Gerry McGovern's DX Summit workshop
Customer Carewords CEO Gerry McGovern explains top task testing during his DX Summit workshop. PHOTO: Brice Dunwoodie

CHICAGO — Organizations that shape digital customer experiences based on what they think rather than what the customer thinks are delusional, according to Gerry McGovern, CEO of Customer Carewords, a provider of customer centric web solutions.

In his workshop today at CMSWire's DX Summit at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel here, McGovern told the sold-out audience that it’s never about what marketers or organizations think. The workshops kicked off the second annual digital experience (DX) conference, which runs through Wednesday.

The DX Journey Begins

Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern
It’s on them to determine what the customer thinks and shape experiences from there. “If you think you can define what the customers want in an experience you are delusional,” McGovern said.

Most workshop attendees when polled by McGovern said they were either just starting to digitally transform or were in the midst of a transformation that comes with roadblocks like legacy infrastructure and cultural challenges.

“We think very old,” one attendee said. “We are starting our digital journey with a clean slate.”

Don’t make customers take on your complexities in digital, McGovern said. A complicated form to download? They’re gone.

“Today they can go somewhere else,” McGovern said. “Understanding the patterns of customers is crucial. You need a process to observe customer behavior and identify what is critical to them. It’s the small set of things that matters most in a highly complex world.”

One Experience Isn't Enough

Bruno Herrmann
Bruno Herrmann
Bruno Herrmann, director of digital globalization at the New York City-based The Nielsen Company, a global performance management company, stressed the necessity of providing excellent digital experiences for a global customer base.

Developing a single digital presence or experience isn't enough anymore. Multinational organizations need to develop several experiences, he explained during his workshop.

He pointed out that the localization of digital experiences is not just desirable, but essential. “How do we get people to engage? Why is it important? Its important because growth [in these kinds of organizations] is largely outside your country. Its outside your market,” he said.

“What really matters is to reach out and engage and to do that you need to reach out in the customers’ own language and culture.

While the translation of experiences from one language to another and from one culture to another is challenging for organizations of all sizes, organizations can begin by fulfilling three basic needs:

  • Simplicity: Offering accurate, accessible content intuitively and fluidity
  • Automation: Enables organizations to get the content to the markets, or experiences, automatically
  • Customization: Content consumers want to be engaged as part of a total audience, but also be delighted as an individual

To do this, organizations need to create narratives for their customers. “Story telling is story selling — making sure that content is driven by sales, content that engages means that they [the organizations] requires narratives,” Herrmann said.

Selecting DX Technology

Tony Byrne
Tony Byrne
How long does it take to select pieces of your digital experience technology in a field flooded by hundreds of vendors? If you’re Tony Byrne, under three hours.

In his workshop, Byrne, founder and CEO of the Real Story Group, broke down some of the main questions that businesses face when purchasing software to support the digital experience.

He offered an overview of the main categories of software, including key trends and changes the different segments currently face. Along with the glimpse of software trends, Byrne shared advice on how companies can approach the dance that occurs between the RFP and the signing of a contract.  

Among his standout advice:

  • Negotiate price from the beginning — Byrne recommends letting the vendor know up front that price will be one of the deciding factors
  • Skip the canned demos — Test specific scenarios where your organization may be experiencing pain
  • Ask “how” not “what” — Instead of creating any easily checked off list of requirements, find out how the tool works, rather than what it does (e.g. instead of “do you integrate with Salesforce” ask “how would you integrate with my instance of Salesforce”

Byrne also advised paying attention to the vendor’s surrounding community or ecosystem. Finding the supporting developers and implementation partners will impact the final results almost as much as the technology selection.

Stay aware of, but don’t be distracted by the trends. Byrne used the push towards stronger personalization as one example — if you don’t have the content strategy to support the kind of hyper-personalization that the vendor promises, do you really need that capability?

At the end of the day it’s all about avoiding the shiny object syndrome: get the basics right, focus on your specific use cases and environment and remain strong.

The Art of the Engagement

Diane Magers
Diane Magers
To say Diane Magers, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), knows her stuff is like saying birds fly and fish swim: Magers makes channeling the customer-centric mindset look so intuitive and so natural that it’s easy to forget all of the science, the applied psychology and the years of hands-on experience that have contributed to her deep-dive expertise.

In her workshop, Magers blended slides, video, workbook exercises, group brainstorming and real-life lessons from her decades of business experience with Sysco and AT&T Entertainment to give participants a sense of the many tools, techniques and analytics available to the modern-day CCO or CXO. 

Her advice in a nutshell? “Customer experience can be an organization’s umbrella, the unifying force that connects the dots in an organization,” noted Magers. “A CX initiative has the unique ability to bring people together.” Yet she was quick to remind the group that CX efforts must be “trackable, traceable and measurable.” To that end, Magers eagerly described the “dashboards of the future” that will allow C-Suite executives to keep tabs on the latest CX news and sentiment based on social media and other inputs.

Chief among Magers’ recommended ideas for gathering customer intelligent and building engagement were empathy maps, customer personas and journey mapping, though she presented literally dozens of additional techniques and tools. To put these innovations to work within our own organizations, what can each of us do?  “Be a change agent, make it personal for everybody, tell your customers’ stories and be a Sherpa — both willing to forge a path and carry the load.”

The Importance of Content

John Horodyski
John Horodyski
In another workshop, John Horodyski and Andrew Beale, partners at Optimity Advisors, discussed the stages of digital transformation in which most companies find themselves:

  • Ad Hoc: disconnected business and IT initiatives
  • Opportunity: needs are identified but execution not integrated
  • Automated: automated digital processes but don’t leverage digital assets and services
  • Managed: ongoing creation of innovative digital products services and experiences
  • Optimized: quickly innovates and creates new markets (think Uber and Netflix)

Andrew Beale
Andrew Beale
“Digital transformation is about changing behavior,” said Horodyski. However, many attendees talked about the struggle to change behavior internally. Some companies resist digital change because of privacy laws and compliance concerns. 

Some attendees hail from older, established companies in B2B industrial industries where half the employees are sales. Change is “scary for them,” as one attendee said. Other organizations see a lack of content investment. They don’t realize it’s an asset. 

“Content is everything,” Beale said.

Developing a Marketing Technology Blueprint

Digital transformation is a tall order. It’s also a vague tall order.

Seth Earley
In a three-hour highly interactive workshop, Earley Information Science Founder and CEO Seth Earley, and Experis Content Solutions practice leader Steve Walker gave attendees tools and frameworks to make what can be threatening, bewildering and vague into something both approachable and actionable.

The thousands of marketing technologies available can strike fear in any marketer’s heart.

Earley and Walker argue that getting hung up on the number and variety of technologies will lead you nowhere fast.

Organizations that approach software selection with a sense of panic and impatience can result in solution acquisitions that only answer to one problem rather than fitting into a bigger picture.

Getting to the bigger picture, Earley and Walker argue, requires taking a step back from the technology in order to look at the bigger picture.

Steve Walker
Steve Walker
And the way they suggest you approach that bigger picture is through the customer lifecycle. Establishing all of the steps that a customer takes when interacting with your brand and then aligning the strategies with each touchpoint allows businesses to identify the software in place that supports the process or, alternatively, identify gaps where software is needed.

What it comes down to is looking at your current maturity, existing capabilities, capabilities needed to achieve strategic goals and then you can start creating the blueprint to get you to your desired future state.

While taking this kind of bigger picture approach doesn’t guarantee the future, it does ensure your company is acting towards a common goal and will help reduce the redundancies and inefficiencies that come with a more fragmented approach.

(CMSWire reporters Siobhan Fagan, Dom Nicastro, David Roe and Sherry Toplyn contributed to this story.)