Episode #19: Why You Need to Embrace the Conversation Web

Humans have always been communicators. And for most of our history that communication has been 1:1 (or 1: few). Until the 20th century, that is, when the explosion of mass media turned us into passive participants. The Conversation Web changes that. Messaging, social media, and forums have created a 1:1 communication renaissance that’s a cornerstone of customer experience management.

See all Copernican Shift podcasts
The Copernican Shift on Apple Podcasts


It’s the CXM Experience. Grad Conn CXO at Sprinklr. And today we’re going to talk about CXM. You know, we’ve been talking about examples of experience quite a bit lately. But today, we’re going to do a CXM discussion, and we’re going to introduce a new concept. That may be very new. But I think it’s kind of interesting.

So let me talk a little bit about how communication has changed over the last hundred and change years. And then I’ll frame up this new concept for how I want to frame up where we’re going. And then I want to talk a little bit about what CXM is and what I think CXM is not. And I think there’s a lot of people out there trying to define CXM. But for me, it’s pretty clear what it is. And I think we’ve got broad agreement from analysts and others that we’re on the right track.

Let’s talk a little bit about communication. For a long time, humans communicated to each other. That’s how we told stories. We told them around campfires, we told them around tables, we told them across backyard fences, but humans talked to humans. That’s how stories spread. And then we invented the printing press. Gutenberg had an incredible impact on society, particularly from a religious standpoint, because they were able to mass produce Bibles, which were the first things produced on the printing press. And that led to a really strong spread of religion and the standardization of religion in a very interesting way. But also led to many other things like newspapers and magazines, and things like that. And we started to see the spread of mass media.

But it really wasn’t until the 20th century, that broadcasts got powerful, because you saw the growth of TV and radio. And those two mediums really transformed the way that we talk to each other, which is… not so much. The thing about the broadcast world, which was a pretty interesting development… it must have felt really dislocating as well for people… is that even with a newspaper or magazine, people would read it, but then they would discuss it, they would share, they would argue, etc. With the growth of TV and radio, and movie theaters to a certain extent, people became more passive participants in the communication exercise.

You know, humans are very easily addicted to flickering images. Your typical movie is showing you 24 images per second, videos 30 images per second, which is why video is a little bit more entrancing. High definition can be 60 frames per second. But it’s just little pictures being thrown at us. That’s why if you ever notice your behavior, if you ever see a presenter on stage, back in the old days, when we used to go to conferences, you’d be sitting in your seat, and you may be pretty close to the stage, the presenter may be reasonably close to you. But if the presenter is also being projected onto a video screen, you will naturally feel your head turning away from the live person towards the video screen. A slightly closer shot, perhaps. But it’s the 30 images per second flickering up there that pull your attention.

And so we all became entranced in the 20th century with a medium that was very much one way. And as the web came out, the web actually borrowed many elements from the broadcast methodology and the broadcast perspective. And much of the web is one way as well. You know, websites tend to be, hey, I’m just going to talk to you. And they just tell you a story. You flip through things, you watch videos, you listen to people talk, it’s very much a collection of broadcast in another sort of broadcast medium. And one that you control a little bit more because you’re clicking on things, and you’re maybe guiding your own adventure a bit more, but still very much broadcast.

And then the 21st century dawned. And in 2002 a little application called Friendster was launched. It died on the brutal heels of server unavailability which was really hard to watch. But then MySpace came out the next year, that did pretty well for a while. And then Facebook came out the year after that. So did LinkedIn… 2004. And what we saw is the sudden growth of a different type of web. We saw growth of forums, we saw the growth of blogs. You saw the growth of review sites and suddenly what was happening is instead of just passively looking at a website, and passively looking at videos, suddenly, people were talking to each other again.

And I’m gonna call this the birth of the conversation web. And what we had in the 1990s, and it’s still very much true today… many, many websites are built this way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the other one, I’ll call this the broadcast web… the broadcast web is the conversation web. And there’s a big difference between the broadcast web and the conversation web. One is more static, and one is more dynamic. And very much the future will be I think, in the conversation web. Certainly that is where all the most interesting information exists. And that’s how people are sharing with each other.

And I think to a large extent, the reason that the conversation web works, and makes sense, is that it is very much a return to the way that we always communicated. We talk to each other, we share things with each other. It’s reigniting a kind of core human need, in a core human behavior, which is very natural for us. It’s exactly the way we want to talk, exactly the way we want to be. So the conversation web is not going anywhere, if anything is going to get bigger. There’s still a role for the broadcast web, there’s nothing wrong with being able to go to a car website, and be able to see the features on the different models of the car. I don’t know if I want to have to ask for every single thing. So broadcast has a role. But clearly, the conversation web is going to be more powerful.

And what you’re starting to see is the growth of conversational commerce, where people go, and they want to have a conversation about what they want to buy. You’re starting to see some very interesting chat bot programs coming out there and some very interesting ways of interacting with sites, where instead of being plowed through a relentless gauntlet of downloading white papers, and filling out my name, and you know, getting emails and all that sort of goofy marketing automation stuff from 15 years ago, what you’re seeing is like, Hey, can I help solve your problem, right now? Can I get you to the thing you need to do right now? Would you like to play with the product? You know, product life growth is becoming dominant, because I’m on the site, probably because I know I want to be there. Hey, here’s the product, play with it. If you like it, pay more, get more of it. If you don’t like it, that’s okay, too. You know, but we can have a conversation with each other.

I think this idea of conversation is going to be important. And I do think it does cause a radical rethinking of the way that companies are structured, and the way that companies work. Because the tiny teams that we have had to date on customer care, and quite frankly, marketing, it just isn’t going to cut it in the future. You’re going to have to enable most of the teams in the company to talk to customers. So what will happen is companies will become primarily customer facing, having conversations with thousands, or hundreds of thousands of customers over the course of a year. So I think that’s a pretty exciting idea. But it’s obviously a major piece of digital transformation.

So what does this broadcast web versus conversation web… what are the implications of it from a CXM standpoint, or customer experience management standpoint? So there is a point of view out there that CXM is measuring customer experience. I flatly reject that, as do many others. I think that’s ridiculous. Simply the measurement, particularly in surveys of customer experience is silly.

But what you really need to do is you need to understand customer experience from the standpoint of how people are expressing themselves during the experience. So you want the unsolicited, unstructured feedback that they’re posting across the conversation web, and you have to be able to fix the problem. If someone has an issue, you’ve got to be able to solve it. If someone’s happy, you should be able to escalate that. If somebody is like, ambivalent about something or disappointed, you’ve got to be able to address it. And measuring customer experience in and of itself is pointless. In fact, almost more irritating to people to be asked to fill out surveys and give their opinion and then never hear back. Because it’s being aggregated into some kind of table or report for senior management.

What really needs to happen is if somebody sees what I’m experiencing or understands the experience that I’m having and hears about it that they respond to it while I am in that experience. While I’m having distress while I’m having an issue, while I’m getting happy. I want someone be intersecting with me during that moment, and in fixing it amplifying it, you know, supporting it whatever that is. And so whatever you do in CXM and however CXM is defined to has to be both the listening part of it, it has to be the learning part of it. And it has to be the loving part of it, you’ve got to love your customers within the flow. And it’s all got to be in a single platform.

I think this is going to be really important because as we define essentially a new category here in CXM, it’s gonna be critical that we do understand what it means. And simply measuring experience is customer feedback management. Okay, so customer feedback, management’s perfectly acceptable. There’s nothing wrong with that. But let’s be super clear that if you’re in the CFM space, I’m looking at you Qualtrics, I’m looking at Medallia, you’re in the CFM space. Don’t be calling yourself CXM companies, because you’re not. To be a CXM company you’ve got to be able to listen, you’ve got to be able to learn, and you’ve got to be able to love your customer within a single flow within a single platform. You can’t do that with people like the Medallia and Qualtrics of the world.

So that’s what we have on CXM today. New concepts today, broadcast web versus conversation web. Conversation web is ascendant and that’s where we’re going. And in the conversation web, you got to be able to hear the conversations. You’ve got to understand what people are talking about. You’ve got to be able to act on what they say, what we call Listen, Learn and Love. And for the CXM Experience, this is Grad Conn and I’ll see you next time.