Projecting”: Many organizations are sampling data from their customers to understand what it is that they are saying. The future will be based on taking existing information to better predict and forecast how certain actions and decisions will be received by all customers. This is also known as intelligent modeling.
  • Transition from “Responding” to “Anticipating”: Today, organizations are focused on understanding what went wrong, and then trying to fix it. The future will be more focused on anticipating the needs of the customer throughout the entire lifecycle, and proactively putting processes and tools in place to avoid any pitfalls for the customer throughout that experience.
  • Transition from “Controlling” to “Engaging”: Manyorganizations define a set of plans based on a periodic review of insights. The future will be more focused on enabling distributed content and distributed decision-making based on getting the right info into the right hands throughout the organization.

Let's face it - the current state of CEM is still a major leap forward for more than 80% of organizations today. Only those that have been ingrained in CEM and Text/Sentiment Analytics for years are truly ready to move forward to the future state. We must remember that one always needs to learn to walk, before they can run. That said, I agree with these future state trends. They will continue to push vendors and solution providers to utilize more powerful tools that are better suited to address the business needs of an organization.

The final focus area of the conference focused on the technology improvements that Clarabridge rolled out, and plans to continue rolling out over the next year. Clarabridge’s new v6.0 release has added powerful collaboration and engagement features that allow information to be assigned to specific internal business owners, automatically or manually based on category, for analysis and action. There are also new features to push analytics and triggered alerts to business owners, based on statistical changes, volume thresholds, and within the system itself, reducing the need for a more powerful BI tool. Once the data is in the hands of the proper business owner, the users can also engage with the customer directly if the customer’s comments originated in the social space. It appears that the focus is on not just providing the technology to turn unstructured data to structured data, but also to ensure the right information can be passed to the right people.

Measurements and tracking systems are also in place to ensure tasks are fully completed. Clarabridge plans to continue investing in language support to reach even more than the 80% of spoken language that is already covered. They also plan to make improvements to their Sentiment and Text Analytics engine by loading new dictionaries, updating sentiment rules, and allowing sentiment to be tuned based on specific attributes at all levels, not just at the project level. This is a powerful addition for many customers, who were excited to hear about its planned arrival. Text/Sentiment Analytics has rooted itself into how Customer Experience Management is run within organizations today. The space continues to prove value, deliver ROI, and mature at an accelerated pace. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the customers are able to accomplish in the next 12 months, and the new innovations Clarabridge will continue to bring to the table!

Dave Marko