Kevin Cochrane, DX Leader interview quote: "Data enables new customer experiences and is the oil of the digital economy – but only if handled with care."

The driving force behind Kevin Cochrane's more than 20-year career in digital customer experience and digital marketing is the desire to make an impact on the world around him.

“Technology serves as the foundation for human connections and meaningful interactions,” he said. The role of software vendors is to help enterprises realize the power that technology offers and how to use it in ways that provide value and promote mutual respect. “In doing so, we enable the flow and exchange of ideas across the world, the potential to meet humanitarian goals, and so much more.”

Cochrane is currently chief marketing officer of SAP Customer Experience and C/4HANA. He came to SAP in February after working at a veritable who’s who in the digital customer experience market including Adobe, Alfresco, BloomReach, Day Software, Interwoven, Jahia Solutions and OpenText.

Demonstrate Empathy and Authenticity

What attracted Cochrane to SAP was a shared belief that “the customer is the heart and core of a business.”

Since joining SAP, he’s been closely involved in the vendor’s push to combine its existing Hybris business with newer acquisitions CallidusCloud, Gigya and Core Systems under the banner of SAP Customer Experience. The goal is to create a single holistic view of the customer and the ability for organizations to interact with customers in a more streamlined and personalized fashion.

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the course of my career is that empathy and authenticity triumphs over anything else,” Cochrane said. “That’s exactly what we aim to achieve for with our own customers and this also extends to our customer’s customers as well.”

SAP 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 Cochrane about his thoughts on emerging technologies, the current state of digital marketing and the importance of demonstrating empathy.

Humanize Your Brand

CMSWire: Where do you see the primary gaps today in the kinds of digital experiences companies deliver to customers and the DX those customers expect? How should companies work to close those gaps?

Cochrane: The biggest pain point for organizations delivering on the promise of customer experience is that the digital customer experience is inherently disconnected.

Bringing business processes into a single, unified solution allows brands to curate a single, comprehensive view of the customer. This, in turn, links personalization to deep behavioral insights.

Gaps in the digital customer experience can lead to lack of returns and missed market opportunities to engage with the right audiences. Businesses need to begin by shifting their mindset to address the umbrella need for an end-to-end unified process that accounts for every stage of the customer journey.

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

Cochrane: Voice assistants, AI, machine learning and IoT are being used both online and in-store to streamline and automate the customer service function and to make the customer experience more fluid and personalized.

IoT data is enabling retailers to gain more insight into product usage and provide more meaningful recommendations. Artificial intelligence is helping customers find answers to their questions on demand without having to wait for the availability of a customer service representative.

In both cases, technology is making the customer experience easier and more pleasant.

CMSWire: In your opinion, what is the current state of digital marketing? How should organizations go about establishing and retaining customer trust?

Cochrane: Data enables new customer experiences and is the oil of the digital economy — but only if handled with care. Organizations walk a fine line and must be careful that they are manifesting loyalty while maintaining compliance.

Businesses have an imperative to gain trust and build an emotional and personal relationship with each customer. However, this is only possible if consent is present.

In the shift to data-driven digital marketing, a human connection was lost. It’s our responsibility to connect with our customers in a way that leaves them in control of the information they offer. This can be achieved through absolute transparency of how data will be used and the ability to tailor what specific information is divulged to a brand.

CMSWire: You talked recently to CMSWire about the importance of CMOs being able to demonstrate empathy internally and to customers. What advice do you have for organizations to “humanize” their brands to connect with customers?

Cochrane: Making connections with customers is easy; however, cultivating connections into lifelong relationships can be a challenge for marketers. A customer relationship doesn’t end at the point of sale. Empathizing with the customer at any given point of the customer journey helps shed light on what motivates them and makes them feel successful.

Humanizing brands is about building a level of trust with the customer, connecting with a higher purpose and continually innovating to change the lives of customers, improve societies and uplift economies.

For organizations looking to humanize their brands, it’s essential to bridge data silos in real-time to be able to act proactively on understanding customer data. Once customer data is organized and analyzed, brands can begin to interact and engage with the customer — understanding them as people, consumers and brand advocates.

CMSWire: Which sports do you enjoy participating in and why? What’s been your most intense sporting experience so far? What was so enjoyable about it?

Cochrane: I am proud to say that I am a marathon runner. I recently completed the US Southernmost Marathon in Key West. The sun, humidity and heat made it very challenging.

What I find most compelling about the sport is the potential for human connection and purpose. Pushing each other to achieve and supporting fellow runners to dig deep and cross the finish line captures what is most intense and most enjoyable about running for me.

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