DX Leaders Brian Warrick of Magnolia and Vitesh Radhakisson of Productive Edge

Technology had an early impact on the lives of both Brian Warrick and Vitesh Radhakisson, which in turn led to their current focus on improving digital customer experiences.

Warrick has been fascinated with technology and systems in general since childhood. “As soon as the opportunity arose I was programming in BASIC, and I once programmed a portrait from the cover of Time magazine pixel by pixel,” he said. “Then in college, I stumbled into bulletin boards and the emerging World Wide Web, and suddenly the world became a lot smaller.”

For Radhakisson, growing up in the politically charged South Africa of the 1990s, he saw how technology became part of everyday life. “The internet was the one place where you could get a full source of information about the world,” he said.

Warrick is executive vice president and general manager of Magnolia Americas. He came to the content management system vendor after working for a variety of organizations including MetLife and Blue Ridge Pet Bakery. Radhakisson is lead technical architect at digital strategy, customer experience and technology services company Productive Edge, where his current focus is on the Magnolia platform and digital customer experience.

A Shared Focus on the Customer

Warrick was drawn to Magnolia because of its focus on the customer and usability. He describes “an immediate synergy” between Magnolia and Productive Edge from the start of their partnership, which Radhakisson said is a “very close” relationship.

Radhakisson has been working at or alongside Productive Edge for a decade, mostly on enterprise back-end development. Having that background has proved helpful in his current work on digital customer experience since it gave him a good sense for the “natural friction or tug of war” that exists between IT on the back-end and the customer’s needs on the front-end. “I have a foot in both worlds, which helps me have an understanding of the greater technology landscape,” Radhakisson said.

Warrick has learned key lessons over the course of his career, including the need to simplify as much as possible and the importance of customer centricity. “Technology can become quite complex, and striving to make it as simple as possible pays so many dividends,” Warrick said. “Often times, it’s easy to optimize a process or design a system for the firm first and customer second. In the long run, that approach always backfires.”

Magnolia and Productive Edge are jointly one of the sponsors of CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 12 through Nov. 14 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.

We spoke with Warrick and Radhakisson about their thoughts on the current gaps in digital customer experiences, the likely impact of emerging technologies on DCX and increasing personalization.

Strike a Balance Between Customer Needs and Brand Goals

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?

Warrick: With many of the companies that we talk to, two fairly common gaps emerge. The first is achieving success with personalization. The other is delivering a consistent experience across channels. Either one is a challenge in its own right, but the combination of the two can really impact customer satisfaction.

Closing these gaps requires balancing the customer’s needs with those of the company to provide relevancy and value in the experience. If a company also needs to prioritize either personalization or omnichannel experiences, we have found that long-term success comes from focusing on consistence across channels first. Then, the company can personalize the experience and customer satisfaction will naturally follow.

Radhakisson: With over a decade’s worth of experience in digital transformation, what we always see are enterprises looking to turn themselves into digital experience companies.

A lot of these companies will have legacy processes. The gaps in customer experience tend to result from a cultural legacy, from things not related to technology at all. For example, take a billion-dollar organization whose ecommerce platform is a phone number for customers on their website. That’s not been transformed at all.

The transformation into digital experience companies is going to be disruptive, but what has to be understood is the human element — the needs of the customer.

CMSWire: How should companies go about striking the right balance in using personalization to appeal to individual customers while not being perceived as overly intrusive? How does regulatory compliance factor into this equation?

Radhakisson: That’s a difficult question re: striking the right balance. It’s about first establishing a trusted relationship with the customer and then making sure that the customer knows what you know about them and how you’re going to use that information.

What tends to erode that trust is when there’s inconsistency between a company’s departments in terms of treating the same customer differently or asking them the same questions multiple times.

The good thing about regulations like GDPR is that it’s made companies think and be more responsible about how they use customer data.

At the same time, one approach to personalization could be not to rush to personalize all interactions but to do more with less so as not to creep customers out. A lot of people live in echo chambers right now and technologies have some responsibility for that.

Warrick: We see two factors coming into play here — relevancy and value. If consumers perceive a value from sharing their information with a company, studies show that they are willing to share more. The more relevant the communication or offer is, the more likely the customer will be to buy or convert.

Providing relevant and valuable personalization builds a form of trust with the customer, which can lead to greater customer loyalty.

Compliance with regulations like GDPR really creates opportunity for quality interactions. Companies can focus on customers and individuals who are expressing a desire to interact, and reach them with relevant and valuable experiences.

CMSWire: What’s your take on the likely impact of virtual voice assistants, AI, machine learning and IoT on digital customer experiences? What types of digital experiences will organizations be able to deliver to customers?

Radhakisson: We already do a lot of AI, ML and IoT platform development work. The technologies are maturing quickly, it’s all about the application of those technologies. For now, they’re seen as an add-on to existing digital experiences with traditional clients like the web or mobile.

At present, with augmented or virtual reality, it’s very difficult to drive a consumer VR experience to someone’s home. Those work well within a curated space. So, there’s some silos from one experience to another.

The next step I see is these technologies starting to integrate seamlessly with existing digital experiences so they’re always going on in the background. Once they’ve become seamless and situational, you’ll wake up, go downstairs and get coffee and there will be some level of digital experience going on throughout your day in ways you don’t even notice.

Warrick: Regarding voice assistants, these will be great channels for companies to engage with customers in relevant and potentially authentic ways.

I can imagine brands developing even more sophisticated personalities, perhaps even multiple personas, to interact with customers. Powering these interactions will be ever more intelligent AI and ML tools, and these will move quickly in predictive and proactive assistants.

With faster network speeds (such as 5G and beyond), IoT finally becomes a reality and companies can achieve that full 360-degree, immersive view of the customer.

I can’t wait for my virtual personal assistant that will do the grocery shopping because my pantry is understocked, suggest birthday and holiday gifts and have a car waiting for me because it’s time to go — all of this without my asking for it.

CMSWire: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why? Once there, what activities would you engage in and why would you recommend them to other visitors?

Radhakisson: Ideally, I’d be on a beach somewhere warm, sipping a cocktail, with my wife by my side, also sipping a cocktail, and the kids playing in the sand and the sea. Growing up in South Africa, we used to spend time in Mauritius, so perhaps we’d go there.

While going on a beach vacation, I’d definitely suggest seeing non-tourist sites as well. For instance, it’s great to go to a market and try the local foods.

Warrick: It’s funny, I was asked this question yesterday, and my answer was The Philippines to go scuba diving. I have never been and I hear the reefs near some of the northern islands are just magnificent.

I highly recommend scuba diving; it’s a chance to immerse yourself in another world. I also find that being near the water provides a calming and balancing effect to our busy daily lives. Now, where are my fins?

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