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SAP CMO Discusses Gartner CX Pyramid for Brands

The ability to offer an elite customer experience, the kind that results in heightened loyalty and advocacy from consumers, is a driving force for many organizations today. Yet, if you ask someone to define how well they execute on customer experience, you might get a handful of different answers simply because the concept can feel a bit intangible at times and therefore difficult to measure. 

Gartner is making an effort to make it easier for brands by unveiling a CX pyramid, a way for organizations to better understand what makes for an outstanding customer experience through a definitive framework of requirements. It was developed with the idea that while brands know the value of an impactful customer experience, the ability to define benchmarks to reach certain outcomes can be a bit more difficult to do. 

The evolution of customer experience was explained very succinctly by Kevin Cochrane, CMO for SAP Customer Experience in a recent discussion he led at DMEXCO 2018 by saying “our expectations of our customers are now different, because our customers’ expectations of us are different”. Gartner’s move to offer a methodology gives organizations a leg up but in what way can brands best leverage this information to test their current strategy and gain insight to further their CX in the future? To answer this and other questions on the new CX Pyramid, I was able to speak with Kevin, which you can read below. 

CX Has Overtaken Product

The heightened expectation of customer experience can be seen as both a cause and effect of the advancements made in the technology brands are using to connect more deeply and permanently with their customers. In a way we live in a time where one brand’s innovation becomes a benchmark expectation across their market quicker than we’ve ever seen before. This could also be contributing to the confusion felt in delivering table stake CX in a systematic way while keeping up with the rapid progression. 

For insight into this, brands often defer to the advice of those who know CX inside and out simply because they’ve been engaged with the overall strategy as it has grown. I asked Kevin how he would advise brands to apply the CX pyramid to create the types of experiences required by brands today:

"In an era defined by endless choice and commoditization, the customer experience has emerged as an important differentiator for retailers and brands. In many cases, the experience no longer just supplements the products, but has become the product itself. In the past, companies operated in a reactive manner to customer needs but today, brands recognize that in order to maintain consumers, they must be proactive. 

This can be achieved by utilizing consumer data for personalization tactics. By harnessing this data, companies are able to create meaningful touchpoints and connect with purpose. It is the brand’s responsibility to anticipate customer needs, goals, and wants. By following this framework, companies will be able to engage more effectively with customers. Giving people what they want, when they want, shapes the entire end-to-end experience. With the customer at the root of all decisions, businesses can leverage insights to improve the overall customer experience."

Great CX Lives in Customer Data

In creating the pyramid, I can’t help but think it must have been a combination of projected expertise with an evaluation of companies that were excelling with customer experience through an analysis of how they were achieving this through a fundamental lens. 

To expand on this kind of thinking, I asked Kevin if there were brands out there he felt were demonstrating the full pyramid of criteria already and how they were achieving this:

"Companies like athletic retailer ASICS are demonstrating the CX Pyramid in its entirety by offering consumers unique branded content and experiences. Furthermore, ASICS efforts are forward-looking, proactive, strategic, broad and customer-centric. 

ASICS is using APIs to unlock backend systems and promote governed access to critical customer information, including real-time inventory, pricing and order statuses. As a result, ASICS is able to build direct and personalized relationships with its customers across the globe. 

This effort satisfies a higher order of customer needs. In a similar way, automotive manufacturer, Karma Automotive, connected every aspect of its business in a consolidated place to anticipate all customer needs including manufacturing, sales, vehicle inspections and maintenance. The company wanted speed and flexibility, with increased insight into customer interactions and vehicle performance. To achieve this, implementing the right technology was crucial to garner real-time access to customer information, allowing the company to make the best possible decisions for the consumer and proactively providing them what they need, a key part of the CX Pyramid."

Consumer Trust as the ‘Ultimate Currency’

When looking at the customer journey, the point of purchase seems to come easier to brands than turning their customers into advocates yet, some brands are able to build up an army of advocates quite easily. Obviously the social implications of customers attaching themselves to brands comes into play but beyond that, I asked Kevin what he thought brands do differently that allows them to turn a higher percentage of their customers into advocates?

"The answer lies within consumer trust, which in today’s landscape serves as the ultimate currency. Consumers want personalized interactions that account for their past behavior and anticipate their future needs. But to execute on this level of personalization, companies must be trusted to compile customer data and use it appropriately. If a brand is able to prove that they are using data in a helpful capacity, they will incrementally gain customer trust and better personalize their engagements. In this process, the brand will win a customer for life and, with it, a powerful brand advocate."

What are Brands Not Seeing?

As Kevin mentions, the ability to mine data for insight into customer experience is quickly becoming a core requirement for an effective strategy. Further to this, as he points out in his reference to ASICS, having technology with the kind of APIs to encourage cross-platform access to information is also a huge consideration, one some brands might not have thought of yet even though it makes perfect sense. We all know the ills of having too much content or information siloed in disparate systems, why are some brands not seeing this in relation to customer experience? 

Within that same thought process, I wanted to know if Kevin had any other comments on a portion of the customer experience he felt brands aren’t focusing enough attention on or were entirely underestimating in effectiveness by lack of resources? 

"As new privacy regulations are established, such as GDPR, many companies remain content to just “check a box” and say they are compliant. Savvy marketers and customer experience professionals are beginning to realize that data is at the heart of every tier of the CX pyramid. To meet the expectations for customer experience today, companies need to have a holistic view of the customer and that can only be achieved if the customer is willing to share personal information."

Ending Notes

Surrounding the CX Pyramid, Gartner let us in on some interesting statistics that align with Kevin’s thoughts he expressed on stage at DMEXCO: “The goal of CX is to meet and exceed customer expectations, but while 48 percent say their CX efforts exceed management’s expectations, just 22 percent of customer experience leaders report their CX efforts exceed customers’ expectations.” This all but highlights a glaring disconnect for some brands between what they think is good CX versus what their customers think. 

When I look at it, it reminds me a bit of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs but I doubt I am the only one to notice that. I imagine a lot of us who enjoy the deep dive into understanding customers have some foundational knowledge in the world of psychology or sociology and I feel like given that, Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation passed across our student desk at some point.  

The similarities for me lie in how we have the basic needs at the bottom, then we see the move from reactive to proactive as Kevin mentions above that brands need to be and finally you have the transcendence where customers’ experiences with brands are showing influence in their own perception of themselves as Gartner represents it, you're making customers feel "better, safer or more powerful" .

Laura Myers

Laura Myers

A digital business, marketing and social media enthusiast, Laura thrives on asking unique, insightful questions to ignite conversation. At an event or remotely, she enjoys any opportunity to connect with like-minded people in the industry.