Why Social Engagement May Be More Important Than Marketing

Carlos Dominguez, president and COO of Sprinklr, notes that while marketing is about getting people to want to talk to a company, customer service is about interacting with someone who is already invested in the brand. His goal: get companies to blend those tasks in “ways that are radically different.”

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As organizations rely increasingly on digital technologies, how should they cultivate opportunities and address taking risks in a fast-moving digital market environment?
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Marketing today is not about what a company says. It’s about what customers say about the company.

To Carlos Dominguez, that kind of thinking is a truism. “Taking someone who’s got a problem — who’s already a customer in a bad situation — if you can satisfy them and convert them to an advocate, that’s kind of the way of the new world,” he says. “But very few companies are thinking through that lens.”

As president and COO of Sprinklr, a U.S.-based enterprise social media management company whose clients include 40% of the Fortune 50 and companies like Microsoft, Nike, Gap, and P&G, Dominguez leads the company’s marketing, sales, services, and partnerships teams. Before joining Sprinklr, Dominguez spent 22 years at Cisco Systems, serving the last seven as a “technology evangelist” and representative for the chairman and CEO while delivering keynote addresses worldwide.

In a conversation with Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane, an associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Digital Leadership Initiative, Dominguez talks about what the brightest digitally-centric companies are doing today.

Give us a quick overview of what Sprinklr does and where you see the market potential.

As social has evolved, businesses are finding that they need to leverage it in everything they do, whether it’s servicing their clients or talking to them or listening to what they care about.

From the very beginning, the whole premise of Sprinklr was to provide an enterprise platform for large companies to be able to do everything that needed to be done in that new world with all of those different channels. We want to give brands some power to be able to engage with customers in the channels that they are choosing to use. When I say power, it’s about giving them information. It’s aggregating stuff for them, making them more intelligent.

Here’s an example: Companies are collecting lots of information on people, but when I’m in a store that information is not usually presented to the people that are dealing with me. I’ll give them an ‘A’ for collecting the data, but a ‘D’ for not using it in a way that’s really meaningful to them or — better yet — me. On the other hand, when I walk into my car dealer and my name pops up in the display as I’m driving down the ramp and it says, “Welcome, Carlos Dominguez. Great to have you,” and then, the guy comes in and says, “Oh, you were here last time for these problems. Is everything okay?” That simple experience, just leveraging the data that they have on me, makes all the difference in the world.

What Sprinklr aspires to do is this: as customers continue to evolve, engaging with multiple channels in multiple ways, we will become the platform with which the largest brands in the world engage their customers from beyond the firewall. So, regardless if it’s coming in through a social channel, a mobile channel, an email, a phone call; regardless of whether it’s a legacy or a brand-new system, somehow Sprinklr is connecting all of these systems in a way that it’s able to inform and provide the brand with the information they need to create an absolutely incredible experience for their customer. That’s our aspiration.

Can you tell us about a client that is really out in front on this?

There’s a lot of them, but Microsoft is incredibly progressive, and they’re a client. They have dozens of products and brands, touch hundreds of millions of customers each day, and are a truly global company.

You start thinking about all the channels their customers are on — imagine being the CMO of that organization. You spend a lot of money building a campaign, you’re going to go out on social channels to publish it, but how the heck do you do that? What sort of data do you get?

Where we’re extremely unique is that we’re built for that scale, regardless of how big a company and its campaign is. Microsoft is a wonderful example of a company that can drive campaigns, know who the people are who are talking about the brand, the influencers, get them engaged. I’d say they’re fully digital.

What do you see that motivates companies to really become serious about engaging with customers on social business platforms?

What drives them is that their customers are on those channels. I’m the father of three Gen-Yers. They would never, ever think of dialing a 1-800 number. The infrastructure that’s been built during my generation is radically different from what the younger generation uses. My kids will send an email, maybe, but mostly they’ll just tweet and talk about how pissed off they are. The fact that companies need to pay attention to these channels is nothing more than that’s where their customers are going.

Do the tools that you offer them let them do customer service either better or differently than they could do in other, more traditional channels?

That’s a great question. Let me tell you how we approach this.

One of the clients who we’re working with brought us in because they wanted to improve their customer service. They didn’t feel like they were doing a good enough job on the social side, of listening, engaging, responding, doing that kind of thing. They said, “Hey. Give us a solution.”

But the dialogue we had with them quickly changed and we said to them, “Look. We’ve got a solution for you, but first can we ask, how much are you spending in marketing?” They looked at us and said, “Well, why the hell are you asking that question?” And we said, because in marketing, all the dollars you’re spending is to get people to want to talk to you. On the customer service side, you actually have a customer, someone who’s invested in your brand, who’s invested in your product. They happen to have a problem and they want to get a resolution. And the KPIs in that world are around how quickly we can resolve that problem and hang up on that customer.

The example here is you can’t begin to look at clients if you’re really looking at a customer experience through that lens. The new thinking has to be, a customer has a problem, and they’re a great customer of yours — how do you make them an advocate? How do you make them a proponent of your brand? Because in the world in which we’re living today, it’s no longer about how much money I spend. It’s about what people are saying about me. It’s not what I say. It’s what they say.

So, that’s a radical move. Taking someone who’s got a problem who’s already a customer in a bad situation, you satisfy them and convert them to an advocate — that’s the way of the new world. But very few companies are thinking through that lens.

Can you project out three-to-five years? What’s this going to do to organizations?

I think there will be people in charge of marketing and customer service and PR and AR and accounting and legal — they’ll all exist because somebody has to own the function — but at the strategic level, I think all of those groups are going to talk about what they do through the lens of what is the customer experience.

Everyone’s going to unify around the customer, which is ultimately what you have to do. When you do that, that will force, basically, customer service and marketing to look at the customer, the way they spend money, the way they focus the entire organization, in ways that are radically different.

What skills will be necessary either for employees or for managers to successfully work within the company you envision for the future?

I think all skills are going to change. I was talking to someone on a plane about why Gen Yers do what they do, and he was talking about how gamification and gaming has shifted their thinking. For them, you’re on a level. You’re playing a game, whatever it is, you work really hard, and you complete it. Now, you get moved to the next level, and it’s a little bit harder.

That translates into expectations in the workplace. I can’t begin to tell you how many Gen Yers walk in and say to me, “Hey, you asked me to do this task. I did it. Can I do something different?” I go, “Well, that was the first time.” He goes, “No, I’ve mastered it. I need to do something different.” And that’s a result of a lot of the environment that they’re in.

Leaders are going to have to change if they want to attract, retain, and maintain those generations. That’s a given.

How important is culture to successfully leveraging digital for business advantage?

Culture is everything because it determines how you behave. If your culture doesn’t value social and enable change, you’ll never survive this. You know all the history of all the companies that haven’t made it. Culture is a very critical piece of it and changing it, as you well know, is a really difficult thing to do.

There’s a stat on change that I like to cite, that after a severe heart attack, when you have to exercise regularly, eat right, and stop smoking, only 20% of people do that. Here’s change imposed upon people that only one out of five choose — and that’s life over death!

So the change management side to this stuff is really very rigorous. There’s technology, process, and people in anything that you do. Tech is easy. It’s transforming the process and the people that’s difficult.

Topics

Digital Leadership

As organizations rely increasingly on digital technologies, how should they cultivate opportunities and address taking risks in a fast-moving digital market environment?
See All Articles in This Section

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Comments (3)
jerome.pineau
We flipped angry customers and competitor customers fairly regularly at Autodesk as part of our overall strategy. It's all about timing and opportunity when it comes to engagement.
carlos dominguez
Robert,
I couldn't agree with you more.  Every organization has to become a marketing company in this new world.  All functions in a company have to unite around delivering amazing customer experiences.  They need to listen to what's being said about them and leverage all of the contributions (good and bad) that customers are posting on a myriad of channels.

The biggest challenge is that data about the customer is captured in disparate systems that are not interconnected.  The silos containing this information makes it really difficult for companies to really know their customers.  The existing ERP, CRM and .Com systems will not go away.  So the art is how do you enrich these legacy systems with knowledge and information from the new world (social channels, blogs etc.)

I think we have a unique opportunity to know our customers in a way that was never possible before.  Either you adapt and leverage this available knowledge or your competitor will.
Robert Barzelay
Marketing has never been what a company says. Though, I must confess, that is what (too) many companies have made of it. Marketing starts the moment you have an idea. Marketing starts with needs research and extends all the way till after-sales. Marketing happens in every single step of a product's development to launch to sales to customer service. People tend to forget where the word MARKETING comes from. It comes from MARKET, the place where your customer or user is located. But alas, there is so much misconception of marketing. Ask the average corporate executive what upstream and downstream marketing is, and in most cases you get a blank stare. This ignoring or not understanding marketing is not only a startup problem, even large corporations don't fully understand.