How to build your customer experience tech stackby
Technology forms an important part of successful customer experience programmes. But what should be in your CX tech stack and what else do you need to know about building one?
As we have already seen in our two previous articles (Why is technology such a headache for customer experience leaders? and Why some brands won't benefit from CX tech's evolution), CX technology is a considerable challenge for many customer experience leaders.
But at the same time, technology can make a huge difference in the success of a customer experience programme. How do we know? Jim Tincher, founder of Heart of the Customer, has done the research to demonstrate it, conducting a survey of 200 CX leaders in conjunction with the CXPA, Usermind and Megan Burns.
Setting out to identify what sets apart the one-in-four ‘great’ customer experience programmes operated by ‘Change Makers’ (the most effective programmes in the CX space), the group conducted a survey of over 200 CX leaders.
“One big difference that really popped was their use of technology,” explained Tincher recently. “We asked about a dozen different technologies including journey analytics, journey orchestration, customer health dashboards, chatbots, social media scraping, marketing automation, sentiment analysis… all kinds of different tools.”
The study found that the average organisation used 4.7 technologies while the change makers use 7.4.
“The main message is that change makers use over 50% more technologies,” notes Tincher.
But clearly there’s more to it than just throwing money at technology.
“Organisations can’t just go and spend money on technology without a plan. They need to have the vision for their customer experience stack,” Pete Rogers, SVP service line lead technology consulting at Merkle warned on his vlog.
“Too often we see brands buying technology for the sake of technology. Technology is easy to purchase and install but often brands forget about the people, process and data needed to do this. The people, the skillsets in order to operate these platforms. The processes that need to change as you move from batch and blast technologies into more omnichannel.
“You need to have a whole different set of agile processes for that. And data - data is the most important part and everyone understands that but I think they underestimate the time and the lift to be able to do that. So what brands need is a vision for what their customer experience stack is going to look like and then align the tech to this vision.”
In terms of the key requirements of a CX tech stack, Rogers says it must:
Be built in the cloud using cloud technologies. “Software as a Service is the easiest way to go and do this, so all solutions that can be software as a service you should choose,” says Rogers.
Be built to solve your current needs - but be scalable for the future to grow as you go, so you don’t have to predict the future. “Build for today - but with the vision of the future. If you have existing investments in marketing clouds, how do you enhance those and buy more of those tools as opposed to starting with a different investment?”
Enable rapid adoption for frequent changes. “These investments need to change rapidly - you need to be able to move quickly as you see the market changing. So the stack needs to be flexible, and you need to have integrations between the areas.”
Empower business users to access the data they need. “Think about the business users first… what are the things that the users want to achieve and design for those.”
Connect your data to enable a single view of the customer.
So what are the core technologies that your customer experience tech stack should comprise of? While this may differ depending on precise requirements and whether the organisation is business-to-consumer or business-to-business, there is some guidance that we can take from the Heart of the Customer research.
87% of Change Makers use Voice of the Customer software, and while it didn’t provide differentiation (82% of the average programmes also use VoC software), as Tincher notes: “You can’t have a customer experience tech stack without Voice of the Customer software, so that’s where we begin.”
“Leading VoC platforms go far beyond basic surveys to listen to customers. They collect feedback via website, email, text, call centres, CRM, sales transactions and social media. They collect it as text, voice, video and closed-ended questions,” Shawn Phillips, CTO of Heart of the Customer notes.
“Listening is not just hearing. It must be an active process. Once you’ve taken in all that data, you can analyse what it means. You find out which emotions are driving which financial results. You learn where people are struggling and where they are loving their experience. The best platforms enable you to take action and close the loop. Because it’s not enough to prove to your customers that you are listening, you need to act on what they tell you.”
Customer health dashboard
However, one of the technologies that the research revealed did differentiate between average and great programmes was customer health dashboards. In the research, it was revealed that only one out of four average programmes use customer health dashboards, while almost 50% more Change Makers do (43% in total).
“I first became aware of these in interviews when I kept running across great programmes using customer health dashboards to engage the business,” says Tincher. “It’s not just survey data - they combine financial data, operational data and behavioural data along with the survey data to create this compelling picture of the current state of the customer experience.
“Customer health dashboards help with the change management by showing the current state of the experience…. It really engages leadership differently.”
As an example of how valuable they can be, Tincher notes how Jennifer Zamora, senior global director customer experience & commercial excellence senior at Dow, had a thousand licences for her dashboards, but actually ran out because the demand for them was so great.
“More than a thousand leaders at Dow were logging in to see her dashboards. That’s how compelling they were. She had to renegotiate with Qualtrics to get unlimited licences. I wish you all had that business problem. I would love that one.”
Customer journey mapping software
Elsewhere, the usage of journey mapping software was also an area of differentiation between the average and great CX programmes - only used by one in four average programmes but used by over half of the great ones… more than twice the rate.
“That surprised me,” says Tincher. “I have been doing journey mapping for years and I thought journey mapping software was awful - but I was wrong! Great journey mapping software isn’t just creating a visualisation. It allows you to manage and change the journey.”
While static journey maps can get the conversation started by building the desire to see change, they represent a fixed moment in time.
Phillips believes that CJM Software takes those static representations and turns them into live representations of the current (and evolving) state of the journey in three ways:
It allows you to see the current state of the journey and track progress;
It is a change management tool that organises all the initiatives that you are working on across the journey in one place; and
It enables your company to centralise how you monitor and manage the progress you are making, with an atlas of multiple journey and your personas in one portfolio.
“Best-in-class programs will provide a fuller view, with integrations into CCM, analytics, and orchestration platforms,” he explains.
Journey analytics platforms
The research revealed that journey analytics was used by 28% of the average programmes, but 81% of the great programmes - a huge difference.
So why are these platforms so important?
“To paraphrase Management Theorist V.F. Ridgway: Not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that we can measure matters. The key to successful journey management is to find the sweet spot and measure what does matter – identifying the metrics that best reflect what is happening during the customer journey and that matter most to your customers and your business. Journey analytics platforms help you do that,” says Phillips.
These platforms provide marketing with data that allows them to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the right personalised messages and products - you can see where people are in the journey, where people get stuck and where they drop off.
“But the true power kicks in when built-in or customised data science models predict churn, customer lifetime value, and show other metrics that prove you are making a difference. Or that you’re not,” adds Phillips.
Journey orchestration software
More commonly used in B2C than B2B, journey orchestration software is another technology that differentiated the great and average programmes - only used by 5% of the average companies, but nearly half (47%) of the Change Makers.
“Now you know where your customers are in the journey. What do you do with that information? That’s where journey orchestration software comes in, to help you improve customer journeys in real-time, through targeted interventions and other automated responses,” says Phillips.
“Journey orchestration enables you to act on the insights you’ve gleaned from your analytics and the customer signals you now have the capability to pick up across channels, thanks to your VoC platform.”
Taken together, the study findings allowed Tincher and the team to identify what they believe the customer experience tech stack should comprise of.
“Starting with Voice of the Customer software, then customer health dashboards, then journey mapping, journey analytics and orchestration. Technologies you need to look at if you too want to become a Change Maker,” Tincher concludes.
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined MyCustomer in 2007.