Last week I enjoyed spending some time at SDL’s annual customer conference, and wanted to share a few observations.
On the product side, the company continues to build out its platform. The most interesting one for me was enhancements to social analytics, which can be used to understand customer issues and actually place people on their journey. While this won’t replace traditional journey mapping anytime soon, it’s a great example of a trend I expect to grow tremendously: understanding customers through their digital behavior and unsolicited comments.
SDL also announced a rewrite of its machine translation technology, to improve the quality of multi-lingual translation. This is used to support social analytics.
From a chat with CEO Mark Lancaster, it’s clear that he wants SDL to be a major player in the coming digital platform wars, while also competing for excellence in point solutions when that’s what the customer wants to buy. I think he’s got the vision and passion to compete with the big tech companies like Adobe and Oracle. Not so sure about the capital.
In any case, while it’s critical to have a strong product, what I find most interesting is the customer-centric way that Lancaster views his job. He says it’s important to create a culture of delivering value to customers and genuinely caring about their success, not just doing a job for a paycheck or to please shareholders. The formula seems to be working. SDL is generally on the short list of large/complex enterprises looking for a digital experience platform.
Another thing that sets SDL apart in my view is its investment in research. CMO Page O’Neill presented highlights from a recent study which reinforced (for marketers) why customer service is a crucial part of the end-to-end experience. If you screw up, it’s hard to get customers back! This is the classic “leaky bucket” problem that causes some firms to over-invest in marketing to acquire new customers.
Christine Crandell of New Business Strategies (and a CustomerThink Advisor) kept it real in her keynote about outcomes and value, two things that winning companies must deliver above all else. It’s not just about having the right product, a competitive price or supporting the latest digital tech, smart companies will make sure that what they are delivering what truly makes a difference to the customer’s business.
SDL is positioned well to surf the wave of so-called “digital transformation.” I’m not a big fan of the term because all too often it’s used as a buzzword to sell basic automation. I agree with Lancaster’s comment in his keynote: “Very few companies have mastered how to engage digitally.”
Brad Heidemann, founder/CEO of consultancy Tahzoo, takes a strategic view of digital transformation. He says it should involve creating digital experiences that are easy and contextually relevant, something like what you’d expect visiting a Nordstrom store where he started his career.
Tahzoo is an up and coming player in what I expect will be a wave of larger service/consulting firms striving to help companies re-imagine and implement digital experience strategies. The firm recently acquired Netherlands-based digital agency HintTech as part of a global expansion, more than doubling the firm’s size.
A digitally transformed enterprise should, in my opinion, not just adopt and support mobile devices, web sites and other digital touchpoints, but bring them into an orchestrated set of touchpoints that include call centers, stores, and more. True transformation should dramatically change the customer value proposition. For more on this see Five Customer Experience Milestones on Your Journey to Digital Transformation
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