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The most successful companies start by improving one customer journey at a time – Interview with Don Schuerman

Adrian Swinscoe | Jun 19, 2017 77 views No Comments

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One at a time

Today’s interview is with Don Schuerman, CTO and Vice President of Product Marketing at Pegasystems. I had a chance to sit down and chat with Don when I met up with him at Pegaworld earlier this month. We talk about what companies, in the midst of the customer experience maelstrom, should be doing more of and what they should be doing less of, the balance of the human touch and technology in customer experience as well as the emerging ethical dimension within customer experience. This is the first of three interviews that I conducted at Pegaworld so look out for the other two coming up in the next few weeks.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Purpose and why it is important to employees and customers – Interview with Stan Phelps – and is number 220 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Don:

  • Don started work at Pega working in the support organization before working in the engineering group as a programmer. However, he found a real home in Pega’s presales team, where he got to do great things with technology but also evangelize the power of Pega to key stakeholders.
  • Companies have been most successful in the customer engagement space when they pick a journey and they attack it.
  • Too many companies get caught up in analysis paralysis.
  • Approaching it like this gets them going into a more action, piloting and learning way of being and delivers more meaningful and faster customer and business outcomes.
  • He cites Sprint’s experience of doing just that where they focused on solving the question: How do we retain our customers more effectively?
  • He goes on to cite Cisco’s experience of focusing on how to make order fulfillment simpler and easier for both customers and the organisation.
  • To help pick a journey, Don suggests that companies do best when they first pick an outcome that they would like to improve i.e. churn.
  • The great thing about starting with an outcome is that it straight away isn’t about the tech but becomes about something that is instantly measurable.
  • For example, OCBC in Singapore picked the outcome of on boarding customers more effectively when they wander into a branch to set up an account. They picked that outcome by doing just enough analysis to make a reasonable guess that that is an outcome that they can reasonably and quickly improve.
  • Organisations is this ‘agile’ model need to be willing to get it mostly right.
  • The sheer act of implementing something to solve that problem will probably teach me the other things that I need to know.
  • A UK financial service organisation was going through an agile service transformation process and had hired a data and analytics team to collect data, analyse it and identify the top ten customer problems from it. However, while they were doing their work, one bright spark took 8-10 contact centre agents and fed them tea, coffee and doughnuts and in 30 minutes the agents were able to identify what they considered to be the top 10 customer problems. Six weeks later the data team returned only to confirm that the agents were 80% right.
  • Therefore, the question has to be: are you willing to wait 6 weeks and spend 100s of hours and 1000s of pounds to get things 100% right or are you happy to get started in 30 mins on the basis of being 80% correct.
  • Don goes further and suggests that some of those agents should be co-opted onto the improvement project team.
  • The technology isn’t going to go back in Pandora’s box and when people complain about a lack of human touch in customer experience there is a risk that they are harking back to a bygone time that we are not going to go back to.
  • Therefore, the opportunity for technology in this respect is how can we use technology in such a way that no matter who in a business a customer might be talking to that person is armed with what they need to engage that customer as an individual.
  • This is a strategy that Royal Bank of Scotland is pursuing as they endeavour to deliver a ’1970s level of service to their clients’ that is enabled by Pega’s Next Best Action technology.
  • Companies need to understand that digital channels are a compliment to their existing channels and not a replacement.
  • On the ethical dimension of customer experience i.e regarding data, privacy, security, personalisation and the use of tools like behavioural science and behavioural design, Don believes that companies need to consider 3 pillars:
    • 1. Transparency – companies need to be upfront about how and when different types of technology are being used, whether that is AI, a chatbot or an intelligent assistant etc, or when and why they are recommending something. If companies are transparent then it eliminates a large chunk of the ethical conundrum.
    • 2. Governance – data driven analytics and decision making should never be run outside of the context of a human gated governance. For example, look at Microsoft’s experience with their AI powered bot that was on Twitter that created uproar with some of its comments. Therefore, there has to be a place for the business to put their judgement into decision making.
    • 3. It Has To Be Good – everything you do needs to endeavour to make the customer experience better, customers lives easier and/or simpler.

About Don (taken and adapted from his bio on CMSWire)

Don Schuerman is CTO and Vice President of Product Marketing at Pegasystems, responsible for Pega’s industry-leading platform and CRM and marketing applications. He has 20 years of experience delivering enterprise software solutions for Fortune 500 organizations, with a focus on digital transformation, mobility, analytics, business process management, cloud and CRM.

Don has led enterprise software implementations and provided technology and architecture consulting to senior business and technology executives from Fortune 500 organizations including American Express, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase and BP.



Don holds a BS in Physics and Philosophy from Boston College.

Check out Pega (https://www.pega.com/) and their client success stories, say Hi to Pega and Don on Twitter @pega and @donpega and connect with Don on LinkedIn here.

Thanks to Ali for the image.

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