Episode #10: What Are Modern Channels? (and Why You Need to Care)

Humans are communicators. We always have been. Throughout history our communication channels have changed, but the desire for connection remains as strong as ever. That’s why modern channels are so important, and why you need to be where your customers are.

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It’s the CXM Experience. Today, we are going to talk about modern channels. So I use the term modern channels a lot. And I have had a lot of feedback from people saying, Hey, Grad, that doesn’t mean anything. I don’t know what you’re talking about. And why do you keep saying that. And by the way, you’re sort of slightly irritating. So all those things, I can’t really do much about the last thing, but I can help on modern channels.

There’s a very specific reason why I say modern channels, because I do think that we have a tendency to just talk about social platforms. And I think that’s a very narrow view of what’s actually going on out there and the way that information is being shared between people. So what I want to talk about is how information sharing has changed, which I think is a much more fundamental shift than a lot of people have realized. I can talk a little bit about all the new channels that are out there, and what encompasses the universe of modern channels. And then I’m gonna talk a little bit about what’s coming. Which is always a little dicey when you try to predict the future, but I think it’s going to be kind of fun to do. So I’ll do that right at the end.

So let’s talk a little bit about what is happening with information, and the way that we exchange information with each other. So human beings have been around for a while, we think that we have probably existed as a species for not that long, maybe 100,000 years. So we’re relatively new species on the planet. Certainly a very virulent one. And we’ve had civilization for about 10,000 years. And we’ve had language, mostly because of the Phoenicians. And the Phoenicians, which is modern day Lebanon, the Phoenicians were traders, and they were living between a bunch of different worlds like the Greek world and the Egyptian world. And so they created the Arabic alphabet that we use today, and created a common language so that they could trade between all the different language types, which is pretty cool when you think about it. So when you think about why we have the written word today, you can thank the Phoenicians.

And so that’s, that’s reasonably recent, right? That’s, you know, last 2- 3000 years. And up to modern times, and through almost all that history, the way that humans exchanged information was with each other. So I would talk to you, you would talk to me, we would exchange views and ideas. And we would have a conversation, conversation being the core operative idea. And it was a very important way that we learned. So the Socratic method was part of having a conversation, one that was guided by challenging questions, but still a conversation.

And then along came the 20th century. And, you know, this is a very brief blip in human history, where we invented a number of new technologies, starting with the telegraph, quickly followed by radio accompanied by newspapers and magazines. And then finally, television and theater, where we combine moving images, and voice in a new and compelling way that we’d never been able to do before. And what happened was the birth of broadcast. And broadcast enabled a very small number of people to communicate with a very large number of people. Some amazing and incredibly cool things happen as a result. Art, for example, I mean, you may have different points of view on whether television is art or not, but it is created by artists. And, you know, people write those shows and people perform in those shows. And so it was an explosion of art, an explosion of expression.

It was some negative things too… propaganda, particularly the kind used by the Nazi regime during World War II would have only been possible in a broadcast universe. So that was very dastardly used during that period of time and continues in certain ways today. So there are downsides to all these things as well. But we lived in a broadcast world.

And what typified the broadcast world is typically, you would have a reasonably anonymous broadcaster, they’d have a name or brand but relatively unknown to the listener. And you had a completely anonymous audience. And so it was really anonymous to anonymous. And in a way, I think this was a very negative impact on advertising in that advertising became very hard to measure. Clearly, you could build a huge brand with a big broadcast campaign, but just as many if not 10 times as many, if not 100 times as many failed. And advertising became less accountable, that’s changed a little bit we’ll talk about in a second.

And that’s the world we lived in for a very, very long time. We all grew up in that world, and felt very comfortable in it, it still exists and will continue to exist for a very long time. But we lost the conversation. I think, to our own detriment, to be honest, and I think we lost the conversation in marketing, marketers lost that connection with an individual. We lost the conversation socially, people became more isolated, more separated. I think it was a problem, and a hunger and a need. And generally, when a need exists, technology will eventually catch up and fill it.

And so there was the birth of Friendster in 2002, and MySpace and LinkedIn in 2003, LinkedIn is a grandpappy in the space, and then Facebook in 2004. And the rest is sort of history. And what you saw happening is that these new 21st century technologies, for the first time reenabled human conversation. And I want to stress reenabled. We are not doing something that’s never been done before. It’s being done at a different scale. And it’s enabled in a way that’s global. But people talking to people is pretty typical of how we operate.

Which is one of the reasons why I think companies have been surprised by stats where the majority of consumers tend to trust the word of others. Like why would they trust the word of others versus the word of my brand. Because they’ve always done that… they’ve always listened to their neighbors or listened to their friends or followed other people’s advice, just now they can do it at scale. And so there’s a pretty clean line given that Friendster came out in 2002. I’d say there’s a reasonably bright line between the 20th century, which encompasses most of the core broadcast technologies, and the 21st century, which encompasses these conversational technologies.

And so the conversation technologies are multiple. You’ve got the social platforms, familiar with Facebook, Twitter, etc. You’ve got the messaging platforms, right? So Google business chat, WeChat, WhatsApp, things like that. Forums are huge… forums, both on the social platforms and just forums themselves. Very important way that people exchange information and talk to each other now…there are millions of them. There are millions of blogs, some with comments, some without, but you know, very heavily trafficked blogs out there that are conversational. And then the review sites, or reviews just on Amazon, or on walmart.com. Reviews have become an incredibly important way that people make decisions.

And so when I say modern channels, I’m talking about these 21st century technologies that have been essentially invented in the last 20 years. They include forums, they include blogs, they include review sites, they include social platforms, and they include messaging platforms, and they include web chat, and other things like that. They’re characterized by the fact that they’re unstructured. And to a large extent, unsolicited. So the commentary you get is quite honest, because people are giving it of their own free will. And they’re doing it in an unstructured way. And if you’ve got a system that can pull that in, and make sense of it, you’ve now got the world’s largest, most accurate, most honest, focus group, ever. And that’s what a lot of Sprinklr customers will use this for. It’s become a core part of how they get intelligence about their customer community, and stay customer centric as a company.

So modern channels, what’s been invented in the 21st century. They’re conversational, they’re very much the way we like to talk. They’re also multimodal, if you think about a lot of WhatsApp chats, you might start in text, then you might move to voice then you might move to images, you might move to video, go back to text. That’s a very common way for humans to communicate. We use multiple senses to communicate when we’re with each other. And these technologies are helping mimic that as well.

So I like to think of it as kind of just returning back to our roots… becoming more human. I think as technology gets more powerful, we’re actually becoming more human again. We’re conforming less to the machine, and the machine is now conforming more to us.

I’m right now speaking to you on a Surface laptop, gorgeous machine. And it’s actually the Surface device with a removable screen. And I’ve got a pen, so I can do pen input. I can do gestures, I can do facial expressions, it recognizes my face, I can still type, if I want to, I have a mousepad, I have a mouse as well. I’ve got voice, you know, multiple ways of interacting with this machine now, because machines are now becoming powerful enough to be able to understand my very human way of behaving, versus me having to learn how to behave in a way that the machine understands. If you think back to the early days of computing, where we were taking lessons on  how to do DOS commands, or taking lessons on how to use a mouse and things like that, that was a human conforming to the machine, because machines were too dumb to be able to understand how we worked. Now that’s flipped around.

So in a modern channel world, we’re becoming more human. And it’s a very, very exciting time. It’s a very challenging time for brands, because they’ve got to learn how to be able to pull all this information in. I see a number of brands just trying to ignore it, that’s not going to work, you’re going to have to pull it in, you’re going to have to understand it, and you’re going to have to use it because that’s where your customers are. And if you want to be customer centric, you’ve got to be where your customers are. And why would you not want to be customer centric? It’s your customers who pay all your paychecks and the customers who pay for the survival accompany. The future always is about being around the customer.

So that’s it for the CXM Experience today. I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you tomorrow.