Identify the Right Technology to Support Your Customer Experience Programs

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Scott Brinker’s most recent Marketing Technology Landscape famously touts 5,381 different software solutions. Software choices are obviously growing, but this abundance of choice fuels confusion. This bewilderment is further fanned by aggressive marketing and an alphabet soup of technology acronyms. So which technology should you turn to improve your customer experience? Do you need a CCCM, a DMH, an EFM, or a CEM?

Perhaps dropping the acronyms and having an honest discussion would help.

The purpose of this blog is to outline the key differences across two big groups of technologies: campaign management systems and customer experience systems. Both systems:
– Are used to communicate to customers and prospects across multiple channels
– Have built-in reporting
– Can send trigger-based or calendar-based personalized communications
– Are dramatically enhanced by well-integrated customer data
– Are part of the marketing technology landscape.

Brinker conservatively places 219 companies into these two categories. (Conservative because companies often fulfill use cases in multiple categories, but Brinker usually limits companies to one category.) Despite the diversity of companies in each category, there are some common differences across campaign management and customer experience systems:

A little history…

Campaign management systems go by a wide variety of names including marketing automation, digital marketing hubs, and email marketing. This is an established category with a few companies, such as Unica and Selligent being founded over 25 years ago. Over time, several trends have added capabilities to the best systems, including cloud hosting, digital channel integration, and increasing advanced analytic capabilities. But the information listed in the table above has been surprisingly steady.

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Customer experience systems are more actively evolving. These systems often go by the name customer experience management (CEM) or enterprise feedback management (EFM). Several vendors, such as Confirmit and Survey Monkey, started as online survey tools. Others, such as SatMetrix or Clarabridge, were historically focused on collecting and reporting survey feedback using a specific methodology (NPS and text analytics respectively). But with customer empowerment dramatically increasing over the last five to seven years, many of these vendors have refocused their efforts on helping organizations take actions that can improve the customer experience.

What’s the better system for customer experience programs?

Honestly, it depends on your current and desired customer experience programs. If customer experience at your organization means sending a daily email to all your customers touting a segmented offer, you want a campaign management system. If, however, customer experience means a process of collecting customer feedback and disseminating it across the organization for follow up, you want a customer experience system. You likely have multiple use cases, so how do you decide?

First, it helps to identify those use cases where customer experience systems excel. Based on discussions with customers and prospects, there are several key use cases where campaign management systems struggle. Those include:
1. Ability to present a useful multi-dimensional customer view to front-line employees. Employees can make better decisions and personalize interactions if they know who they are talking to. But while the needed information must be intuitively presented, it often resides in multiple systems.
2. Federating feedback across the organization. To be customer obsessed, you need a customer portal that displays feedback but also incorporates that data with other customer information. This requires the smart presentation of unstructured data (e.g., survey comments or call transcripts), in addition to the more common structured data. It also requires simple filters so employees can focus on the location, channel, or touchpoint they most influence.
3. Personalize surveys based on touchpoint-specific data. Many customer experience programs are enriched through short surveys about a customer’s recent interaction with a brand. Did you receive a survey after your last flight or hotel stay? Then you know what these transactional surveys are. For organizations to get full value from these surveys, it is essential that they are linked to other operational data and other customer-specific behavioral metrics.
4. Strong support for one or more “close the loop” campaigns. If you are collecting a lot of transactional surveys, you will want to follow up with responding customers for multiple reasons across many channels. From an email that thanks a customer for his or her response, to a manager’s apologetic follow up on a missed expectation, to a call asking for more information about an issue raised in a survey, brands need to follow up in different ways based on the feedback provided.

It’s not surprising that campaign management systems struggle with the use cases above. The challenge stems from their historical focus. To summarize:

We are new to this, should we hold off on our investment until we have the pieces in place?

The adage of “Platform, People, and Process; you need all three” is certainly true for customer experience systems. But there is another adage that is even more important for many organizations, “It all starts with the data.” The first step for many organizations is to collect customer feedback. Having feedback directly tied to customer data helps you easily build business cases to justify investments. (See our CX Money Map here that summarizes business case opportunities.)

The good news is our previous research has shown that the details of your customer experience metric is not as critical as some “experts” would have you believe. In addition, several offerings, including Centriam CX, can be bundled with launch services to get you going quickly. So you can get your CX system up and running and collecting data relatively easily, to give you time to work on people and process plans. Most importantly, it will mean you are collecting the data you need to build an iron-clad business case. Plus, as SaaS licensing is becoming more common, you now have access to enterprise-grade customer experience solutions that only require a 12-month commitment. For these reasons, I am generally bullish on investing in a customer experience platform and setting up a customer experience program.

Please disagree with me.

Defining technology categories as I have done in this blog can be highly controversial. While I have sat through hundreds of demos as an industry analyst, there are still many software systems I have not seen live. Now that I work on the software side, I often want industry experts to view “my” products differently. But in my experience, disagreements help both sides learn. If you disagree with my groupings or can add additions distinguishing functions, I welcome your comments below. Thanks!

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