3 Ways Customer Experience and Real-Time Insights Create Winning Brands: Interview with Susan Ganeshan

Glenn: Hi, everyone. I’m Glenn Gow, Founder & Advisor of Crimson Marketing. Welcome to Moneyball for Marketing where we talk about the incredible changes happening in marketing organizations around big data and marketing technology. We feature marketing technology insights from the top marketers in the world. The reference to Moneyball is from the story of how the Oakland A’s baseball team were able to win and win and win because they figured out how to use data and technology to their advantage. If you’d like to learn about how to use big data and marketing technology and marketing to help you win visit us at CrimsonMarketing.com or email us at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Susan Ganeshan the CMO of Clarabridge. Susan’s role ranges everything from branding to lead gen and her marketing and business development teams fill the top of the funnel with educated, quality opportunities. That is their focus. So how does Clarabridge describe themselves? Clarabridge’s customer experience management platform helps hundreds of the world’s leading brands understand and improve the customer journey. Susan, it’s a pleasure to have you.

Susan: Thanks for having me, Glenn.

Glenn: You and I were speaking about some stories, Susan, some stories about how CMOs are thinking differently these days and they’re really focused on customer feedback and in fact they’re focused on trying to understand a lot of questions, but they usually don’t understand why customers are saying what they do. Tell us a little bit about that.

Susan: Yeah, actually what we’ve seen is in companies of all ranges and all sizes that from the CEO on down there is a goal to be connected and more in tune with the customers. Typically that goal is falling under the umbrella of marketing and in what the CMOs are trying to do is understand how the customers experience from their brand to their products to their service and whether those customers will stay loyal to the brand and those products or if they’re turning.

Glenn: It sounds almost obvious on the surface that you need to understand this otherwise you’re flying blind, right?

Susan: That’s right. That’s right. I mean I’ve always said even in my role as a marketer and product manager in my career the answer to your question is outside these four walls. In other words, it lies with the customers.

Glenn: Right, right.

Susan: And that is true of what large company CMOs are seeing today as well, but what you’ve just said also is what CMOs and other people listening to the customers are struggling with is understanding why their customers feel a certain way. You might know that a customer is dissatisfied with your price, but why? You might understand that customers aren’t coming back to a particular store or a particular location, why? It’s answering that why that is the biggest challenge.

Glenn: Right because you know why you can actually make change happen.

Susan: That’s right.

Glenn: If you don’t understand the why then you’re just guessing.

Susan: Exactly, and by the way there’s a lot of smart people in these companies and they have a lot of what I would call gut feeling or intuition about why their customers are acting a certain way or another, but the truth is certain systems and certain statistics will lie to you. So, for example, one of the things I like to say is, “Your point of sale system is lying to you.”

Glenn: Ooh, tell me more.

Susan: Well, imagine this you’re in a new restaurant and you’ve rolled out your summer menu. Well that summer menu—particular items on it are selling like hotcakes so you’re sitting around your boardroom saying, “Hey, we created the best new summer menu ever.” Well, the fact is the reason it’s selling like hotcakes for the first time is because your wait staff is telling people, “Give it a try. I tried it the other day, I liked it.” But in reality the reviews online and found on review sites and forums is actually telling you that customers hate. So for a period of time your POS system can lie to you and if you miss that boat it could be too late because now the reputation on the market of these items or that menu sucks and I’m not going to go back to that restaurant. So you always have to be on top–

Glenn: No, no, that’s great. It’s a perfect story where I have data that’s telling me wow, this is working really well and I make certain assumptions about that why it’s working well and your example here is because the wait staff is promoting something not because it’s a great summer menu.

Susan: That’s right. That’s right. The other thing is there’s so much information wrapped up in the customer feedback that if marketers take a step back they can actually throw away some very expensive market research. They can maybe decide not to spend their time digging through mounds and mounds of statistics, but they can simply turn to the customer’s voice and uncover some really cool things. For example, one of the things I’ve seen some CPG CMOs do in the consumer product goods space is actually listen to the voice of the customer and the voice of the market by reading through customer feedback found in social channels.

Glenn: Sure.

Susan: So take one of the top manufacturers of make-up and hair products and things like that they look through all of the customer feedback about their products but also about their competitors. So think about it 10 years market research would’ve been have everybody use this make-up, does it cover your blemishes? Does it make your face glow? Does it make you look younger? Whereas today you just download a bunch of the chatter on the web and on these social sites and you have it at your fingertips and it’s real-time. Now imagine making changes to the way you price products, the way you roll them out, even the products you design based on the competitive landscape at the speed of real-time. It’s pretty cool.

Glenn: Oh it’s very cool and it does require automation ultimately because you can’t read every comment on Facebook, but if you can automate that process and automate what people are tweeting about and automate what people are doing on Pinterest just choose a few I can get that data then I can report that up to senior management and show them what’s happening.

Susan: That’s right. I mean, if you try to do it just with a couple of people or yourself reading through mounds and mounds of data you’re going to have the last in, first out principle which is the last few things you read are going to be the first thing that comes out of your mouth when you try to communicate it to people. A much more scientific approach is to truly dissect that data, break it down to its elements and categorize it into your industry’s specific needs. Again, going back to a CPG provider of make-up I would break it down by things like price, availability, and then product categories like aging, or smoothness, or color and from those very specific categories for a CPG then understand where are people talking most. Well, actually they’re talking about the color most. That’s where they’re most challenged. Okay, what can we do? And then you would do the same, but in your own industry. So if you’re in telecommunications you’re breaking it down by categories and thoughts that matter to you. If you’re in banking you’re looking at fees and check out times and customer service within a branch so you’re looking at different categories depending on the industry you’re in but the point is you’re breaking down this human spoken customer feedback and you’re turning into–this largely unstructured data, you’re turning it into something structured that can be acted upon.

Glenn: Right, right. I was thinking the word was actionable. How do you take that information that we’re learning and summarizing through automation and making it actionable. You told you had a couple of stories about companies that have done that successfully.

Susan: Yeah, another way people are using this customer feedback and like you say making it actionable is they’re going with the old adage that it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one. So they’re looking through the data to find ways to keep their customer loyal. So a great example is what Verizon did after Hurricane Sandy. So much of the east coast and that territory was literally under water and trying to rebuild. Mailboxes were gone so there was no place to deposit the Verizon bill.

Glenn: Like physical mailboxes.

Susan: Physical mailboxes were just gone and by the way people were in panic mode and they were trying to rebuild their lives so they were constantly on the one thing they had in their hands their cell phone. And so they were worried about things like overage costs and going way past their minutes and then having another whammy to an already bad situation. Verizon saw this and listened to that voice of the customer and they saw the panic, they saw the emotion. They dug down into the emotion of what those customers were feeling–

Glenn: Tell me, Susan, how did they listen?

Susan: In this case Verizon has 60 different listening points, but they listened through their call center so when somebody calls them the agent is taking notes, the call is being recorded, they’re interpreting that back to text and they’re digging through all of that emotion. They’re looking on social media, Twitter, Facebook, any place else people are talking about Verizon. They have a website that offers online chat so they’re grabbing the data out of the chat window. Anywhere a customer is talking to Verizon, Verizon is recording it and listening and understanding what that customer is saying at a very deep level. And so in the case of Hurricane Sandy they segmented the data by those people affected in the area, they uncovered the emotion, and they said, “You know what? We have a corporate responsibility to help these people and do something about it.” And so they announced to those people, “Hey, we’re going to forgive your overages. We’re going to help you through this difficult time.” I mean, could you imagine the loyalty that got generated.

Glenn: Oh that’s huge.

Susan: Huge. So again it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one and they’ll tell this story throughout their organization on how customer-focused they are.

Glenn: So now I get the automation part. I think in this case we’re talking millions of people of which hundreds or tens of thousands are communicating to Verizon and how in the world could you keep track of that without pulling all that information across a multitude of systems?
Susan: That’s right, and in some cases with some feedback types they say that for every one customer you hear from there’s 26 more that didn’t talk to you. So imagine they’re looking through thousands and hundreds of thousands of feedback from customers, but there’s so many more people feeling the exact same way.

Glenn: Fascinating. Fascinating. So now a perfect example you can be actionable because you understand what’s going on in your market and in this case it was real-time and it enabled them to move quickly and really create loyal customers out of something that was a disaster.

Susan: That’s right. That’s right.

Glenn: Fascinating.

Susan: A couple of other examples of ways CMOs are truly listening to customer feedback and digging into the why. They’re using the customer feedback to keep up with market demands. One of my favorite examples is what they do at GE Healthcare. So instead of their customer at GE Healthcare—now consider what they do, they make big MRI machines, machines that are saving our lives.

Glenn: Right, scary machines.

Susan: Scary machines. And they can listen to the voice of the customer or the patient and they’d hear things like, “It was loud,” or “It was scary,” or “It was cold,” but what they’re doing is they’re actually listening to the voice of the doctors or the nurses who administer those machines and use the software associated with the machine and based on listening to those individuals they are advancing their products. So when a doctor tells them, “I wish it would’ve allowed me to see this within the MRI,” they’re taking that back to their product teams and they’re improving their product. They’re improving the way that product detects illness or issues and they’re saving lives by listening to, in this case the voice of their customer which is the doctor and the nurse.

Glenn: So in this case do they need a voice of customer program or how do you get that information from doctors?

Susan: Yeah, in this case they’re surveying them so each time an MRI is administered at one of their doctor facilities they ask them to complete a short form or sometimes more lengthy and that comes back into the voice of the customer program and again, that’s a place where dissecting that written word the way doctors speak it is a whole ‘nother science, but it’s the same technology that can weave through those sentences and understand what is being said to be able to bring that forward to the product engineers who make those machines better.

Glenn: That’s a great example. I hadn’t thought how customer feedback can have a direct impact on the product roadmap for products and that’s pretty obvious now that I think about it.

Susan: Right and other organizations do it, too. We work with a major beverage company, I won’t say their name, but you can imagine it’s one of the big ones and they are listening to their moms and parents and educators where those products are served around concerns around sweeteners and the various types of sweeteners and they’re nailing that down to different parts of the globe so they know which sweeteners won’t sell in China versus which ones are issues popping up in Argentina with health concerns of some sort. So they’re segmenting it around the globe and have established a command center to truly understand the product’s perception, the product’s needs, and again, influence their product development and their product roadmap.

Glenn: Well and, of course, product messaging. We feature the things that we know are important to a certain geography or a certain culture. Without even changing the product we can do that right away and then ultimately if we have enough time and investment we can change the product to serve that market better.

Susan: That’s right. That’s right and messaging as one of the CMO’s primary goals is something that is so hard to get right and even a small switch of words can have such a dramatic effect. So another way CMOs are using that voice of the customer is to understanding how they’re messaging and in particular how some of the campaigns they’re running are actually going over. You probably would know from your statistical point of sale data or your ERP system whether that campaign worked or not, but then do you know what the downstream effects of it are and why those effects are happening?

Glenn: Do you have an example for us there?

Susan: Yeah, so in this case we worked with an organization who had rolled out a campaign for discounts, they were a retail organization, and when they offered those discounts what they didn’t realize that the coupon that they were offering was expiring too quickly. They also had an internal policy to let the manager override the expiration which in turn created very long checkout lines.

Glenn: Ah, right you have to call the manager over to override that.

Susan: Yeah, so why do that? Why not just increase the expiration date if you’re going to override every time anyway, right? And then that customer’s experience when they’re shopping with you, when they’re in store and then when they’re checking out which can be some of the most frustrating part of shopping just make it easier. That was one little example of understanding the why of a campaign, but we’ve worked with many different companies and uncovered different aspects of campaigns they didn’t realize were impacting customers. Loyalty programs that they coded wrong or specials that they were offering say on Black Friday or during the holidays that drew the negative effect or a negative feeling from their customers rather than a positive one and so those are the kinds of things a marketer really does need to stay on top of.

Glenn: And I just want to summarize, we’re going to wrap up in a second, Susan, in a minute I’ll ask you a question about the future, but what I’ve learned here is that we can’t know really the impact of what we’re doing in marketing until we actually hear what people are feeding back to us because we don’t know the perceptions. We may think we understand because we’ve done our testing beforehand, but it’s really the perceptions that matter and what you’re sharing with us is that there’s so much to learn that it’s not obvious to any marketer based on what you can actually hear customers telling you. It’s just fascinating to me. So let me lead to the last question here, I’d love to hear your thoughts about where is this going? What are we going to see in the next year or two and what kind of capabilities should we be thinking about as marketers?

Susan: Well, in the next year or two if it isn’t already an imperative for you it’s going to have to be. According to Gartner they recently put out some statistics saying that by 2016 86 percent of companies will compete on customer experience. Whereas as little as two years ago it was in the 30s. So two years from now if you’re not already—have a tight pulse or a tight grip on the voice of the customer you’re already going to be behind. Where we’re seeing things go is into truly understanding the tone of customers and so as they’re speaking to you and engaging with you are they angry, upset, passionate, afraid? Understanding that and how the emotion is driving their overall experience with you and we’re taking that also to the recorded voice to recorded videos and then also into images because so many of today’s millenials they no longer want to type anything or answer a survey, no way, but they will take a picture and post it on Instagram and that picture is going to have your logo on it and are they happy with their purchase or not. That will need to be pulled from the image itself. So it’s a pretty cool future that we see here where people get to communicate with you in so many different ways.

Glenn: And the beauty is the customer who wants to be heard is going to be heard. So that’s kind of the win for everybody in the end. So, Susan, unfortunately we’re out of time.

Susan: Thank you so much for having me, this was fun.

Glenn: This was really fun and I learned a great deal so I really appreciate.

Susan: Thank you so much, Glenn, I appreciate it, too.

Glenn: Okay, talk to you soon.

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