The $8 Billion Bet

With the pending acquisition of Qualtrics by SAP the stage is now set for what has been a long time in coming; the merger of CX, ERP, and CRM.  While I’m no Nostradamus, I have been talking about this for some time…and frankly I’m surprised it took so long.  For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about let me explain.

Qualtrics first cut their teeth in self-serve traditional market research software.  It was doing well by all accounts, but probably not growing as fast as they would have liked.  About 2-3 years ago Qualtrics made a hard right turn and starting skating straight for the EFM big guns like Medallia, InMoment, and MaritzCX to name just a few.  I think folks were kind of surprised. I know I was.  Why?  The world of CX is vastly different than traditional market research.

Image result for ryan smith
Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith

First the level of analytical sophistication for the typical CX user is not as high as what is needed in MR. Most end users running a retail outlet want to know what their customers are saying and would rather endure a week long colonoscopy marathon than deal with discrete choice models using multivariate logit modeling.  After all, they just need to solve for a few pretty simple use cases:

  1. What’s my score (and will I get rewarded or punished)
  2. What customers need my help
  3. How do  I solve “outer loop” institutional issues.

That’s about 99% of all use cases in CX.  However, from there it gets more complicated.  There are some really unsexy issues that great CX providers have to be good at.  The ‘slop factor’ in traditional MR where we can remove one respondent here or there is no bueno in CX.  People are getting paid on those scores many times.  Every return is sacred.

However, the CX industry is big and once you lock in a client switching costs can be high.  That’s great for recurring revenue models which VC software folks are very keen on.  But there’s more.

With one little tweak to the traditional CX canon, the giant world of CRM opens up wide.  That tweak?  The inclusion of prospects as well as customers.

Rather than helping customers, you might be helping prospects find what they want. Rather than redesigning a service experience, you are tweaking the path to purchase to optimize conversion.  Super simple, on paper at least.

Beyond SAP being “kind of  big deal” in the Ron Burgundy sense, they also just happen to have a pretty good CRM and ERP systems already built. Well shucks!  All they need is a nifty snap-on of a CX solution and they are off to the races.  Look out SFDC and Dynamics 365!

The value proposition is great; why buy a bunch of unrelated systems when you can buy one whiz-bang integrated one?  Why are you talking to prospects with one system and customers with another.  Who is that cool guy wearing at flat rim hat?  Still reading?  Just checking.

Now anyone who has been in this business for more than a week knows that technology integration isn’t easy and  I can tell you first hand that cultural integration is harder still. The world will be watching this acquisition to see what they bring to the market. What does it mean to other EFMs?  What does it mean to CRM?  What about those research companies.  All very interesting!

Not withstanding countless prognostications (including my own), the future of the industry is far from certain.  However, two things are very clear to me; 1) I need to start wearing a hat more often and 2) the future of CX is clearly in the integration of CRM and EFM.

Grab some popcorn, it’s going to get more interesting.

Being Persistently Consistent

“Sir please take your shoes off!” the TSA officer commanded.

The befuddled elderly man was rightfully confused… everyone else in line had their shoes on as they proceeded through security.
He looked around one more time as he unpacked his toiletries on the belt.  Why was no else unpacking theirs?

Sir!” 
the TSA officer continued moving toward the man.
Ok ok!” he said as he struggled liberate his beige tasseled loafers from his feet.

He didn’t realize that in this regional airport they had expedited TSA-Pre passengers in the same security line as normal passengers.  Expedited folks didn’t have to take their shoes off…those who weren’t did.  It would confuse anyone. His experience was led by social cues, not the official rules, which were invisible to him.

Surprises are No Good

As a species humans hate surprises. The unknown is the central source of fear and anxiety. Where will I go to school?  What will interest rates do?  Will I get that job I want?  When will Starbucks have Pumpkin Spice Latte available?

We much prefer certainty. With certainty comes the comfort of knowing what is going to happen next. We like that. It allows us to plan and make contingencies.

Psychological research is replete with examples of the human need for certainty at the individual level, from uncertainty-identity theory to organizational level processes such as Mintzberg’s plea to “protect the technical core.”

Our entire financial system loves certainty and rewards investors for it. Scary movies are scary precisely because you are uncertain about what is going to happen next. Research in psychology has long demonstrated that uncertainty makes unpleasant situations much worse.

Your Customers Hate Uncertainty

Your customers also crave certainty in their day-to-day experiences.  When you pull up to that Starbucks drive-through you expect a certain sequence of events to happen.  When they do, you are happy. When they don’t, you are not.

I have found in my research that even really bad processes that are consistently executed are better than good processes that are inconsistently executed.  Even the guys and gals with the big brains at McKinsey agreeIt is better to be consistent than great.

The data consistently supports this assertion.

A study conducted amongst 964 CX executives last year found that organizations who consistent in the processes perform 172% better than those organizations that have inconsistent customer facing processes.  In fact that data showed it was better to have no processes whatsoever than ones that are inconsistent.

The Fear of Becoming Forgettable

Some would say that if we make everything “frictionless’ you end up creating a forgettable experience.  An interesting hypothesis, but one with which I disagree.  Creating a great customer experience is about making the “pain” of the experience disappear but figuring out how to turbocharge the good. Countless companies have figured this out and is the chief source of blowing up and disrupting the most entrenched legacy competitors.

After all, people who are annoyed and don’t come back if you force them into an experience they don’t like, especially if there are other alternatives. We don’t really want to remember the pain of applying for a home loan and hauling your laundry to the dry cleaners.  So, in that respect, the bad aspects of great experiences should be made less memorable…or extinguished completely. The removal of the negative makes the contrast of that new home or fresh dry cleaning that much more memorable.  And of course, after you take care of those hygiene factors you can continue to look for ways further enhance the good aspects.

So how do you get good at consistency fast?  Follow these five steps to get your organization on its way.

Step 1 – Perform process triage

Any process consistently executed is better than chaos. Therefore, the immediate imperative is to get folks to execute consistently on existing ‘folklore’ processes.  Make those latent processes that some of your processes have been doing for years explicit. Get them written down and everyone doing it the same way.  Anything is preferable to randomness. Document existing processes, train to them, and then making sure people are executing to them. This will patch the hole in the dam and you can then turn your attention to the hard work of developing more customer-centric processes.

Step 2 – Uncover the current journey

The next task after getting some semblance of consistency on core processes is to understand the customer journey as it is today and what customers want it to be ideally. This is accomplished by conducting internal and external journey mapping workIf you don’t have time to do the full journey (recommended) then pick a known ‘spur’ which is known to be troublesome today.

Step 3- Find out who is responsible

Once we understand the customer journey as it is today we are well positioned to redesign the processes that influence it. This is often called blueprinting: mapping back to the people, departments and policies that are influential to the process. Once you know who is responsible we can get folks together and get to work.

Step 4- Redesign the process

Business process reengineering was a great idea, but was often focused on redesigning processes around what was best for the company, not the customer. We always need to create efficiency, but not at the expense of losing customers.  Ideally, you should start with what’s best for the customer and then determine how to get as close as possible to that ideal.

In redesigning processes, you want to remove the areas that are negative and irritating customers and add in those that add extra value.  This is the essence of the thinking behind Blue Ocean Strategy. This redesign effort also goes beyond just process to things like communication and introducing toolsets, so process is often not the sole source from which to requisition solutions.

Step 5 – Start small and iterate

Don’t try to take on too much all at once.  Experiment and figure out what works and doesn’t work.  Your journey work should help you figure out what to tackle first, but that should be tempered by the technical complexity of getting it done.  A good enough solution today is better than a perfect solution next month…or next year.

Moving Quick to Get Consistent and Stay Memorable

First, get consistent and do it quick.  People hate the unexpected.  Then focus on the customer journey and take out the bad and amplify the good.  Do it based on the customer preferences and most of all do it consistently. Take away that awful fear of the unknown.  And if you see someone struggling in the TSA line…help them out and maybe buy him a Pumpkin Spice Latte.