Thumbnail image for 2014-12-September-Petersen-Person-Nash.jpg

As marketing shifts from campaigns and brand-building to analytics and cross-channel personalization, there's growing importance in understanding and shaping each customer's experience.

There are more than 1,000 technology vendors happy to sell products and services that promise to help, but ultimately all marketers must adopt their own plans to make the most of those technologies. And that can be the hardest part.

Lars Birkholm Petersen, Ron Person and Christopher Nash (shown L to R) have been working on this problem for years at Sitecore, where they consult with customers on how to make the most of the company's customer experience platform. Now they've shared their thinking in a book: "Connect: How to Use Data and Experience Marketing to Create Lifetime Customers." The book will go on sale Monday. 

A Roadmap for the CX Journey

Although the book blends with their company's philosophy, it is also platform agnostic. "It's not like we talk about Sitecore, Sitecore, Sitecore," said Petersen, who explained the team's findings are based on interviews with 1,094 organizations around the world. The heart of the book is a customer experience maturity model they developed, a roadmap for a years-long journey in organizational transformation.

The trio offered a quick overview during a Sitecore Symposium session, which was the topic of a CMSWire story by Ryan Bennett. We continued the conversation later in the day as the authors met with journalists.

CMSWire: This book closely parallels the structure for Sitecore, but there are questions I have about consumers in general. A lot of consumers are price sensitive or privacy sensitive, and may react poorly to this model. The EU is raising a lot of privacy concerns. I wonder if you could comment on some of those concerns.

Petersen: What we're trying to achieve in this model is being able to give the most relevant experience in every touchpoint. Of course, we want to use data to provide those experiences. There are studies that show consumers really would like to have relevant experiences, but there is also a fine line between providing a relevant experience and going beyond that to create a creepy experience. You remember  what Target did with the pregnant woman?  

You have the power because you have a lot of data, you have the capabilities to personalize. But it's also about transparency and using the data right, so that it's a useful experience for the consumer. By doing so, consumers will react to that, they will engage with that. We can see that with many of our customers who are doing that today. And the feedback they get is how well consumers convert into their different goals. For the most part, it's an amazing uplift in conversions.

CMSWire: As I understand it, this system can analyze the data to separate a price sensitive customer from a value shopper from someone who just wants good treatment and good customer support.

Petersen: There are different sets of data that can be leveraged. What is your profile? Are you spontaneous, methodical? Are you price sensitive? The more you understand that, the more we can react to it as an organization. So if you actually go to a Best Buy and we know you have our app and we have the IP so we know you're in the store, we could push some promotions that would be very relevant to you. If we know you're more price-sensitive, we can react to that and give you offers based on that. [Editor's note: Petersen used Best Buy as a hypothetical example.)

CMSWire: I noticed you put a lot of emphasis in the book on involving people within an organization. It seems to me having the technology is one thing, but getting people in an organization to adopt the technology, implement it and create work processes around it is really the harder part. How do you see the people part of that?

Person: I think I wrote that chapter. Before joining Sitecore, I spent about 15 years doing performance improvement from the strategic to the operational level. The people and the stakeholders are always the most difficult part of any process. It doesn't matter if it's IT or any other kind of project. It's not Web, it's not IT, it's not anything. It's always the people. I think it's chapter 5 where we talk about how you've got to get the people on board. You've got to get the stakeholders on board. You have to have a model for organization change. 

As it is, the Standish Group from Canada has about 30 years of data that shows IT projects have a 70 percent failure rate, and that's when things are going right. If you don't have executive buy-in, you will fail from the start. So you have to have that, and then there is an entire process to go through to get everybody on board. There are a couple of different OD -- organizational development -- models to use. I put the burning platform in there because that's a very common one: "We've got to change or we'll die!" And you can only do that so many times before people say, "meh."  And the other one is the trapeze: how do you support people as you go through change.  I think some combination, going half-way on that, helps the people go through.

And there has to be -- besides executive buy-in -- there has to be a vision, like [Sitecore CEO] Michael [Seifert] gave us. "No, we don't have those products right now, but that is the vision of where we're going to be." People can't be betrayed, either.

2014-27-August-Sitecore CXMM.jpg

CMSWire: In addition to executive buy-in, it seems to me there would also have to be buy-in at the very bottom of the pyramid, with every worker on board across the company. Is that right?

Person: Yes. And some of our chapters talk about the processes used to develop digital goals. You need cross-functional teams of experienced people who then go out and say, 'Here's why we did it that way.'  They can go out and start to spread the word. [This is true] when any kind of OD is made. I did one at Medtronic -- the heart valve company -- and we had about 150 people involved all the way from the director of operations down to the line foreman. We selected experience people at all levels to do the task flow and everything for a complete reorganization.

This is a change of thinking for marketers too, because they have to change how they're thinking. They can't be old newspaper marketers ... I'm adamant about this. There's a guy named Michael Porter who is a professor at Harvard. Michael Porter is the father of competitive strategies. He studied industries that go back to the 1890s. He studied railroads, large home appliances, jet airplanes and a couple of others. And in every one of these industries he found that when there was a major change in technologies, it was like when lakes do an entire flip and the bottom comes to the top. 

You end up with two or three winners at the top, a mass of mediocrity in the middle where everyone is cutting each others' throats, and then a few down there at the bottom...  We have just gone through that kind of change, we're right at the inflection point now and there are really only going to be three winners left -- IBM, Adobe and Sitecore. We are not a CMS/WCM industry anymore, we are a customer experience industry or whatever you want to call it. That's just my person opinion.

CMSWire: When I think about this model, I envision a very centralized company. But these days, companies are global. They're all over the place. Can you explain how to coordinate this approach on a global basis?

Petersen: In chapter 12, we cover how to fill out the roles and how to build out the teams within the organization. We break down the maturity model into different layers. We have a simple version. Then we get into the different capabilities you needs, and what are the different roles in the organization that you'll need to get the most value out of this. You can do a lot with marketers at the low level, but as you begin to evolve through maturity, you'll need more dedicated specialists on your team. 

We also cover how you'd organize that team. We talk about creating a CX center of excellence. If it's a global organization that is dealing with different markets, [we discuss] how to radiate that out in a hub-and-spoke model for different markets. For bigger enterprise with different brands for different markets, how can you radiate that further.

Person: The biggest demoralizer for any human is to be pushed and not know where they're going, or how they're going to go forward. Most people will change, 1) if they have a motivation, if executives give them a vision, and 2) if they have clear steps -- "I need to do A, B and C and then I'll get safely to the other side of this vision of the future."

Murphy: Are there specific social technologies that you advise corporations to use in coordinating this kind of change?

Nash: We actually don't. But one thing we are using is gamification. We have a couple of different concepts on this, but we've created a board game to help facilitate the people-process aspect of this maturity model. The steps in the board game are to assess your maturity, identify an objective with which you want to align, identify the digital goals that drive the objective, and then go for the low-hanging fruit of the optimization.  

What I find really important is that you get eye-level so that you're talking about the basic steps of this process in a down-to-earth, human way. Otherwise, it's kind of academic and theoretic and problematic. But when you're talking about a process like this in a game format, it's actually quite effective and rewarding. It's a facilitator for the process.