CX leaders know how hard it is to get a complete view of their customers — from interests and expectations to buying habits and behaviors. That’s because really getting to know your customer means more than just analyzing the data your team collects, but also the data from teams across your company, as well as from external sources. Dealing with disparate data is an obstacle that keeps most organizations from delivering great customer experiences, according to Christopher Stark, VP of Customer Experience and Business Value for Khoros.

“The problem is, too many companies have a myopic view of their customers,” said Stark. “It’s not just about what you own anymore. It’s about what you don’t own, like conversations on social media or third party websites like Reddit. About 70% to 80% of businesses still rely on a handful of data points and channels they feel represent the entire customer base. And that’s the wrong approach. You need to look at the whole picture.”

Khoros is a customer engagement platform provider based in Austin, Texas, and a sponsor of CMSWire’s virtual Fall Digital Experience (DX) Summit, taking place Oct. 28 and Oct. 29. Stark will present the session, “Stop the Silo: How to Measure, Improve, and Create Growth Through the CX Journey.” We spoke with Stark about why CX leaders need to work with everyone in the company to improve the customer experience, and how he built a successful CX program at one of the biggest sports brands in the world by smashing silos across data, teams and experiences.

The Complexities of the Customer Journey

CMSWire: What was it like making the shift from Oakley and Nike to the B2B world with Khoros, and what were some of the major lessons you learned along the way?

Christopher Stark: In B2B, you need to build close relationships and empower people through the customer experience — whether it’s with your product, or providing advice and guidance on how to best execute their customer experience programs. In B2C, the relationships and customer experience matter, but you're really trying to make sure you reach as many customers as possible, and the conversations aren’t as in depth as they are in B2B.

For example, at Nike we knew that back-to-school buyers were usually active moms, and we knew what they wanted. It was easier to understand based on the conversations we had and the data we were analyzing. The B2B buying process and journey is so much more complex. It takes longer to learn what customers or prospects want, especially when you consider the broader buying cycle that could last six, nine or 12 months.

CMSWire: With so many ways to collect different kinds of customer insights, has the meaning of 'a single view of the customer' changed over the years? What does having a single view mean to you?

Stark: In the early days of big data, a holistic view meant having all your data in a single database, where only data scientists and business intelligence teams could make sense of it. Today, the standard of a single view has been elevated. It means I can easily understand all the cohorts of customers I have — all the data points, all the communication touch points, and all the supplemental actions they take while buying and browsing. I can see it all holistically and understand where there's friction within this journey. So the single view has become more complex.

How CX Leaders and Customers Influence Experiences

CMSWire: What does the ideal customer journey look like — from both the CX leader and the customer points of view?

Stark: As a CX leader, I want to be able to see the entire lifecycle of a customer — from the minute they think about buying a product to the time they socialize about all of their experiences with our brand. All of that structured and unstructured data needs to be aggregated and collectively analyzed.

Today, there’s so much technology that gives CX teams the ability to make sense of all their data, including which cohorts they can influence, how to influence them, and how to improve their experience. But you need to be sure the technology you’re using focuses on the holistic view and doesn’t just stop at surveying customers. You’ll also need to make sure your customers understand what kind of experience they can expect from your brand.

Customers who want to have a great journey need to hold companies more accountable. Recognize which part of the experience you prioritize, and let the brand know you’ll no longer be a customer until they treat you right. And if the brand does treat you right, then stay with them.

Christopher Stark: "About 70% to 80% of businesses still rely on a handful of data points and channels they feel represent the entire customer base. And that’s the wrong approach. You need to look at the whole picture."

CMSWire: In your presentation, you’ll be discussing how to break down silos across data, teams and experiences. Can you briefly describe the major challenges CX leaders face in each of these three areas?

Stark: When we think about the single view, it’s extremely difficult to obtain because there’s so much data, and it is continually growing with all the new channels customers are using. You see individual teams collecting their own data and kind of going rogue, resulting in disparate data across the company that’s difficult to wrangle. This is what happened when we started the CX program at Nike.

I owned contact center calls and chats, marketing owned focus groups, product teams owned product reviews, social owned social data, and just about every team had their own survey. There was a plethora of different datasets, and we were all arguing about which was most accurate and most important. Once we aggregated all that data, it was so much easier to prioritize what customers wanted.

Learning Opportunities

As CX leaders, it’s your job to break down those business silos. That means understanding the business team, why they exist in a silo and what they own. Then explain how the data they own influences the overall customer experience. You need to understand your business just as much as you understand your customer, because it’s insights to action. The customer gives you the insight. The business takes the action. Both are important and you need to spend time on both equally.

The Point of CX? Make Other Teams Look Good

CMSWire: You said the following in a Khoros article: 'Everyone owns customer experience, so as a CX professional, you need to be working with everyone.' How can CX leaders go about working with everyone in the company?

Stark: At Nike, we started with three people on our CX team, and we ended up working with 75% of the company by the time we hit maturity. That’s a lot of teams. But we couldn’t chase after all of them. So we found the easy, low-hanging fruit — teams that were starved for insights — and worked with them to drive action quickly.

The point of CX is to make these other teams look good. So we decided to focus on recognizing them for the ROI they generated. Because executives speak dollars and cents, we would report ROI and give credit to the team that took action on the insights we provided to them. And teams would say, 'Wow, every time we work with you guys, we look really good.'

More teams got wind of that, and would come directly to us rather than the other way around. They would give us resources like money or headcount to help us get the insights they needed. It’s important to have people who want to work with you. CX can’t be this team that’s dictating all the time. You need to be a democratic team. That’s why we had such a successful program. By the time I left Nike, we had hundreds of teams that would come directly to us and ask us for influence.

I will say that you do need an executive sponsor who knows that CX is driving all of this behind the scenes so they don’t think these teams are doing great all by themselves. But your end goal is to help influence and deliver better customer experiences.

CMSWire: When you think about the future of customer experience management, what are some of the biggest things CX leaders should be ready for, and where do you see the opportunity to gain the most value?

Stark: Customers buy based on experiences. But there hasn’t been a single company since Amazon that has changed the experience so much that people will say they buy just for the experience. Amazon did this in logistics and Apple did it in the digital hardware landscape, somewhat. One of the biggest opportunities I see for this is in retail — specifically companies like Home Depot who have more than just product to offer. They’ve worked well to get into the omnichannel space between digital and brick and mortar. But at the same time, they have a huge opportunity to start educating millions of new homeowners on home ownership and other topics, as well as improve the logistics experience.

I think software is behind the times a little bit. There are still a lot of software companies that could become more aggressive in their CX approaches. And finally, the industry I don't see turning around anytime soon is healthcare. They’re pretty far behind when it comes to customer experience.

That said, I believe more and more companies will go beyond the product or service they sell, and convert customers based on experience. I don't think anyone’s cracked that yet. I’ve only seen bits and pieces. But someone’s going to put it all together and transcend everyone. And you don’t want to play catch-up when that happens.

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