Episode #41: How to Make Amazing Customer Experiences Easier, With Carlos Dominguez

No C-level executive wants their company to provide a bad customer experience. Ask any one of them and they’ll say they put the customer first. So why aren’t more companies providing stellar experiences? Sprinklr chief evangelist Carlos Dominguez joins me today as we break down why customer experience can be so difficult, and how to make it easier (hint: paring down your marketing Frankenstack is a good start). Plus, a look at the sex appeal of the Tesla, and how they used that to their advantage.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad
All right. Today we got a really great show today. One of my very favorite people in the whole world is Carlos Dominguez. And Carlos is joining us today as our special guest. So today is going to be a guest show, which are always a ton of fun. We never know exactly where it’s going to go. Never really know what we’re going to talk about. I’ll throw some topics out, but we’ll see where we go from there.

I’ll talk a little bit about Carlos for a second. So Carlos is one of the earliest employees of Cisco, worked very closely with John Chambers for many, many years and knows John personally and very well still today. Carlos is an early investor in Sprinklr. Was an early, I guess, kind of employee, but really as president was trying to help drive the company. And is now on the board of Sprinklr. And I’ll let him talk about that journey for a minute or two as well.

The way I met Carlos is, we actually did a strategic deal with Sprinklr, when I was at Microsoft, and got Sprinklr to adopt the Azure platform. Which was really helpful, because at the time, we were — we still are — we were a very large Sprinklr customer. And we were running all these tours through a customer experience center. And at that moment in Sprinklr’s, history, they were an AWS back end, and a Chrome front end. And so we were running all these people through the Microsoft customer experience center, showing us proudly using Google Chrome, with an Amazon back end on the cloud. And at some point that sort of started to filter through the organization. And we started getting… let’s just call it feedback, that perhaps that wasn’t what we really wanted to do. Maybe it would be nice to show it in our own browser perhaps. Because we happen to make one, and potentially the cloud that we run. And so that’s what Carlos helped make happen. It led to a really great relationship in that time and continues to be great relationship today. And it was really fun meeting Carlos at the time. At first, I really didn’t know what to make of him. He seemed almost like, just too energetic. Just like, come on. Come on. But he’s like that all the time. He’s just… that’s the way he is. That’s how I’ve come to know and love him. So Carlos, welcome to the show.

Carlos Dominguez
Thank you. Thank you Grad. Hey, just quick question. I heard this is being recorded, cuz you said so many nice things about me, I want to make sure my wife hears it.

Grad
That part was just as a one time only unfortunately. The audience hears it and then it disappears. I’m sorry about that. But I’m happy to write a note.

Carlos Dominguez
Tell me where to send the check, buddy. Well, it’s a privilege to join you here. The fact that you do this daily man blows my mind. And how many shows have you done?

Grad  
This will be 43, 44. Somewhere in that zone?

Carlos Dominguez
I made it before your 50th show. That’s awesome.

Grad  
Well, yesterday, I was talking to someone about it. And I said, you know, it’s really had a really interesting emotional impact on me, which is knowing I’ve got to be on every day for about a half an hour. Because it’s not a massive time commitment. But just that I have to be on for half hour every day. It’s got this, I don’t know, it forces you to get your act together every day. And it’s been, I think, a really nice sort of metronome. Randy could not even be putting these up, and you know, I would still get the benefit from it. So…

Carlos Dominguez
It sounds like therapy man. Instead of my therapist, you know,

Grad
Well it’s a lot cheaper, I’ll tell you that. So, we’ve had a pretty interesting journey together. I do tell people, after I’d decided to leave Microsoft and moved to New York, I was happily on my way to another very large tech company. And, we had a wonderful dinner at the Oyster Bar restaurant in Grand Central. And you gave me a really beautiful bottle of wine. And next thing I know, I’m getting phone calls from John Chambers asking me to join Sprinklr instead. And went to some very awkward moments, by the way with that other tech company, but it was a great decision. It’s been a crazy ride the last three years. But I owe you a lot for doing that for me. And in making that part of my life happen because I can’t imagine what would have happened in my life otherwise.

Carlos Dominguez
Before you go on too much further, I want to tell you there’s a mutual admiration society here and I think you’re one of the nicest, smartest dudes I know. I always learn when I hang out with you, and you’re just genuinely a great human being and I so appreciate you everyday Grad. So I appreciate your friendship more than anything else.

Grad
Appreciate that. Well, good news. I am recording that part. So I’ll be putting that on my business card.

Carlos Dominguez  
I don’t have that much power and influence anymore. It’s no big deal.

Grad
So, one of the things that’s fascinating about any kind of company in a new space… Sprinklr is now getting to be pretty big. We’re over 400 million as an ARR run rate, which is pretty amazing. That’s sort of the official number we’ve been sharing with people. But, getting bigger all the time. Right? And I think the thing that’s interesting, though, is we’re still early in our journey. And there’s a book that’s become quite influential in Silicon Valley called Play Bigger. I’ve talked about a bit. I’m sure you’ve read it, right, Carlos? And I think potentially Play Bigger may be having a… there’s always an unintended consequence that happens. Like, everyone, as a result of the book Play Bigger, is trying to… quotation marks… create a category.

Carlos Dominguez  
Yeah.

Grad
And I’ve talked to friends and different people who are all coming up with their own categories now. And the irony, or the fact of the matter is, you can’t create a category unless other people agree. And so when they created SUVs as a category, people agreed, it became a category. When Chrysler came up with the minivan, people agreed, minivans became a category. Honda recently came out with something called a CUV. Not a category. Nobody is saying that. No one said, I’m gonna go buy a CUV, and that’s not gonna happen. I mean, I applaud the initiative, but just not gonna happen. And so, what are we trying to do?

Now, what’s interesting about Sprinklr is we’re actually trying to redefine a category. And I don’t know where that pops up in Play Bigger, because I don’t really think it’s part of that story. But, there’s a category out there called CXM, or customer experience management, which is, you know, part of the title of the show. It has been defined by some companies, and I think popularly viewed, as something about collecting customer feedback. So Forrester would actually call that CFM, customer feedback management. And I think the challenge when you’re just collecting customer feedback, because it’s really just customer experience reporting, you’re losing the “M.” The M in CXM is very important, which is someone’s having a bad experience, or a good one, you’ve got to deal with that right away. You’ve got to respond to it, amplify it, be part of it. So it’s the ability to respond within the motion of listening, I think that’s really critical. So this, I think, is a major challenge. So to redefine something I think is even harder in some ways than creating something new. And I’d just love to get your perspective on it, because I know you’re gonna have some deep insights on it. And just think a little bit about how we’re going to go about this, and how we’re doing it, and what thoughts you have around what we’re doing well, and where we can work harder to do it better.

Carlos Dominguez
Wow, there’s a lot there to unpack Grad. And so let me just take it. So first thing on category. It’s really interesting, if you’re going to create a new category, not only do people need to agree with it, but you need to have a ton of money, right? Because category creation takes a ton of money. And it’s really difficult. It’s so much easier to say, Hey, you know, company XYZ, and you go, yeah. So we’re just like that, except this is how we’re different. I mean, that’s easy, right? But to come in and attack something that people are thinking about it through a different lens, that’s a shift in how people perceive things. And not only do you need to establish that, but people have to see the value of wanting to do that. And, there’s been a lot of shifts in the past on categories being created. In most recent history, the one I look at… electric cars were around, but Tesla really put the stake in the ground.

Grad
Great example.

Carlos Dominguez
Look at their valuation today compared to General Motors, Ford, and every other automaker. They’re just blowing everything away. And that’s a new category…

Grad  
How do you think they did that? Because you’re right, electric cars have been around since the 70s.

Carlos Dominguez
Forever.

Grad 
What did Tesla do differently that made them seem suddenly inevitable and less of a side show?

Carlos Dominguez 
Well, they made it cool, right? Think of all the electric cars that went before them. They were all little electric vehicles with no sex appeal, no pizzazz. They were basically appealing more to the tree huggers. Right? I want to be green. And Tesla’s approach was totally different. Their first car was a roadster, a sports car. Then they came out with the Model S, which basically you can argue, if you hear Elon approach it, he built a new category, but he wasn’t building an electric car category. What he said he’s building a computer that has wheels, right? His whole approach from defining that category was looking at it more from a technological computer point of view. Think of that large screen that you’ve got there, think of all the display things that you can do. Think of all the cool stuff where it play songs, the doors open and close, the lights blink and it’s playing. That’s nothing more than taking the automobile which does transport you, but he redefined that to make it cool. And subsequent to that, he’s thinking… the other model came out that was more affordable. Now he’s got a sports car coming out. He’s trying to do it with trucks, very big pickup trucks. So he’s redefining everything. And the power of that is you’ve got an incredible marketeer in in Elon that has been able to build that category. So, it takes a whole bunch of stuff to be able to do that. So let’s bring it back to what you’re asking about.

Grad
I gotta funny story about Tesla. I don’t know if you know this or not, but the first model was the S, right? And then they came out with…

Carlos Dominguez
Well he had a roadster first.

Grad
Right, right, right. The roadster was first. But then when he started producing automobiles at scale. There’s the S, right? And then there was the X. Right? And then there was the Y. Right? And then there was… he wanted to have an E. But he was blocked from using E as a model number because of Mercedes, because the E Class and Mercedes is a pretty well known brand. So then he called it 3. Model 3. Because what he wanted to do is he wanted his lineup to be S – E – X – Y. That’s a true story. And so he went with the 3 so it’s kind of like a hacker E. But the Tesla Model line is sexy.

Carlos Dominguez
They are. They’re unusual cars. I mean, you can’t deny it. But I think what he took on was a much bigger problem than anybody… not only by the automobile and the marketplace. Think of the charging station thing, right? He’s selling the cars in a mall. He did everything that, you know… I kind of laugh at times, Grad, and I think about being an investor and getting a pitch from Elon… this is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna build electric cars and sell in a mall. I’m going to do X, Y, and Z, I’m going to build these stations all around the country. I mean, I don’t know many people who would probably give them money. I sure as hell wouldn’t. You know, because if…

Grad
Sure dude. You go do that,

Carlos Dominguez
Yeah, you go. Good luck. Call me. Call me someday. But let’s bring it back to what the show is. And what you asked me. Experience management is not a new concept, as you so clearly pointed out. Think about it. If you talk to a CEO, and you asked a CEO, hey, do you want to deliver great experiences, or you want to deliver bad experience to your clients? I don’t know anybody who would say I want to deliver bad experience. Right? Everyone says we want to deliver a good experience. Great. So what does it take to deliver a good experience? And that is really, really, really hard to do. And that means that I, as a customer, no matter… in most corporations, I think about them as an elephant, right? You know, I can come in and grab the tail of the elephant or come in a different way and grab an ear or the trunk or a leg or anything else. And they don’t know who I am. Right? And what becomes exceptionally interesting is that, in some cases, maybe on the marketing side, and sales, they do a really good job. And when I’ve got a problem, and I reach out to them, they do a really terrible job. And that whole of that elephant and all the experiences is really what defines how I feel, not only perception, but emotionally about a company.

Bringing it back to Tesla, Tesla has won the emotional EQ of their customers. And I’ll give you a really, really simple example. A couple of years ago — and I shared this with you another time — I was in the market of buying a mattress. Something very simple. And I go on the website, I google and I ordered a mattress from a company which will remain nameless. And they delivered the mattress. It was easy to buy, they delivered the mattress immediately. As a matter of fact, I love the mattress. I sleep like a baby every night because the mattress is so really comfortable. Awesome. But what’s angering me is multiple times a week, no matter how hard I try to stop it, I get emails telling me, Hey, you know you want to buy a mattress? You want to buy a mattress? You want to buy a mattress? And what it has shown me, or what it’s made me feel is, You idiot, I bought your darn mattress. I love your mattress. Why do you continue to send me emails to buy your mattress? Right? You don’t know me.

So at that very basic instinct level, it’s evoking anger in me. And frankly, If I ever bought another mattress, as much as I love this particular mattress and the mattress company, I probably wouldn’t do it. Because I’m so annoyed with all the messaging. I keep unsubscribing. And I still get those darned messages, right? So they’re not respecting my desires. They’re not respecting my needs, even though they produce a product that I love. So you got to take a step back and go, why is that? I know this mattress company doesn’t want to make me feel the way I feel. But why? Why can’t they fix it? Right? Why? And by the way, why are they wasting money in marketing, to me, where I would be happy to be a proponent and an advocate for their brand, because I love the brand, but the fact that they they’re doing all this marketing stuff is just annoying the crap out of me.

So if you start breaking it down, it’s really quite simple. The problem is simple. The fix is very complicated, right? The problem is that within an organization, there are all these disparate functions that each go out for the needs of their business, they go out, they buy whatever technology they need. So in the customer care, they do call center technology for phone calls. And they may do chat, they may do other things. If you’re in the marketing side, you’re doing email, and you put the systems in there, Marketo, and all these other things to do mail, email marketing. If you were in PR/AR you’re looking at other systems, right? If you’re in inside sales it might be a CRM. But you get it. But none of the systems talk to each other. So the fact that I bought it through a marketing campaign, and I have now these people that are inside sales with a system that’s not tied in that says Carlos is already a customer, take them off the list. They keep doing that. So it’s not an intentional sort of thing. It’s something that has just evolved. And I sit with many CEOs. And I asked them, do you know what system you have? They have no idea. Right? And one of the things that you’re very well aware of, and you probably know this better than I, is when we go into a company, one of the first things we do because of the platform that we offer, is we eliminate a ton of independent systems that is trapping data that nobody’s looking at. What’s the average Grad, you probably know this number better, right? But isn’t it 20 plus systems, on average?

Grad
On average, a typical marketing department has more than 70 systems. Although I’ve been to customers, where I’ll say that, and they’ll say we aspire to get down to 70 systems. There are examples of large multinational companies having hundreds of systems. And Sprinklr has 17 core functions it can replace. So theoretically, at a minimum, there are 17 point solutions that can be wound into Sprinklr. But what you’ll typically see in a company is they’ll have even in a single function, they’ll have multiple point solutions, either because they’re different geographies, or for some reason, they’re using part of one for one part of the function and part of one for the other part of the function. Often you’ll see in social advertising, they’ll use one to place it and one to report it, which blows my mind, but they’ll do that. So yeah, you see this average of 70. The only department that’s got more point solutions, interestingly, is HR.

Carlos Dominguez
Yeah, yeah.

Grad
It’s a similar problem in HR. When you think about HR, they’ve got so many different things are trying to land in terms of employee benefits, and all that kind of stuff. So they have a big, big problem in HR as well. But you know, Workday is working on that. And so I’m sure they’ll fix that problem. We’re working on the front office one, which is a stickier one in some ways, because the marketing best practice and sort of mindset has been to buy a tool to solve the problem you have. You got a problem, buy a tool. Have a problem, buy a tool. And that’s how it happens.

Carlos Dominguez
Well, you bring up a really good point. First thing is all this independence of data and systems that are not connected, and somehow you need to create a universal data set and view of the customer that’s shared across an entire company. And that’s not an easy task. And just to add a little bit more insult to injury for those that are trying to solve these problems, as you know, our world over the last 15-20 years with the advent of all the social and modern channels, the number of channels that are all different, have come into the marketplace. And the customers and the consumers are deciding how I want to engage with a brand. The brand doesn’t decide. So, right now it’s almost kind of comical that I would come in on Twitter complaining that I need help… There’s a cable company that I am a subscriber, I tweeted something because one of my channels wasn’t working, I said, I need help. And they tweet me back and said, hey, yeah, call this number and we’ll talk to you. And then I dial the number, and there’s a 20 minute wait. And I have to punch in like seven different numbers to try to get to the right place. And this whole notion of… I chose the channel of Twitter, why did they move me off of it instead of supporting me in channel. And the world has gotten so much more complex. And we typically default, and these companies default, to whatever channels they’re the most comfortable with. Instead of embracing the channel in which the customer came in on. And again, for this particular company, moving me to voice was the way to do it. And by the way, when you really go deeper on that, authentication was really the reason. They needed to authenticate who I was. And the only way they knew how to do it was to get me on the phone, ask me a bunch of personal questions and say, Oh, yeah, this guy is who he says he is. But that could be done in channel too, if you look at it through that lens.

Grad
Sprinklr even has that functionality. We now have the ability to take people from a public social conversation, authenticate them and move them into a web chat with all of the information that was in the public sphere pulled into the private web chat, fully authenticated against their account. That’s actually blowing up around the world. Everyone loves that. But yeah, banks, telecom companies. But you’re right, it’s a little bit like if I were to call you. You’re like Grad, great, thanks for calling. I’m like, yeah, Carlos thought we could catch up. That’d be great. You know, um, do you mind sending me a fax? Like I’m kind of more comfortable with fax communication? And I’m like, all right, I guess so. Okay, it’s kind of weird, right? And this is a big, big, big, big issue.

So we’re running a little tight on time, and I want to continue this conversation with you. But I love the way you’re defining it. So let’s just wrap it a pointed thing around, you know… Sprinklr’s got this great vision. Not only is it a vision, it’s actually something we’ve implemented with some of the world’s largest companies. Very exciting. But, what do you think the key to getting people to say, that thing that Sprinklr’s is doing, that’s really what CXM is, what’s your key advice there

Carlos Dominguez
You know, it’s, evolutionary. With these things, you can’t go out and start doing chest beating, and going, like, oh, we’re the CXM company. What you have to do is you got to go and roll your sleeves up, and you got to do the work. You gotta do the work, and work with companies that are knowledgeable that have the same kind of aspirational goals that you do. And they maybe… they don’t know how to do it. But they do know they want to do it. And we have a number of customers that are extremely capable, very knowledgeable and actually make us better through their knowledge and testing and pushing us to develop new features. But my whole notion in this category, or building this, is you got to show people through a handful of clients what the art of the possible is. And once you do that, then you can come out and say to people look at what this customer is doing. And we’ve got a lot of great examples, Grad, of customers doing extremely innovative things, whether it’s around new world or next generation Modern Marketing, or how to do modern care, or modern advertising. All these things, we’ve got some really great examples. And the way to do it is not try to build this all at once. But take it in pieces, have the wins, do the hard work and heavy lifting of doing it in a stealth mode. And once it’s done, showing people what the art of the possible. And that’s kind of in stages. And once you’ve done it in care, and once you’ve done it in marketing, and once you’ve done it in PR and AR and once you’ve done it and advertising, and research and all of these places to come back and say hey, by the way, instead of looking at this individually, look at what happens when you can combine this in a way that everyone’s looking at the same data. Everyone knows the customer regardless of the way they enter. And look at what you can do. And the example I’ve seen you talk about and I’ve learned a lot is how do you combine when someone calls you for a problem? If you know who they are, how do you take marketing to create a journey to give them a next best offer based on who they are and what they would be interested in. That’s powerful. That’s the next generation right? It’s best time to sell somebody something is when they’re calling you for help. Not when you’re getting an email or getting hit on a modern channel, right? That’s where the power gets unlocked.

Grad
Yeah, especially because they’re already a customer. They already decided to buy your product. You’ve solved their problem and it’s easy to sell them more. Ragy’s been saying for years that care should be the new marketing but corporate structures make that challenging. So much to talk about here. Carlos.

Okay, so I want to have you back on. This has been great. So we’re gonna wrap today because we try to keep these things under half an hour. But this has been fantastic. I want to thank you so much for joining us today. It was great. And everybody if you want to follow Carlos, Carlos do you have like a Twitter feed? Or what’s your public persona?

Carlos Dominguez
CarlosDominguez at Twitter. It’s pretty simple. Grad, thank you. I love what you do. Look, I’ll be back anytime you want me. Thank you so much.

Grad
All right. Well for the CXM Experience. This is Grad Conn, and I’ll see you next time.