Brian Chaput of IBM quote "The explosion of IoT devices means more opportunity to reach the customer but it also challenges the business to keep those interactions current and relevant"

For Brian Chaput, the most significant evolution in the digital customer experience world is the customer’s expectation of access anywhere, on any device. It’s a driver that continues to resonate today.

Over the years, he’s seen companies move from providing a website, accessible by all, anonymously, to their adoption of contextual personalization via the use of geolocation, device type and movement. “Today, we have IoT applications like fitness trackers, smart watches, connected cars, as well as other channels like social ads,” Chaput said. “They are all upping the ante for companies to need to know as much as they can, as soon as they can, to present an exceptional and contextual customer experience wherever and whenever the customer chooses.”

Chaput is currently director of offering management for IBM’s Digital Experience Software. His team defines and manages the lifecycle of IBM’s digital experience software solutions. Chaput first joined IBM in 2005 after the company he was working at as IBM Alliance Director, Bowstreet, a provider of portal-based tools and technology, was acquired by IBM.

Deliver Appropriate Experiences at Every Customer Entry Point

The moon landing inspired a curiosity in Chaput about how it was possible, which kick started a lifelong interest in computing. An over 30-year career in hardware and then software followed.

One of the most significant transformations he’s noted since joining IBM is the ever-expanding need for organizations to deliver appropriate experiences to customers across a growing array of digital experience touchpoints. These touchpoints encompass the web, mobile apps, mobile web, internet-connected appliances and vehicles to other emerging IoT devices.

Companies can no longer assume or enforce a controlled linear progression of customer interaction. “That is one of the changes that I still think companies need to plan for, consider how they will manage that change, and then execute to ensure an appropriate experience at whatever entry point the customer chooses,” Chaput said. He sees the use of microservices and AI as increasingly important to help companies keep up with evolving customer access points.

IBM is one of the sponsors of CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 12 through 14 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.

We spoke with Chaput about how companies can improve and close any gaps in customer digital experiences, the impact of emerging technologies, and his advice on where digital customer experience fits within a company’s broader digital transformation.

Extend Digital Transformation to All Digital Experience Audiences

CMSWire: Where do you see the primary gaps today in the digital experiences companies deliver to customers and the DXs those customers expect?

Chaput: Among enterprises and smaller companies, a common objective is consistency of the experience. This is also where there is a lot of room for improvement.

There may be gaps between the silos of teams, content and even technologies which pertain to a specific digital touchpoint or channel. For example, one team may be responsible for social ads, another for mobile application, another for email marketing and landing pages, and yet another for the website.

So, quite possibly, there are multiple teams and perhaps multiple technology tools used to build, deliver and maintain each experience. Then, there’s a marketing leader who needs to ensure consistency across all experiences and who knows that market pressures may require near real-time updates to all digital properties.

And of course, consistency in experience including the messaging and imagery is what customers expect. Delivering this consistency can be a daunting challenge today given the landscape of silos I mentioned.

CMSWire: How should companies work to close those gaps?

Chaput: Ideally, organizations should start to employ unified solutions that can support delivery to all those digital touchpoints and share common digital content that can be changed once and propagate dynamically across the touchpoints, thereby ensuring consistency.

Such a unified solution, which we refer to as a digital experience platform (DXP), has or can seamlessly embed digital asset/content management, marketing automation, commerce and customer experience analytics.

CMSWire: How are increased personalization, virtual voice assistants, AI and IoT impacting digital customer experiences?

Chaput: The explosion of IoT devices means more opportunity to reach the customer but it also challenges the business to keep those interactions current and relevant. We all understand that customer attention spans are short so an impactful immediate experience is key.

Companies must also consider how to innovate with virtual voice to move beyond such an assistant being a simple news reader and information source to becoming a contextual information and task tool. This is where the application of AI is perfectly suited.

For example, one large retail bank is employing readily available AI innovations — IBM’s Watson Assistant and Watson Content Hub — to deliver three different virtual voice assistant applications to help speed up tasks like mortgage processing. The bank can quickly improve the experience with customized learning from previous interactions and empower the line of business to update the responses without developer involvement.

CMSWire: How should organizations prepare to take advantage of these emerging technologies?

Chaput: It’s interesting to note that the use of AI and chat in the real-world example I just gave isn’t limited to the bank’s customers. By extending the innovation to bank employees, those staff can perform better, which translates to better support of customers, thus contributing to a better customer experience.

So, I always encourage clients to think about not just the “how,” but also the “who,” as an integral part of the customer experience scope, and consider how to make practitioners’ jobs easier.

CMSWire: In talking to customers, is the cause of their struggles to reinvent digital customer experiences solely technology-based or is there more to it?

Chaput: It is often easy to point to the technology currently in place as the primary cause of struggles, and it may be, but my experience is that it’s typically a combination of technology limitations or sprawl of multiple technologies plus organizational alignment.

For those organizations that truly do have a cross-organizational “digital transformation” mindset, and plan, the struggle is less.

Going back to my example about the retail banking customer, I would never have assumed that a centuries-old bank would be a shining example of a leading AI technology adopter and innovator. But because they took time to think through the benefits of what a voice assistant could offer and experimented with it, they discovered some nuggets of innovation that are having positive business impact.

So, it wasn’t just technology or the organization, but a balance of both, with the business goal driving the technology consideration.

CMSWire: What advice do you have for organizations embarking on or refining their digital transformation strategy? How should companies think about reimagining their digital customer experiences within the context of a broader digital transformation initiative?

Chaput: I would encourage organizations to at least create a comprehensive digital transformation manifesto that everyone in the organization understands as the mission. That alone can go a long way to getting common goals in place, like a commitment to an exceptional customer digital experience, and some markers for how that will be measured.

Then, an evaluation of the various technologies required can progress to test that each technology can be part of the solution in delivery against the objectives for the goal.

As for digital customer experiences in context to that transformation, I suggest expanding that to cover digital experiences — drop the word “customer.” Not because the customer isn’t important, quite the contrary, but because a digital transformation should extend to all digital experience audiences of a company, from customers, to partners, to suppliers and employees.

CMSWire: As a self-described “unabashed fan of all New England sports teams,” what have been your high and low points as a supporter so far and why? Do you see parallels between sports teams training for games and companies developing and refining their digital customer experiences?

Chaput: Ugh, so many low points — I can go on and on about the crushing Boston Red Sox letdowns of my youth … the World Series losses of 1967, 1975, 1986 … all lost in the final game of each series! But then, there was the ultimate rejoicing in winning the World Series in 2004, after 86 years since the last one. More recently, the success of the New England Patriots has been cause for more rejoicing, but has also provided some really great lessons about the importance of teaming.

One phrase the Patriots have adopted is “do your job,” which at the core is so simple: Do what you say and what you commit to; then trust others on the team to do the same. The end result is a cohesive unit that maximizes its efforts, without overextending individually, for the greatest chance of team success.

I think that applies to planning in many aspects of business, certainly including digital customer experiences. Companies need to identify the target touchpoints, ensure consistency of the experience and appropriate messaging, define responsibilities, and ultimately make sure the DCX aligns to the broader digital transformation mission. This is not a one person’s job, but requires many people to do their job and then the final orchestration.

Now, let me brag about this year’s Red Sox team ….

Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit here.