Susan Ganeshan, chief marketing officer at Clarabridge, discussed the modern customer and how CMOs can connect with today’s consumers to deliver outstanding customer service.
SCOTT ROBBIN: Can you tell us a little about your background and your time at Clarabridge thus far?
SUSAN GANESHAN: As a high-tech marketer, I’m focused on helping customers reap business value from otherwise technical solutions. I’ve worked in this industry for more than 20 years and have come to realize that software has the power to change lives: both for those using it and, ultimately, the downstream customers who are impacted. I came to Clarabridge because our customer experience management software helps large businesses deliver a better customer experience and results to happier customers. It’s crazy to think of the impact, but with our customers, we are literally changing the way people travel, select hotels, decide where to eat, invest their money, recover from accidents and even clean their house.
How has Clarabridge evolved throughout your time with the company?
I’ve been here about four months, and in that time, we’ve re-organized the marketing team, focused on brand awareness and kicked up a content marketing engine. The goal of our content marketing is to help CEM professionals do their job. We are putting out ideas and advice on how to build a CEM function, how to measure and prove value and how to keep it going. Our customers fuel this effort. When they share what they learned at one of our functions or what they are struggling with, we document it and share it with everyone. So much fun!
Let’s discuss the modern customer and what they expect from the brands they interact with. How has the brand-customer relationship transformed in recent years?
Customers expect to talk in any channel, directly to you, on social media, on review sites, to your partners – and they expect to be heard. And now, they expect complete follow up with a closed-loop experience. The past three years has led us to the advent of “social customer care” where someone uses Twitter, Facebook or other review sites to either praise or complain about your brand. They expect follow up. When you give them that follow up, great things happen. You can make happy customers happier – “Hey United Airlines tweeted back at me, how cool?!” and you can turn unhappy customers into advocates – “Well they refunded my credit card, that was a classy thing to do.”
Customers also expect you to know them and what makes them tick, and they appreciate and more readily use offers you make that relate to their lives. Best Buy as one small example decided to proactively remind customers of appointments with the Geek Squad. It saved Best Buy money and kept customers more satisfied with the overall interaction with their team. It’s a win-win. The net is that customers expect big brands to know them personally.
How are top CMOs seizing upon this momentum and leading the charge to create customer-centric organizations?
CMOs of major CPG, retail, high-tech and banking organizations are leading the charge to own and manage the customer experience. They don’t want to just monitor brand buzz or volume of mentions but they want to truly understand where customers stand on service, product, support and more. Then they work to share and collaborate with the rest of the organization to find areas where they can affect change and deliver better customer experiences. They don’t just gather the customer voice and throw it over the wall to other parts of the organization; rather, they break down the voice into company-specific topics. They show trends and changes in sentiment. They supply this data along with the customers’ actual words back to the other business units and actively sit with them to understand the possible changes. One grocery chain learned that they had a product with defective and potentially harmful packaging. They fixed it. One cell phone manufacturer learned their product design was frustrating users with unintuitive placement of buttons. They fixed it. A bank realized their marketing materials didn’t adequately define their product offering to customers or their own staff. They fixed it.
What are some of the top challenges that marketers are encountering with regards to tracking and understanding their customers’ feedback?
There are four primary challenges to understanding the feedback.
First, you have to find it, because it sits all over your organization (in the call center, in email, in live chat, just to name a few) and it sits all over the web (on Twitter, Facebook, Trip Advisor, Yelp and even on sites like pissedconsumer.com).
Once you find it, you have to understand it. The fact is 95 percent of customer feedback is unstructured text- or voice-based. Even surveys that compile structured data only account for a small percentage of all the feedback. To understand the written or spoken word, you have to break it down to its smaller parts and then put it into the right categories and buckets to understand it alongside all the other data.
When you can build it back up into trends for a complete picture, the next challenge is to prioritize it. Should you make a change to your pricing on one product right away or should you overhaul the whole program? These are hard choices. You have to marry what you learn about the customer experience with your overall corporate KPIs to determine the next best course of action.
Finally, you have to continually evolve. Tomorrow the next Twitter will pop up or customers will start talking in a new way. In the “Age of the Customer,” you have to follow them as they traverse an ever-changing customer journey.
“Customers expect to talk in any channel, directly to you, on social media, on review sites, to your partners – and they expect to be heard. And now, they expect complete follow up with a closed-loop experience.”
Alternatively, how has customer feedback empowered the modern CMO?
Today’s CMO is using customer feedback to figure out not only why people buy but also, and equally important, why they don’t buy. He is using it for instant, near real-time feedback on campaigns and promotions and with that he is adjusting on the fly. He is using it to advise his social media promotions and offers. And because it is cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to find a new one, he is using it to maintain loyal customers by engaging with them directly when issues arise. He’s become a powerful arm of the customer care department.
Can you share any examples of how your team has leveraged customer feedback to improve the customer experience?
We are extremely customer focused. We ask our customers to help direct our product roadmap and our company strategy. To that end we’ve acquired companies (a survey company) and white-labeled products (a recorded voice-to-text appliance) to help our customers meet their goals. In marketing we use our customers’ feedback to learn where they are challenged with their CEM initiatives. Mostly today we hear they need help hiring, shaping teams, measuring CEM programs, engaging management, and so on. Our entire marketing team is focused on helping these customers perfect their CEM programs.
Similarly, can you share any examples from the clients you work with?
We’ve helped device manufactures improve device design. We’ve help retailers improve shopping experiences. We’ve helped insurance companies to better process claims. We’ve help telecommunications providers change and improve their pricing structures.
How has the explosion of data and measurement tools transformed the role of marketing within an organization and the role of the CMO?
Marketers have literally hundreds of tools and technologies they can choose from to measure the brand, their marketing initiatives, and even the customer experience. This daunting task is complicated because every department in an organization cares about different units of measure. Customer care pays attention to CSat, social teams pay attention to buzz, executives look at revenue and profit, and CEM professionals pay attention to NPS. Reconciling these and showing the true measure of health of the business can be hard. But when the CMO works from numbers and stats, not just the ones they care about but the ones the business has defined as important, he turns into the single source of truth.
How is Clarabridge working with CMOs to help demonstrate ROI to their respective executive teams? Can you share any examples with us?
Sure. The list is long, but here are two.
Clarabridge helped a major fast food chain save $4M in just a few weeks. They looked at customer feedback regarding their distribution of ketchup, changed their front line operations and calculated the multi-million dollar savings immediately.
Clarabridge helped a major telecom provider save $2.8B by eliminating 14 customer issues identified in customer feedback.
How do you foresee the marketplace evolving over the next couple years, and how will this change the playing field for marketers?
Consumers continue to grow savvier. I think the number is something like 75 percent of the buying process is done before they even interact with you as a product owner. Think about the ever-growing population of millennials with spending power: this generation grew up with the world in their back pocket, “just google it.” So marketers can’t just control the brand, they need to help the entire company control the whole customer and prospect experience. According to millennials, they are health conscience but spurge on junk when necessary; what others say online mandates if they will become your customer and lack of reviews ensures they won’t; service matter more to them than the previous generations. So marketing has to be about managing the entire customer experience, for this generation and all the tech savvy generations to come.
What is Clarabridge planning in the way of solutions to keep up with these changes?
We’re focused on continuing to innovate in the ways we listen to customers; we recently added the recorded voice as an input and will soon add in pictures. We are combining this data with other forms of customer data to lead the way on predictive CEM where we help companies not only understand what the customer thinks but give them the ideas on what to do about it.
Would you like to share anything else with us?
I don’t think there are enough CMOs using the publically available data found on social and review sites to keep up with their national, regional, and local competitors. Imagine you’re a successful hotel chain that usually competes well in cities. Then you open a beachfront resort. You can’t just use the same recipes to appeal to that audience – you have to look at your local competitors and understand what works and doesn’t work for them. Guess what? All that information is out there on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Use it. My advice: when in doubt, go online.
As leader of the Clarabridge marketing team, Susan defines the brand, leads the charge for educational, useful content, and enables both Clarabridge and our partners to promote and deliver on the promise of customer centricity.
During her 25 year career, Susan has gained in-depth software experience spanning diverse roles including content marketing, product marketing, lead generation, event management, product management, engineering, quality assurance, implementation consulting, training, and sales support with organizations like newBrandAnalytics, webMethods, Software AG, Deloitte Consulting, and Checkfree. From this experience, Susan developed a maniacal focus on customer success and a passion for outside in thinking.