When preaching the gospel of customer experience management, it helps if a CEO has transformed his own company as Mark Lancaster has changed SDL.
Lancaster opened his company's conference in San Francisco today -- the third in a series of five global events -- with a sermon on the importance of analyzing data to better understand and serve customers.
He began by noting he led SDL's own "reinvention" in that area last year, building a company that now competes with a suite of products in analytics, social, documentation, campaign management, e-commerce, web, mobile and other areas.
"We have the ability to store -- and build on -- information on every single individual," he told the crowd of about 750 attendees, more than half of whom already use SDL products. Companies that fail to develop deep analytical abilities "are really going to struggle in the future."
How important is customer experience management (CXM)? According to Forrester data Lancaster cited, publicly traded companies that are considered leaders in CXM practices saw a 22.5 percent increase in their stock valuation over a five-year period, while laggards saw a decline of 46.3 percent.
The "cost of getting it wrong" can be even higher. He noted 89 percent of customers simply abandon a product after a bad customer experience. Half give their vendors only one week to satisfy a question before turning to a competitor. And 13 percent of dissatisfied customers share their negative opinions with at least 20 people.
Getting it right, however, can be tricky. Lancaster explained that when you check into a hotel, you normally get a generic greeting. He said if a hotel understood him better, the staff might delight him with a free pass to a flower show -- because he likes flowers. Another guest might be thrilled with information about a tailor who can make a new suit. Each guest is different, but knowing something about each is now possible.
Watching Markets Grow
Video can help. Lancaster noted 75 billion videos were watched last year and the number is growing. Video is especially important because it can convey 10 times the information as other formats. And people were watching video ads 30 percent more in the fourth quarter of 2013 than they did a year earlier. But the real trick there, Lancaster said, is to integrate those videos into websites and mobile devices and anywhere else customers might want to view them.
Social media is also critical, he said, noting that close to 4 percent of e-commerce conversions stem from social. Still, he said, "nobody has got it right" yet. Tools from SDL and other vendors are getting better at connecting the comments from social media with the identities of the actual poster.
Ensuring consistency of information across channels enhances the customer experience. Why? Because the viewer expects a company to make the same offers on the phone as it does on the web. There are many devices to consider, Lancaster noted. "There's stuff that's touching us all the time," he said.
Customers are in Control
"We are not in control of our destinies," Lancaster said. "Our customers are in control of our destinies."
Of course, getting the C-suite to support an investment in CXM can be an uphill climb. "If customer experience [management] is going to be successful, then entire exec team has to drive customer experience. Every member of the exec team is in marketing."
Convincing those executives to get on board the CXM train may be getting easier. Lancaster noted that a Gartner survey recently showed that 34 percent of CEOs planned to make a major investment in CXM this year -- second only to a 38 percent investment in digital marketing. That put CXM ahead of other top categories, including cloud technologies (27 percent) and analytics (32).
"A year ago," Lancaster said, "customer experience wasn't even on this list."