It’s very exciting to embark on a new chapter of one’s career, so I am thrilled to be joining Ventana Research to lead the practice of expertise in customer experience (CX). Some who know me might remember that I’ve been in this industry since a much younger version of me edited Call Center Magazine in the 1990s and 2000s. Others might have crossed paths in my role at several industry analyst firms. I’ve been around for quite a while, invigorate and help CX emerge as a competitive differentiator in the industry, watching successive waves of technological and operational changes wash over this industry. So what’s special about this moment, for the CX industry, for Ventana Research and for myself?
Transitions are hard. They force people to reconsider old assumptions and overturn entrenched ways of doing business. When I began this journey, call centers were wholly voice-centric with a heavy bias towards what we used to call “telecom thinking”—if you moved a voice call from point A to point B and kept the call short, you were winning. Call centers were designed to triage customer problems and minimize the cost of interactions. In today’s world, that’s too narrow a way to think or talk about the complex relationships that businesses have with their customers, or the many contact points that customers have at their disposal.
When CX was young, the pace of change was much slower. Managers and technology buyers were able to see transformative change coming at them well in advance. They had time to plan, to reflect on how to change their processes and prepare their teams for new ways of doing business. CRM, for example, was a gradual response to the need to knit customer data together so sales teams and call centers could work off the same customer database. Vendors and call centers spent years plotting out how and why to transition to centralized data repositories and worked to connect them to call handling infrastructure. When the CRM wave was over, practitioners turned their attention to new problems that came one after the other, with time to breathe and assess in between.
In recent years, though, managers no longer have the luxury of taking on transitions one at a time. The cloud leads to questions of security, privacy and compliance. Mobile devices encourage customers to hop from one channel to another, elevating non-voice contact modes. Social media made every customer into an influencer or detractor, with huge audiences. AI puts the insights from vast data resources to work, but it needs to be trained and managed, and paid for. How should all the customer-related stakeholders (including marketers, sales teams and service departments) work together to align to company goals, measure them and define success?
Or, instead of waiting for customers to come to you, how do you orchestrate rich, meaningful interactions that provide leverage and influence because they demonstrate to customers that you value their relationships? Focus on one of these many problems and you might find a ready solution. But try to focus on all of them at once and you have a managerial and technological cascade that stymies many of the most seasoned professionals.
I joined Ventana Research because its unparalleled expertise and research methodology provide me with a framework for helping clients truly understand what they are facing in the marketplace. Whether the question is how to directly serve customers or how to build software and platforms for that purpose, organizations need insight into change. I am privileged to have spent an entire thirty-year career assessing change, giving me a longitudinal view of tech cycles to see what works, what doesn’t work, what’s already been tried and what ideas are genuinely new. Ventana’s unique product set—including Benchmark Research, Value Indexes and Dynamic Insights—are tools we use to start conversations and guide clients for effective strategies for optimization. These conversations should be intimate, collaborative and ongoing. My goal is to use our research and conversations to prepare organizations and individuals for the hard, scary work of a) dealing with drastic, fast changes and b) building engagement strategies that produce measurably better customer outcomes. Luckily, Ventana’s existing team of subject matter experts has decades of experience and deep insights in each of their respective areas and I am grateful to have the chance to be part of the team and work with them and bring my experiences.
In recent years, I have been exploring the ways in which the contact center as an organization has changed. Part of that has been to explore the ways that sales and marketing departments now share both in purchasing technology for CX, and in building processes to unify CX across those separate departments. We are still in the early days. Many efforts fall short for lots of reasons. But there are patterns, and best practices, that I will share with the Ventana Research community.
The disruptive experiences we have had in 2020 due to the pandemic have forced many organizations to rethink their customer processes and the technology they depend on. In effect, we have seen at least five years of transition take place in a few months to what is called business continuity, leaving many business and IT leaders worried, confused or unsure of what their options are. Yes, it is challenging, and yes, it is scary and hard. But it is also an exciting opportunity to create new models for service delivery and customer experience through advanced technology. We have not yet begun to scratch the surface of what this will mean or what is already possible. That’s why I joined Ventana Research—because the journey has just begun.