The customer experience challenge met: KANA responds

Vendors have jumped on the customer experience board big time and I think they need to be challenged to prove that they should legitimately carry the concept, beyond hype. So I've asked a number of the most egregious at that to explain themselves.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

PG Note: KANA has been a company that from the getgo, to their credit, has been at least focused on the idea of providing software to enable the service experience. Their leap to customer experience is a bit less of a stretch than some of the others both on this list and off.  James Norwood, KANA's CMO, rather eloquently, does a good job of explaining why now "customer experience" rather than "service experience" here. What's nice is that the question I asked, how do you justify your change, is directly answered.

Take it away James.


It’s perhaps worth noting the prescience to be found within your own Pgreenblog in a post from around this time last year. Under the sub-heading of “An optimal customer experience becomes the core of what CRM can provide. Finally” you wrote “In 2011, we saw a significant shift away from the pure left-brained messaging of CRM toward a much stronger focus on customer interactions, engagement and behaviors. Traditional CRM vendors for reasons that are both good and bad began to rebrand their messaging around the idea of technologies that can support an enhanced customer experience. The good reason is that they needed to do that and they did.” Yes, and the trend as you now point out continues (and until now unchallenged).

Of course software vendors will always market to the zeitgeist, just as industry analysts and media will always flock around the latest “next big thing” whether that’s the cloud or Big Data, or whatever the next big thing is. If ever there was one industry that does this to death (and almost certainly to the detriment of their customers understanding) then it’s ours – the software industry – after all, we do so love our three letter acronyms (CRM, CEM, CXM, ERP, EFM, etc). One only has to recall the heady days of the dotcom boom to remember how everyone began adding a lower case “e” to the front of absolutely everything. Overnight we all became “eBusiness” vendors, and remarkably there are still some out there who persist with the e prefix.

However, the term du jour is now “customer experience,” and a simple search on Twitter will show just how often it’s used by all of us in relation to our interactions with business and government. It’s definitely trending. Everything is now about the “experiential,” the experience is now more important than the product or service. Customer experience and customer experience management is of course far bigger than just software vendor positioning, it’s taken on cloud-like proportions and I would suggest that by the end of 2013 we’ll all be as tired of it as we will be of PSY’s Gangnam Style by next month…       

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that you are right to call to the carpet such vendors, and when I read your initial blog I thought to myself, “We’re going to get called on that,” since we certainly claim a focus on the customer experience, and we do so today following a significant reduction of our prior focus. So let me explain KANA Software’s position.

We made a very conscious decision to move away from our Service Experience Management (SEM) positioning to Customer Experience Management; even to the point of renaming our product from KANA SEM to KANA Enterprise (we also have KANA Express our SaaS version for the midmarket). In fact, almost all references to SEM have now been removed. It was not easy but it was right (and it had nothing to do with SEM been confused with search engine marketing).

Why did we do this? There were several reasons but the main one was the realization based upon ongoing discussions with and listening to our customers that in today’s business world, everyone serves.

We’re not suggesting that service is the “new black” but clearly there has been an explicit shift of power from the corporation to the customer, aided and abetted by social, and therefore the service ethos underpinning the customer’s whole journey and not just the traditional post sale.

Everyone serves, and KANA has been using some Tom Fishburne cartoons to help deliver our message, under the title of Service in Balance and here is one I think helps explain this well:



Of course corporate marketing teams (the folk who dream up the positioning) tend to live at head office, I certainly do, and as far away from the reality of customer service as it’s possible to be. Perhaps that’s why when you Google, Yahoo! or Bing on the term “Customer Service” the marketing images you tend to get back are of, let’s be honest here, young Caucasian women with headsets in white rooms with even whiter teeth and bright smiles, when of course we all know that the more common reality is if not perhaps Peggy from the Discover card commercials then something clearly in between. 

Customer service is more important to marketing strategy today than ever before and businesses that don’t get that and don’t bring their marketing and service teams together are fighting a losing battle – because everyone serves. Everyone serves, and the right customer experience model must engage the entire business and customer ecosystem. An example that Forrester uses for this is that online or eBusiness (there’s that dotcom term again) teams that drive web self-service design can’t (successfully) do it in a vacuum removed from other touch points such as the contact center… customers who come close to executing a purchase on the Web can be supported by a contact center agent via proactive live web chat to complete it. This theme was also picked up by Jeff Nolan of Get Satisfaction in his guest blog. Service plays a part everywhere. 

KANA’s ability to succeed and prosper with our end-to-end customer service solutions means we have to help our customers affect that vision. We can’t just focus on the contact center, on-line self-service or in fact on customer service alone. Instead, we may be a customer service company but KANA is working to forge closer cooperation between marketing, sales and service as part of a holistic customer experience management agenda with our unifying and underlying supporting technologies.

And so our mission today transcends the limitation of service experience management and embraces what our customers really care about, and that’s their customers experience with their brand and its promise.

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