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Technology Vet to Enterprises: Stop Chasing Bright Shiny Objects and Focus on Basics

When the CEO of a leading technology company warns business leaders to beware of ‘bright shiny objects,’ one should listen. With extensive experience in customer relationship management, human resources and other technologies, MaritzCX Inc. CEO Mike Sinoway knows a thing or two about the impact of technology in business. He believes that CEOs will get a greater, more sustainable return-on-investment if they make their decisions part of a proactive strategic plan rather than an ad hoc, reactive fix. 

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SinowayHas the appeal and interest in CX (customer experience) peaked? Mike Sinoway thinks so, and he should know. His company’s technology platform provides CX surveys matched with intelligence to several hundred of the world’s biggest companies, most of whom have revenue over $1 billion and 85% with sales of over $10 billion. CX is still a big, growing business, but Sinoway believes that organizations can often get greater short-term returns by better utilizing the technology they already have than chasing after the “next big thing.” 
MaritzCX’s platform integrates customer experience surveys with purchase history, other customer service data and social media analytics to put customer feedback into context and provide useful information that organizations can analyze and act upon to enhance the customer experience.  “Majority owned by Maritz Holdings Inc., St Louis, MaritzCX, in Salt Lake City, operates mostly independently,” says Sinoway, adding that many of his company’s clients could benefit from solutions provided by his sister organization, Maritz Motivation Solutions, which implements employee and customer loyalty programs.
“The hype about CX is over,” declares Sinoway. “It has become a required part of business infrastructure, the same way you need a website, order management and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning.)” To address this issue, the CX field, he says, is looking for new ways to dress up the CX solution, the latest being Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and CX/EX -- i.e., connecting CX to EX (employee experience), or what ESM calls Enterprise Engagement. 
Sinoway agrees that AI, machine learning and CX/EX are important tools that his company has incorporated into its roadmap, but he believes that many organizations are missing the true opportunity to focus on getting a better return-on-investment from current strategies and tactics through a more strategic, systematic and sustainable implementation process. 

Much Room for Improvement in CX 

Reports Sinoway: “We just completed a benchmark study of 4,000 companies on their customer experience practices, and only 3% scored high on our evaluation. Most fell in the middle range. At the end of the day, and I think most people would agree, many companies simply aren’t very good at CX.” He says that most have done an okay job at the basic practices of CX, using customer feedback to identify unhappy customers through case escalation, “because there are tools that allow you to do that. If I find out that someone is pissed off for a legitimate reason, I can do something about it. But the knowing is so much easier than fixing the problems that led to the dissatisfaction.”  
He explains: The hype makes it sound like you can just plug the technology in and get the data you need and that’s that. It’s so much more. It’s about the brand, the people you select, the way you train, develop and reward them. You can’t just hire someone off the street and give them a bunch of customer data and expect them to do something with it. CX isn’t a technology or a component, it’s a system.”
The same pattern, Sinoway adds, plagues all technology. “Over my career, I’ve seen the same issue with ERP technology, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and even the Internet; we thought all of these technologies would radically transform business, and surely they have in some cases, but in many others they’ve provided only incremental improvements. If you think about it, not that much has really changed when it comes to business-to-business sales, for instance.” He believes that most organizations use only a small percentage of the features built into the technology they buy. For a similar perspective, see: ESM: Enterprise Technology Engagement
To Sinoway, the explanation is simple: the failure to apply a strategic and systematic approach to technology implementation. “Organizations want a quick fix.” he says. “They want to buy something that will do something, when in fact success always comes from the block-and-tackle of business basics. Get the right people in place, establish a strategy, a process and operate to that plan, continually looking for ways to improve it.”

A Wealth of Unused Data 

What specifically is missing from many CX strategies? “There’s a treasure trove of data that’s not being mined well enough to drive action, even at the highest levels,” Sinoway explains. “We’re seeing data that provides clear insights on how to drive better strategies, but a lot of that data is going unused. That’s either because it’s hard to act, it’s perceived as costly, or companies simply don’t know what to do. To me, the low-hanging fruit is the data and information we already have that isn’t being effectively used.”
He observes: “There’s an old saying: ‘You don’t make the cow fatter by weighing it.’ The analytics help, but at some point, it’s overkill. For instance, CEOs know there’s a connection between happy employees and happy customers, but at some point they need to take action. Many might not know what to do, and others haven’t crunched the numbers to determine the ROI.” 
That said, AI and machine learning will be needed, starting with the ability to help overcome a growing challenge in the business: survey burnout. Sinoway notes that out of any group of people who respond to a first survey, “70% respond to the second, 45% to the next, until pretty soon no one responds. It’s so easy to send a survey, everyone is doing it….We have to treat the survey today as the dependent variable and use AI and machine learning to figure out what is actually going on.”  

The Challenges of CX/EX Integration (Enterprise Engagement)

Sinoway is a big believer in the intersection of CX and EX, but he’s skeptical about effective implementation. “Employee engagement has been talked about now for about two decades, but nothing has really changed, and I think it’s still in its early stages.” Linking customer and employee experience is critical, he says, but he wonders how plausible that is at most organizations, where silos and infighting for resources prevent the sort of cooperation needed to align interests and actions across the organization. “How many marketing executives want to give up budget to support internal marketing to employees?”
That said, Sinoway sees signs of change. “There’s no question that social media has put a lot more power into the hands of people, and that CEOs can see like never before when their organizations are displeasing customers and making their brands look bad,” he says. “This alone is driving greater focus on how to make sure the organization is seen in a better light, and that’s not accomplished with quick fixes or social media posts.” 

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