​Digital impact: Marketing, CRM, and customer experience

A digital CMO offers practical advice for transforming business to build stronger customer relationships.

The ongoing shift to digital as a predominant means for consumers to interact with sellers has significant implications for marketing, product design, customer service and other corporate functions.

In this environment, providing a great experience for customers requires organizations to think holistically about every touchpoint and interaction with customers. However, using customer experience as a reference point is difficult, because it forces the company to think and act across departmental boundaries.

When a customer calls for order status, for example, they expect a quick answer and do not want to be routed to three different departments because of limitations in systems or processes.

I discussed these issues during an insightful CXOTalk conversation with Robert Tas, Chief Marketing Officer of Pegasystems, which makes software for sales, marketing, service, and operations.

During our talk, Robert explains the impact of digital on customer experience and the role of culture and mindset in driving organizational change. Most importantly, he describes how companies can learn to adopt a holistic view of the digital customer.

You can read a complete transcript and watch the video below.

Here is an edited summary of key points from our conversation:

How do customer experience and digital transformation intersect?

Marketing is starting to touch areas like the call center, product design, and fulfillment. Organizations that understand this can drive customer-centricity into their companies. That's how brands are being redefined.

It's not just one guy's job to be the customer experience. You can't have silos of data in the organization. You need one view, one set of truths on what the customer tells you with their behavior or, even more prescriptively, in their voice or actions. There has to be one lexicon of the customer across sales, service, marketing, product and so forth.

Micro-moments define our experiences. Everybody in the organization must work diligently to make those micro-moments frictionless.

Robert Tas, CMO, Pegasystems (image courtesy cxotalk.com)
Robert Tas, CMO, Pegasystems (image courtesy cxotalk.com)

Customer satisfaction happens when an experience isn't right, but you make it right. Those micro-moments give us the opportunity to transform our brand and the customer relationship. We live in an imperfect world; we know things aren't going to go perfectly. What matters is how we respond to that.

Great brands respond, change, and learn. They take information and feedback to adapt their businesses and improve.

Who should own digital transformation?

There must be a CEO-level mandate to change how the organization thinks.

You cannot implement a product-centric culture and hope the rest of the organization does it right. Compensation structures have to change; the way you measure people's performance has to change. It's far more integrated than ever before.

We've all seen companies where the website is disconnected from the retail store. That's not okay anymore; it doesn't work. You've got to reimagine the entire structure from the customer's perspective.

Everyone in the organization has to be digital. The world is digital. It's no longer this little thing on the side where we have our website as a brochure. The website is a major channel, like retail, and can no longer be treated as less important.

Every facet of a business has to be reimagined -- legal, risk, compliance, product -- all are accountable for creating the digital experience. It's hugely omnichannel, and nobody gets a pass on this.

Ultimately, this is an organizational choice, a decision to reimagine the business at scale. That's why I'm passionate that digital is a CEO-level mandate.

What about CRM today?

CRM has not lived up to the promise of what it should have been.

Connecting the customer from the front office to the back office takes CRM to a whole new level. Having a single 360-degree view of the customer is paramount to delivering CRM effectively because more people inside the company touch the customer. The data in that 360-degree view is not just a transaction.

CRM became a silo of the customer record but never became the place where all customer data is stored. Companies now realize they need this central repository to help optimize customer experience.

It's about connecting data, people, process across the entire customer journey. It's important to take those pieces and connect the natural workflow, business rules associated with the entire customer interaction. In those micro-moments, the customer shows where they engage, how they engage, how their time is spent. You've got to connect the processes to enable change based on that.

Create a loop and ask, "What else are we doing to touch this customer. We're selling them but should not give him an ad when he's dissatisfied." Break the journey into components and learn how to understand [customer behavior] and how to create an organization that can leverage it.

What are the steps to create a customer-focused digital marketing capability?

First, create a culture that places the customer at the center of the business. The customer should drive every decision around our strategy, around our operation, and be our true north. That's a big, big statement, just so we're clear.

Everybody says we're going to be customer centric, and we're going to do this, but there's real hesitancy to making that decision. You'll have to make hard choices: things are not going to be popular, they're going to cost money. It's a big decision to put customers in the center.

Second, bring in experts in the different pieces that can influence the whole customer experience. Digital, mobile, analytics and content skills are important to the team.

Bring in and infuse that expertise to create a collaborative culture. Each team member across all functional areas need to learn some of these digital native skillsets.

Third, hold yourself accountable to the customer. Customer actions show what they like or don't like. By the way, ask them; they'll tell you, they want to give you feedback. They want to be a part of the process and make their experience better.

Pegasystems is a CXOTalk partner.