Share this content

Why did Adobe move into customer experience management?

10th Aug 2011
Share this content

CRM guru Brent Leary interviews Ben Watson about Adobe's move into customer experience management, and discusses CEM strategies and customer experience metrics.

Brent Leary interviews Ben Watson, principal customer experience strategist, Adobe by Neil Davey on Mixcloud


Brent Leary: Hello this is Brent Leary and I am about to talk to Ben Watson who is a principal customer experience strategist for Adobe. Adobe has moved into an area that most people wouldn’t really relate to Adobe called customer experience management. Ben, first of all thanks for joining me today.
Ben Watson: Thanks Brent. It’s great to be here talking with you.
Brent Leary: As I said a lot of people may not equate Adobe with customer experience management. When you typically think of Adobe, you think of Flash, PDFs, Photoshop and a number of important things but maybe not customer experience management. Maybe you could tell us why Adobe is really moving forward and heavily into this area?
Ben Watson: That is actually a great question Brent. I think the technologies that you bring up, I would category as the technologies of which I would make something for a user. The way that we are really thinking about Adobe’s position going forward, especially in the enterprise, is we really provide three areas of support, expertise and technology to help our customers: 
  • A set of technologies for making things.
  • A set of technologies for managing things.
  •  And a set of technologies for measuring. 
So ultimately, we are becoming the make, manage and measure brand, as I think about it, in the enterprise. While we are probably still best known for 'make', in terms of Photoshop, Illustrator - our design tools - Acrobat for making documents, Flash for making multimedia presentations on the web or for delivering and making applications, and delivering an actual interactive application. I would argue that in the web space we are pretty well known from a measuring perspective as well. The acquisition of Omniture a few years has grown into the Adobe Online Marketing Suite, and we have a strong set of tools there around, not just measurement of web activity, but now measurement of social activity analytics that are relative to the communities you might be forming at an enterprise, or also your work that you do with third party communities, like the major social networks, etc.
Here in the middle are these set of technologies that I am focused on which are ultimately the management. By management I mean web content management, business process management and rolling all of this up under the umbrella of customer experience management. We’ve made this change at Adobe on the back of the work we were doing with our enterprise customers, really. It’s not so much that we choose or selected to go after this, but at a certain point obviously we did. It was more that if we looked realistically across all the work that we were doing with our partner ecosystem, the kind of stuff that we were doing with our top customers in financial services and in government, we were ultimately the technology that was being used at the first mile, or what people would have traditionally called the last mile, in terms of getting an application or a set of documents, an interaction, or message, policy, contract, agreement out to another customer or business partner. So really, this aggregates and brings together a lot of work that we were already doing in the enterprise.
Last year with our acquisition of Day Software, expanding that portfolio to include enterprise scale web content management really gave us the missing part in addition to the deep application capabilities that we had already with the enterprise side of Flex and Flash business - our documents and forms strategy that was built on the Live cycle technology, now we added a full web content management system. This really gave us a full suite of tools that ware required to manage a customer experience or an employed experience relative to service a customer more effectively.
"Marketing is becoming less about advertising, and more about the aggregate value of the moments of truth that you have with a customer. You want to be able to try and manage those as effectively as possible so that you can trouble shoot when there is a problem and recognise opportunities to be exceptional or think outside of the box on behalf of a customer." - Ben Watson
Brent Leary: When you think about the customer experiences and your customer’s needs to be able to fulfill or create exceptional customer experiences, how difficult is it today, what are the main challenges customers face in trying to create the kind of experiences that will allow them to build a relationship, and extend a relationship?
Ben Watson: I think I could step back to classics like Jack Trout and Al Ries writing acquisitioning the battle for your mind. Or maybe work that I have done in the developer community in the past where we used to talk a lot about winning the hearts and minds with customers. I think that remains as the number one challenge - that I can get you to transact with me one time by offering a special or a coupon or an incentive or perhaps through a referral, etc. But I can’t automatically convert you into a loyal customer. I really look at customer experience much the same way as our pro balance, like Forrester and Gartner would define it. It’s really about how customers perceive their interactions with the firm. I think the challenge is exactly that. How can I manage perceptions? How can I set expectations? How can I look holistically at the cumulative effect of all of my interactions across the different channels that I have with these customers? How can I be awesome enough that when people share their opinion about me with others, that opinion makes other people want to do business with me? I think that is no small challenge because in many of the environments that our direct customers are working in are very compatible. Things like banking or automotive or retail, etc. You have got seconds during which you can form a very positive impression with a customer at each interaction. 
I think now with marketing becoming less about advertising, and more about the aggregate value of the moments of truth that you have with a customer. What you want to be able to do is try and manage those as effectively as possible so that you can trouble shoot when there is a problem so that you can recognise opportunities to be exceptional or think outside of the box on behalf of a customer. Ultimately, you can reflect back and make sure that your understanding what their expectations are.
Brent Leary: What are some of the main components of an effective customer experience management strategy?
Ben Watson: I think it starts with having true multichannel delivery, because what we can’t do any longer is expect a message to resonate and be delivered in the same way and/or be delivered across a single channel. 
If I go back to the fifties or sixties, I would hire an ad agency and they would build a commercial or advertisement for me and I would put that out on newspaper, magazine, radio or television and I would have the cumulative effect of that audience ultimately receiving a single message, if you will, from the enterprise.
What is happening now is we’re getting our messages about brands from thousands of touch points. From our friends, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, a retail experience, talking to somebody on the phone, requesting help or getting support on something, follow up email or maybe somebody phoning you with a satisfaction survey like five days after you interact with somebody. All of these things are happening at different channels across mobile, the web, email, through our telephone systems, call centres, partner ecosystem, if that is what is supporting us to go to market. What you really want to start with is, do you have true multichannel delivery, first of all, for the customers that want to come and do business with you using different technologies or different methods of communication. 
"An effective customer experience management strategy starts with having true multichannel delivery, because what we can’t do any longer is expect a message to resonate and be delivered in the same way and/or be delivered across a single channel." - Ben Watson
The immediate second question to that is do you have the ability to connect the customer context across those different channels? Can you understand what people are doing? What they are trying to get done? What the problem is that they are experiencing from one channel to the next so that you can effectively turn your hand off of a customer from channel to channel into handshakes, within the enterprise and that you form an implicit agreement with everybody that is going to be working with that customer - that, we are going to fully understand their situation as a customer and we are going to do our best to serve them across these channels with as minimal disruption as possible. 
Below that, the point that you now start to think about is what am I going to deliver on those channels? How I am going to optimise each one of those touch points, based on the channel it’s being delivered? How do I use mobile most effectively as a mobile device? How do I make sure that my web content can be as personal or as customisable as possible so that certain types of customers or segments can get what they want out of that experience? How do I translate the digital aspects of my brand into my retail experience? How do I help people bring things like a wish list or a shopping list or bring something in for a return without having to restate all of their information over and over again? We look at that part as being the managements. Now I need an effective strategy for managing web content, for managing the user profiles and information and context of that user relevant to that. I need a way to manage and deliver mobile applications. I need a consistent way to deliver forms and documents and policies and all of the things like that on the back end. Then I need a way to measure all of that activity.
I need a way to understand how people are using it, where they are using it and what I can do to improve it over time based on perhaps roadblocks, or where the process of natural selection is ultimately driving people to be most effective with my content.
Brent Leary: That’s a lot to take into consideration, and to try to manage and put into play. You have got to do all that, but how much time do you have in order to have that experience do what we are looking for it to do? If somebody finds your webpage and you are try to get them to move to the next level? Or if you have a customer that is trying to get a problem resolved? How much time do you have in order to have that experience do what you need it to do? 
Ben Watson: Right, I think it varies a little bit across industries or depending on the complexity of a transaction. It also varies according to where the person is in terms of their process. The way that I generally think about it is the impression that you are going to make on me actually happens within seconds. Your ability to prove that you are going to do business with me based on what my needs and expectations are typically happens within minutes. So, right away I might get an impression from your brand, your site or what happens in the first few seconds while I am trying to find something. Even how I got there in the first place and how accurate that was. Maybe if I started on a search engine or if I got a link from a friend on Facebook, when I click through, did that really set the expectation appropriately in terms of what it was that I was looking for? I think that part happens very quickly and a certain amount of that is actually subconscious because what is happening is we are taking a bunch of speeds and feeds of information but we are connecting it or relating it to other things that we already know. In this case it might be something that I want. It might be a competitive product or service. It could be my expectation in terms of what I am going to pay for it, if it’s a low value item. Or it could be: do I believe that I am going to be able to get the information that I need in order to make a decision? That kind of impression part happens very quickly. 
But the second part is, and this is actually just as important or maybe more important if you get through that first gate. The second part is, now that I am actually starting to dig in and investigate and do my homework, am I finding the information, and is it findable? Is it credible? Do I feel like I can trust it? Is there enough third party validation to help me make a decision without feeling like I am only taking the face value of the information that is provided directly by the brand? Do I feel secure about transacting or doing business with this entity? Especially if I am going to commit to transacting just through a digital environment. I think there is a lot of subtle aspects to how content is presented, to how hints are provided, to how additional suggestions are provided to things like comparisons that help people understand what their options are. Any kind of ability that you can provide somebody to customise and configure things based on their personal desire is going to really help people get through that second part. 
The short answer is, at most you have minutes, but a lot of it actually happens within the first few seconds. 
"Bruce Temkin at the Temkin Group just published a report that showed direct correlation between experience and loyalty. So your investment in customer experience ultimately pays back in loyalty." - Ben Watson
Brent Leary: With that in mind, what are some of the measurables, in order to understand how important delivering a great customer service experience is?
Ben Watson: There is a few things, Bruce Temkin at the Temkin Group just published a report that showed direct correlation between experience and loyalty. So your investment in customer experience ultimately pays back in loyalty. That is repeat business or re-subscription. How are you building a customer experience in such a way that your customers are going to keep doing business with you? That’s a very high ROI that we want to pay a lot of attention to because it typically costs much less to keep a customer then it does to acquire one from a marketing perspective at least. 
More importantly is the revenue impact to the bottom line. My favorite research in that area was research done by Forrester last year. They found that an incremental gain going up by 10% from where you were on average with the Fortune 500 companies that they interviewed, would represent a net increase in revenue of nearly $3M.
So there is considerable return on investment, when you think about it at scale. Now if I am a smaller business or a medium-sized enterprise, it’s probably not going to affect me in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars, but I would still think of it as a considerable change in the ability for my business to be more effective from a self-serve perspective and the ability for me to keep and retain customers for a longer period of time - the ability to turn my most vocal advocates into a marketing force and a sales force for my brand and products. People are excited and compelled to share when they have a great experience. They are obviously more compelled when they have a bad experience, but if I can get my advocates working on my behalf and sharing what a great experience they had, either with my product or service or with a campaign that I have put out there, then that’s the kind of marketing and advertising that you can never buy.
Brent Leary: If I am a company that is really trying to change the perception of what customers feel, in terms of their experiences from interacting with me, what would be some of the first things that they should take into consideration?
Ben Watson: I like the three P’s; Positioning, Promise and Perception. I think the first thing that you want to do is you want to use positioning approaches that define a brand promise. You want to make sure that it’s unique. You want to make sure that it is differentiated. You want to make sure that it is obvious, truthful and that it is ultimately about your category as much as it is about your brand. 
For example, when Kodak figured out they were a memory company, not a film company. That they were actually selling family memories, as opposed to a little roll of the film. What is that brand positioning that is true to your audience and the ultimate value that you bring to your audience?
The second is on the promise. So what are all of the areas of your business that are ultimately responsible for that brand promise? Either that first touch point or through a loyalty program; how can you effectively prioritise your work in those areas that are essentially responsible for making and keeping promises relative to your brand. I don’t think that is a marketing thing. This is a strategic driver for how we do business and how we operate as a business. How we deliver goods and how we support services and products that we sell. How we keep our promises relative to price. How we maintain a competitive stance in a marketplace where people are always looking for things to work better for them or to have additional features, etc, etc. What are the areas of your business that make and keep a brand promise and make sure that we prioritise there? 
The last is, evaluate your success. Evaluate everything that your competitors are doing and determine where you need to adjust your positioning or promise based on the perception that customers ultimately have of you. So, how do you create positive perception in the first place across all of the interactions? How do the first two P’s – Positioning and Promise, ultimately deliver on that perception at the end of the day? The customer experience, as we discussed earlier, is going to be measured in terms of their perception of how it was to do business with you, across every touch point that they had with you, inclusive of how you sold to them, the value and quality of the product and services that you delivered and how you ultimately supported them when they had a problem and how you treated them after the purchase. Were you suddenly constantly trying to up sell or cross sell them in a way that wasn’t relevant or meaningful to them? Or were you very slow in getting back to them after they actually committed with a credit card? Did you not do a good job following up in terms of what the status was for a specific delivery, etc? There are a lot of areas that add up to this total perception and we need to think about all of those touch points to make sure that we are managing that as effectively as possible.
"People are learning what to measure and where to measure and now we are going to start to see the outcomes of that and validate and prove out our hypothesis and I think that is going to be a critical part of growing this out." - Ben Watson
Brent Leary:  Ben, where can people learn more about what Adobe is specifically doing in the area of customer experience management?
Ben Watson:  I think there are two things I would drive people to: our Enterprise website is and our Enterprise blog at or you can follow us on Twitter at AdobeCEM.
Brent Leary:  If you were to peer out maybe a year or two from today, where are we going to be, where are companies going to be in the lifecycle of customer experience management.
Ben Watson:  That’s interesting, one of the tasks that I am working on right now is the first ever Adobe Digital Enterprise Summit, which is really meant to bring together all of our customer leaders, leaders within the ecosystem, dignataries and luminaries across the industry and we are going to have exactly that conversation in the first week of October in Los Angeles, It is our Enterprise conference joined together with Adobe MAX conference.
I think the first thing that we are going to see is hardening and increased value driven into the ROI model. People are learning what to measure and where to measure and now we are going to start to see the outcomes of that and validate and prove out our hypothesis and I think that is going to be a critical part of growing this out. Was Forrester right? Did the 10% incremental ultimately net the $284m or whatever the number was? So the first part I think is the ROI.
The second is the team. The capability, strength within the organisation or, as one of my colleagues likes to call it, the 'organisational musculature', if you will. What is our readiness as a team of employees to be able to deliver on customer experience and to continue to support it in a sustainable fashion? 
The third is going to be the continued growth and sweetening of the ecosystem, where our partners are going to pick up more skills in terms of delivery. More patterns and best practices are going to emerge that are going to make us quicker and stronger, more agile in terms of how we deliver that. Companies are going to share with each other what they have learned and where they have won. We are going to learn from each other as a whole ecosystem, how we can do better all ultimately making our customers happy.

Brent Leary is a crm industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award winning blogger. He is co-founder and Partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. In 2009 he co-authored Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. Recognised by InsideCRM as one of the 25 most influential industry leaders, Leary also is a past recipient of CRM Magazine's Most Influential Leader Award. He serves on the national board of the CRM Association, on the advisory board of the University of Toronto's CRM Center of Excellence, and on the editorial advisory board for The Atlanta Tribune. Leary writes a regular online column for Inc. magazine, and blogs at BrentLeary.comHe can be found on Twitter at  

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.