Business needs to be agile and customer centric if it is to avoid the coming customerpocalypse – Interview with Alan Trefler, CEO of Pegasystems


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Today’s interview is with Alan Trefler, who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pegasystems, the publicly traded American software company which has several products that focus on customer service and predictive analytics. Alan joins me today to talk about his new book: Build For Change, which argues for a complete overhaul of how businesses think about and use technology to create customer-centric organizations.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Successful innovation doesn’t have to involve a massive breakthrough in technology – Interview with Adrian Collins of bac< and Ziggurat Brands – and is number 117 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Build For ChangeHighlights of my interview with Alan:

  • Alan describes himself as a recovering software architect.
  • Whilst we may be familiar with the idea of Gen X and Gen Y, in the book Alan introduces a couple of other variations: Gen C and Gen D that he believes that companies need to be aware of, and adapt to, if they are to thrive in the future.
  • Gen C, sometimes known as millenials, are the always connected generation and they, generally, form strong judgements about the companies that they do business with but, in many ways, are much more forgiving as they have a different set of expectations. They expect to be advertised to, they expect service to be ‘so-so’ and when things go wrong they tend to be more passive aggressive than anything else.
  • Now, Gen D is emerging, where the D can stand for a number of things including Discovery. This generation doesn’t want to be sold to, they want to discover things and they want to feel that they are in control.
  • However, the D has other manifestations too.
  • For example, if they find a brand that they like then they will ‘Devour’ it, applaud it and share it with all of their friends and family.
  • On flip side, however, if they have a bad experience with a brand they can ‘Demonise’ that firm and may go so far as to actively try and ‘Destroy’ that firm using the digital tools that they have.
  • This generation underpins a concept in the book that Alan talks about: the coming ‘customerpocalypse’.
  • Given the impact of Gen D and their different set of expectations, lack of patience and potential behaviour, many firms will struggle, Alan believes, if they don’t fundamentally change how they do business and serve their customers.
  • Alan cites the recent Comcast story as an example of this.
  • To adapt, companies need to start thinking end to end, that all experiences are joined up and that the experience is the same across all channels.
  • Experiences need to be organised, respectful and effective.
  • However, most companies have not thought through how they are going to get that end to end experience to work.
  • To accomplish that companies have to bring together three magic elements: the data about the customer, the judgement about how you want to engage with the customer and the process (the muscle) by which you can operationalise all of this.
  • There are two failures that stop firms adopting this new type of approach. One is a failure of organisational set up and culture and the other is a failure to understand and utilise technology to its full extent.
  • The best firms are bringing their technology and business teams together to work in a joined up way.
  • When asked where companies should start on all of this (people, process or technology), Alan believes that all elements should be handled contemporaneously. But, obviously, if you don’t have the right people then it won’t work.
  • Companies that don’t embrace the change and make the changes are in danger of getting ripped apart by the customerpocalypse.
  • It’s amazing how quickly firms can now move from positions of dominance or success (Nokia, Blackberry etc) to positions of destruction.
  • Even if you change then there is still no guarantee of success as the recent cases of Netflix and Lululemon demonstrate.
  • Only if you learn to look at your business differently will you be able to build a business that can deliver to Gen D and thrive in the future.
  • Do it well and you’ll not only improve customer engagement but you’ll also simplify the business and save money at the same time.
  • However, this requires a fundamental commitment to agility and customer centricity.
  • Earlier this year Forbes named Pegasystems one of America’s 100 most trustworthy companies.

About Alan (adapted from his Pegasystems bio)

Alan TreflerAlan Trefler is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pegasystems. He also serves as Chairman of the Pegasystems Board of Directors.

Alan’s recent book, Build for Change, describes a new generation of customers that have unprecedented power to make or break brands and the changes businesses must embrace to succeed in today’s digital world. A best-seller on 800-CEO-Read, the book has been reviewed and featured in national media outlets including Forbes,, Computer Weekly and 1to1Media.

Alan has consulted extensively in the use of advanced technologies and work automation. In addition, he has been named the inventor of five issued patents for Pegasystems’ distinctive Inherited Rule-Based Architecture, which provides the framework for Pegasystems’ solutions.

Alan’s interest in computers originates from collegiate involvement in tournament chess, where he achieved a Master rating and was co-champion of the 1975 World Open Chess Championship. His passion and support for chess and the game’s community and current champions continues to this day. Alan holds a degree with distinction in Economics and Computer Science from Dartmouth College.

You can grab a copy of Alan’s book here, find out more about Pega here and say Hi to them on Twitter @pega

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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