Kara Swisher Speaks at the DX Summit
PHOTO: CMSWire

Marketers and customer experience professionals are experiencing yet another shift in customer behaviors. This comes after the massive changes beginning around March 2020 when the world went into a global lockdown.

Rich Hein, editor in chief of Simpler Media Group’s CMSWire.com, shared this message with the virtual audience in his DX Summit 2021 morning keynote on May 27. (Registration Required).

“We're close to another shift in customer behaviors. The past 15 months have been turbulent, no doubt,” Hein said. “On CMSWire.com, we wrote a lot about the impact of COVID on this space and the challenges that we all had to overcome.”

Focus Areas: Analytics, Journey Analysis

All the while, market forces such as the demise of third-party cookies, artificial intelligence gains, no- and low-code technology developments were very much at play. And now with COVID-19 vaccine rollouts well under way globally, marketers and customer experience professionals face another inflection point: how can they re-adjust in 2021 and beyond to more seismic changes in customer behavior? “The question becomes what's next and how can my organization be ready?” Hein said.

Marketers and customer experience professionals told CMSWire researchers in the State of the Digital Customer Experience 2021 Q2 edition report that their top digital customer experience investment priorities include:

  • Analytics, insights & dashboarding: 51%
  • Customer journey analysis & optimization: 37%
  • Digital experience/web CMS platforms: 36%
  • Personas, targeting and/or personalization: 34%
  • Social listening and engagement: 29%

“Customers are demanding more from personalization efforts,” report authors wrote. “Customer service agents need to know how and when customers have interacted with the brand so customers don’t feel like a stranger when they run into issues. Marketing efforts can take into account what customers have already purchased, but sending coupon codes after customers have already purchased an item won’t translate to new sales.”

Here are some other takeaways from the DX Summit. The virtual conference series has two in the books for 2021 and will have two more — a summer edition July 29 and a fall edition October 28 — to close out 2021.

Related Article: 7 Takeaways from CMSWire's DX Summit 2021 Winter Edition

Possibilities — and Danger — of Technology

As much as marketers and customer experience professionals rely on technology to create programs for customers and prospects, sometimes it’s good to take a step back and recognize the big picture with tech.

Kara Swisher, host of “Sway,” the new twice-weekly interview podcast about power by New York Times Opinion and a contributing Opinion writer since 2018, told the audience in the conference’s opening session that technology can be viewed from two lenses:

  • Star Trek: Discovery among a group of people that are diverse and different, and they learn things along the way. “It's a super hopeful vision of technology and how technology can help bring unity to the universe,” Swisher said.
  • Star Wars: A really negative viewpoint of technology. It's about death stars, it's about Darth Vader, it's about the ability of technology to destroy people's lives and actually blow up planets. “It's a view of the universe that is dark,” she said.

Swisher called the period of time since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world an “enormous experiment” of technology where people used the tools built previously. We can all take COVID learnings, as she called them, in a positive way “because the things we face going forward are so massive that the only way we can sell them is through the use of technology and the widespread use of technology.” This means, she added, we have to rely on inventions that have been problematic for our country. She cited advancements like surveillance technology, including facial recognition.

“There's great hope,” Swisher said. “... It’s been one of the biggest experiments in human history of relying on technology almost completely to conduct our daily lives, and it's yielded a lot of really interesting insights into what could happen.”

Flexible Technological Architecture for the Win

Anjali Subburaj, ambassador and digital commerce chief architect with the MACH Alliance, pushed for organizations to consider weaving into their tech mix platforms that are flexible and adaptable vs. the gigantic, all-in-one solutions and providers. That is the bedrock of the principles of the MACH Alliance, a technology consortium that stands for Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS and Headless.

“Another aspect of continuous improvement and continuous change is to have flexibility,” Subburaj said. “So from a technology perspective, the traditional technologies have been just get one gigantic platform, which can solve all your problems."

Subburaj and her alliance find this approach complex, however. Using components that are microservices-based can support technology that is flexible.

“They give you the flexibility, and they are plug-and-play type of technologies,” she said. “So it gives you that flexibility where you don't have to invest in one gigantic platform and make massive investments. You can invest in smaller technologies that work and talk to each other, and change anything that doesn't work for you during your continuous review process.”

Related Article: MACH Architecture: What It Is, Why You Should Know It

Need for a Unified CX Expectation

Marketers and customer experience professionals can do everything in their power to create exceptional experiences across digital circles. But it won’t matter much if it’s not a unified experience across other departments in the organization, according to Stephanie Grgurich, vice president of digital experience at OSF Healthcare, an integrated healthcare system consisting of 145 clinical locations, including 15 hospitals and 26,000 employees serving patients across the states of Illinois and Michigan.

“I really think that what is needed in all organizations is that unified customer experience and expectation, ensuring that all stakeholders, all organizations and departments and anyone that intersects with the consumer really understands what is that end outcome,” she said. “And how do we build a consistent process that keeps the customer at the center, always asking ourselves, ‘How does this impact our customer? How does this create a differentiated experience, and how does this transcend through our organization?’”

Organizations must be aligned to understand the full impact and optimization of a certain piece of technology or a software system, and truly think about it from the lens of the consumer, Grgurich addd.

“Does it create a seamless and frictionless experience?” she asked. “Does it also improve efficiencies internally and across departments because we know that if we can increase efficiencies internally that transcends into the customer experience by making it easier for our own employees to intersect.”

Customer DX Center of Truth

Dana Crandall, senior vice president of customer experience transformation and customer center operations for Comcast’s West Division, said her teams are responsible for meeting customer expectations and needs in at least seven different channels.

“And they're changing all the time,” Crandall said. “What we use to really baseline and understand how we are performing for customers is we look at data and we benchmark that through the Net Promoter Score system.”

Comcast teams also look at journeys and interactions for individual transactions. “But what we really found is that in order to take all of these different interactions, knowing that customers don't start in one channel and finish — they’re transiting your ecosystem — you have to have that one place where you know everything about the customer. What they bought. When they bought it. How they're interacting with you. If they're having service issues. How the network is performing for them. How you're marketing to them, all of that.”

Comcast then uses that data to become focused on how to interact with them in the best possible way based on what is contextually relevant. “And then how do you transition that model toward being much more proactive in terms of how you interact with customers?” Crandall said.

Related Article: Foundational Steps for Customer Journey Mapping Initiatives

When Security, Orchestration Matters

Jeff Bielski, VP of digital platforms for Discover leads the modernization of the enterprise’s marketing and advertising technology solutions. His primary stakeholders? The users of these tools. Bielski is laser-focused on ensuring marketing and customer experience teams have the tools they need to succeed.

So what’s at the heart of it all? “With Discover being a financial institution, it’s really predicated on trust and security,” Bielski said. “There's really a strong authenticated identity solution that's at the heart of much of those experiences today.”

Bielski said he needs to ensure business users have the correct digital customer experience tools available and are able to understand what journeys customers are taking and what's working well.

“And I would say even more importantly, where those friction points are in the journeys,” he added. “We're in the process of standing up a CDP journey orchestration solution so that we can more readily ingest those customers and be able to activate those experiences across channels, and really serve up those improved experiences.”

Thoughtful Technology Selection

Rajya Lakshmi Yanamandala, chief technology officer, FinTech for ZTech at AB InBev, is responsible for developing evolutionary architecture strategies to optimize across all domains, covering enterprise, application, infrastructure, security, DevOps and data.

How does she go about selecting and implementing the technologies needed to create B2B and B2C experiences? “What is important for me is aligning the vision, values and goals,” Yanamandala said. “Tools and processes are not absolute.”

When thinking about tools, her teams want to leverage the right tools, programming languages and databases but also needs to know if they have the right talent to support tool development. And what kind of training resources will be needed?

They support microservices-based architectures that are flexible, simple and support efficient software delivery, development and performance. “Keep it simple,” she said, “yet powerful enough to solve our business needs efficiently.”