Customer experience (CX), experience management, and the experience economy point to customer satisfaction and delight as crucial parts of business.

In light of this growing trend to increasing customer engagement, software giant SAP has partnered with Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, to create the Experience Report.

To gain a better understanding of customer experience and why it matters to business, we spoke with SAP’s Chief Marketing Officer, Alicia Tillman, together with the Chief Product and Technology Officer for Dow Jones, Ramin Beheshti.

Transcript

This transcript was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Background

Michael Krigsman: We're talking about customer experience and the experience economy with Alicia Tillman, Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, and Ramin Beheshti, Chief Product & Technology Officer at Dow Jones. Alicia, how are you? It's wonderful to see you again.

Alicia Tillman: It's great to see you again as well, Michael. Thanks for having me today. Yeah, I'm doing well. Trying to make the best of the situation, just juggling being at home, working, and all the family obligations, but all is good. Thank you.

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, tell us about your role as the chief marketing officer at SAP.

Alicia Tillman: I've been with SAP for a little over five years now. My role is I'm accountable for setting and executing the global marketing strategy for SAP, so everything related to how we tell the story of value around our products and our services, how we drive demand, how we focus on the retention of our existing customers, how we show up in the marketplace, how we speak to our stories of value, how we differentiate our brand, how we really grow, and how we support the overall aspirations of the business is really what myself and my global team are accountable for in terms of driving the marketing strategy for the company.

Michael Krigsman: Ramin Beheshti, welcome to CXOTalk. This is your first time here. I appreciate you being here. Tell us about your role at Dow Jones.

Ramin Beheshti: I am, as you said, Chief Product & and Technology Officer at Dow Jones. That means that I'm responsible for all of our customer-facing products like wsj.com all the way through to Factiva and kind of everything in between. It also means I'm responsible for all of the engineering and technology that goes into those products.

About the Experience Report

Michael Krigsman: Ramin, you have a partnership with SAP creating something called the Experience Report. What is that?

Ramin Beheshti: I think the Experience Report is born out of our newsroom, out of the Wall Street Journal. They identified our audience, how they desire, and need to learn about what companies are doing when it comes to customer experience. They've started to create content and analysis about what organizations are doing in that space, who is doing it well, who is doing it kind of less well, if you like. That was really the kind of genesis behind the Experience Report and then we've kind of looked for and found a fantastic partner who is as passionate as we are about a great experience.

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, why is this topic so important to you that you embarked on this partnership with Dow Jones?

Alicia Tillman: The reality is, we live and operate in an experience economy. Business today is certainly often won or lost based on the quality of the experience that is delivered. So many companies today are focused on how to drive an exceptional experience, what are the tools, what are the best practices that are needed to really drive an exceptional brand experience, product experience, service experience? That is so much what companies are focused on solving, achieving, and opening up opportunities for.

When the Wall Street Journal decided that they were going to create a new report that focused on showcasing best in class experiences and talking about customer service, coming together to form this partnership, it made perfect sense for us to be able to be part of helping to create and solve experience challenges for companies by sharing our story, sharing our content, and certainly talking about our products and our solutions.

Michael Krigsman: Ramin, what kinds of opportunities are created for businesses when they present really excellent customer experience?

Ramin Beheshti: I think there's the price of getting it right and you can really kind of set yourselves miles apart from your competition. We've seen companies kind of come from nowhere, really, from startups and they delivered this kind of world-class experience, as Alicia says, in all kinds of facets: in the brand, in customer service, in their products.

They've taken incumbents and taken competition kind of away, basically. I think that's the price, that's the opportunity of getting it right. I think the opportunity of not focusing on it is you're going to get left behind, especially even more so now.

I think us, not only are we kind of producing something like the Experience Report, but it's such a key part of the experience you expect as a paying member of the Wall Street Journal. You expect a world-class experience wherever you're asking the Wall Street Journal.

Challenges of customer experience

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, as you speak with your customers, why is creating that customer experience so difficult across so many different industries, sectors, and businesses?

Alicia Tillman: It's exactly for that reason, Michael. There are so many different industries that require different kinds of experiences, right? An e-commerce experience will certainly demand a different experience from that of an in-person one.

It's really important, and this has been a big part of what SAP has focused on is, how do you really get closer to the consumer in particular? How do you understand what it is that they need, the way in which they want to utilize the product and service? What challenges are they trying to solve or what opportunity are they looking to create?

How do you get closer to that? How do you extract that level of information from them so that you can ultimately shape an experience that is going to be the one that they expect time and time again? I think that that's the key and, certainly, the way in which SAP has operated to be sure that we are meeting and exceeding all of the service requirements that today's consumers have.

Ramin Beheshti: I think, if I may, that is the nail on the head, so to speak, in terms of understanding the customer. If I take our organization, we'd gone from being a traditional print publisher, right? When you produce print newspapers, you never got any customer feedback about, did they like this; did they read that story?

I think we've seen a shift, a transformation in terms of, now we need to understand what the customer is experiencing. What do they like? What do they dislike? How are they reading the article? Are they reading it on their mobile device? Are they reading it on the website? All of those and also, what do they want from us?

With the array of customers that we have, they all want slightly different things. How do we service each one of those? I think that, again, as Alicia said, is the key to kind of unlocking a great customer experience. It's understanding what does the individual customer want from you and how are you set up to deliver that.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like part of the problem or the challenge is delivering this experience in a consistent manner across a very diverse customer base at the scale at which both of your organizations operate.

Ramin Beheshti: There are so many different touchpoints that a customer will interact with a brand like the Wall Street Journal. Each one of those experiences has to complement and build on each other. For a technologist, it also means that everything has to be joined up.

I have to have the data that tells me, "Ah, this person has been to a Journal event," and, actually, they're also coming to our website, and they're also a print subscriber. I need to join all of those information points up. I think that's an opportunity for a lot of other organizations to break down those kinds of silos that have tended to exist between all of the different channels.

Alicia Tillman: In today's world, the most effective marketing is that which has a very seamless journey, and the underlying ability to create that seamless journey is technology. How we actually connect from brand awareness to demand creation to customer success and then customer retention is how well, number one, we can build that journey and have content that connects the journey end-to-end, but then the technology has to be equally as sophisticated and seamless, connecting our customers so that they have a very seamless, rich experience across every stage of that journey with the company in which they're interacting with.

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, you're marrying together the technology, the content, and then the data that gives you the feedback so you can be on the right course and course-correct as you may need to.

Alicia Tillman: That's the beauty. First, you always have to start with the process. You have to understand what are all those touchpoints that a customer, a prospective customer has with your brand.

We know that we live in a pretty complex world today. We've all seen the data. Oftentimes, nearly 80% of interaction or knowledge that a person gains about your brand happens without a single interaction with a salesperson, and so then you have to spend a lot of time really understanding, okay, so where are consumers getting information about your brand? There are many channels out there, all of which marketers are looking to become part of in some way.

Then you have to really understand, okay, so what is the information they are seeking? When they come to us as a prospective customer, what do they need to learn about? Then how do we develop that information and then place it effectively on all of the different channels that they are visiting?

Then the other part is then how do you connect it all together? If you're showing up at an event and someone in your leadership is telling the story about the value of a product, you want to make sure that that story that that person is telling is also the same value story that appears on your website because, certainly, people go to visit your website to understand information, and that it appears the same way in campaign content or social media content. Technology is the way to drive that consistency but also drive that end-to-end, highly integrated process across the customer journey.

Ramin Beheshti: One of the other thoughts I had is, the other reason why this becomes complex is, it crosses industry. Alicia touched upon the consumer's expectation. The experience you get in one industry then raises the bar everywhere else, and I kind of think of how Apple changed the experience in retail stores.

That was buying technology equipment, but then if you look at the people who came into other industries like I think of Warby Parker and how they created a completely different retail experience with buying glasses, buying spectacles. You kind of see the cross, as you go from industry-to-industry, what one company does in technology, for example, and influences another company in another organization. I think that is always a challenge because, actually, the consumer is the same consumer. Their expectations are just raising.

Examples of great customer experience

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, who have you seen that's doing this well, companies or industries?

Alicia Tillman: Ramin mentioned Apple as well in revolutionizing the retail experience and what you can come to expect not only about the product itself but about the community that you buy into as well.

Starbucks is another great example of people. They want to buy a cup of coffee not so much because it's necessarily the best coffee on earth but because it allows you to be part of a community that's so much more. The number of people that sit in a Starbucks and just want to hang out all that.

I think that that's something in particular that brands are really recognizing when you see the ones that have set the bar on experience, all those aspects of what goes into creating a great experience. It certainly goes beyond the product and starts to bring you more into the community-like settings that people want to be a part of.

Ramin Beheshti: I agree 100% with Alicia. I think the other thing that we've seen as well and this is kind of almost a trait is around curiosity. Where I see companies doing really well with customers and their experiences is when they're curious about the customer.

This is something that, again, I think we've learned is the customer isn't just the person who buys their product. They've got many different facets to them. The companies that tend to succeed in this game want to understand the needs of their customer and then build either the kind of brand, the services, or the tools to service that kind of customer's need, and so I kind of think curiosity is at the heart of their success as well.

Customer experience strategy and corporate culture

Michael Krigsman: Is there a cultural dimension to those organizations that are delivering these great experiences?

Alicia Tillman: Culture is really at the heart of that. It's the people of an organization that are responsible for taking the vision of a company and really creating a people culture around it.

What are our shared values? What are our beliefs? How are we going to go about solving customer issues and unlocking opportunities? That all stems from the culture that's created by the employees that live, work, and drive it each and every day.

It really is at the heart of the purpose of a company, the manner in which you drive service on behalf of your customers, the way you innovate, and then, ultimately, it's really what helps to drive success. When you think about the period that we're living in, in particular, with the global pandemic, it has really shown us the real strength of a lot of companies and the cultures in which they have.

Advice for business leaders on customer experience management

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for organizations that want to cultivate this kind of great customer experience that you've been talking about?

Alicia Tillman: Understand the vision of your company. It's your vision. It's your purpose. It's your reason for being.

What is the purpose of your products? What is the purpose of your services and the solutions that you offer? What problem are they helping solve or what opportunity are they looking to unlock?

You have to first and foremost truly understand that. That's really about understanding the value that your company offers and how you do it through your products and solutions are the answers. You have to truly understand that and understand that well. Then you have to understand how to deliver that in a way that really meets the expectations of your customer.

Michael Krigsman: Ramin, final thoughts and advice for business leaders who want to put into practice the lessons that you and Alicia have discussed today.

Ramin Beheshti: Alicia covered quite a lot of the cultural aspects. I think the other thing that I would add to that is data. I know it's kind of a term that everybody talks about and it's not a new thing, people collecting data, but joining the data up that you have about the customers, about how they're interacting with you across every single kind of channel. That is the key.

You have to break down as many silos culturally that exist within your organization. You have do the same with the data as well because, in most organizations, the data lives in one pocket over here and another pocket over there. Typically, companies need to connect all of that data and then start to understand what it means or what they need to do with it. That would be my kind of advice.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Alicia Tillman and Ramin Beheshti, thank you both so much for taking time.

Ramin Beheshti: Thank you, Michael.

This transcript was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Background

Michael Krigsman: We're talking about customer experience and the experience economy with Alicia Tillman, Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, and Ramin Beheshti, Chief Product & Technology Officer at Dow Jones. Alicia, how are you? It's wonderful to see you again.

Alicia Tillman: It's great to see you again as well, Michael. Thanks for having me today. Yeah, I'm doing well. Trying to make the best of the situation, just juggling being at home, working, and all the family obligations, but all is good. Thank you.

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, tell us about your role as the chief marketing officer at SAP.

Alicia Tillman: I've been with SAP for a little over five years now. My role is I'm accountable for setting and executing the global marketing strategy for SAP, so everything related to how we tell the story of value around our products and our services, how we drive demand, how we focus on the retention of our existing customers, how we show up in the marketplace, how we speak to our stories of value, how we differentiate our brand, how we really grow, and how we support the overall aspirations of the business is really what myself and my global team are accountable for in terms of driving the marketing strategy for the company.

Michael Krigsman: Ramin Beheshti, welcome to CXOTalk. This is your first time here. I appreciate you being here. Tell us about your role at Dow Jones.

Ramin Beheshti: I am, as you said, Chief Product & and Technology Officer at Dow Jones. That means that I'm responsible for all of our customer-facing products like wsj.com all the way through to Factiva and kind of everything in between. It also means I'm responsible for all of the engineering and technology that goes into those products.

About the Experience Report

Michael Krigsman: Ramin, you have a partnership with SAP creating something called the Experience Report. What is that?

Ramin Beheshti: I think the Experience Report is born out of our newsroom, out of the Wall Street Journal. They identified our audience, how they desire, and need to learn about what companies are doing when it comes to customer experience. They've started to create content and analysis about what organizations are doing in that space, who is doing it well, who is doing it kind of less well, if you like. That was really the kind of genesis behind the Experience Report and then we've kind of looked for and found a fantastic partner who is as passionate as we are about a great experience.

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, why is this topic so important to you that you embarked on this partnership with Dow Jones?

Alicia Tillman: The reality is, we live and operate in an experience economy. Business today is certainly often won or lost based on the quality of the experience that is delivered. So many companies today are focused on how to drive an exceptional experience, what are the tools, what are the best practices that are needed to really drive an exceptional brand experience, product experience, service experience? That is so much what companies are focused on solving, achieving, and opening up opportunities for.

When the Wall Street Journal decided that they were going to create a new report that focused on showcasing best in class experiences and talking about customer service, coming together to form this partnership, it made perfect sense for us to be able to be part of helping to create and solve experience challenges for companies by sharing our story, sharing our content, and certainly talking about our products and our solutions.

Michael Krigsman: Ramin, what kinds of opportunities are created for businesses when they present really excellent customer experience?

Ramin Beheshti: I think there's the price of getting it right and you can really kind of set yourselves miles apart from your competition. We've seen companies kind of come from nowhere, really, from startups and they delivered this kind of world-class experience, as Alicia says, in all kinds of facets: in the brand, in customer service, in their products.

They've taken incumbents and taken competition kind of away, basically. I think that's the price, that's the opportunity of getting it right. I think the opportunity of not focusing on it is you're going to get left behind, especially even more so now.

I think us, not only are we kind of producing something like the Experience Report, but it's such a key part of the experience you expect as a paying member of the Wall Street Journal. You expect a world-class experience wherever you're asking the Wall Street Journal.

Challenges of customer experience

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, as you speak with your customers, why is creating that customer experience so difficult across so many different industries, sectors, and businesses?

Alicia Tillman: It's exactly for that reason, Michael. There are so many different industries that require different kinds of experiences, right? An e-commerce experience will certainly demand a different experience from that of an in-person one.

It's really important, and this has been a big part of what SAP has focused on is, how do you really get closer to the consumer in particular? How do you understand what it is that they need, the way in which they want to utilize the product and service? What challenges are they trying to solve or what opportunity are they looking to create?

How do you get closer to that? How do you extract that level of information from them so that you can ultimately shape an experience that is going to be the one that they expect time and time again? I think that that's the key and, certainly, the way in which SAP has operated to be sure that we are meeting and exceeding all of the service requirements that today's consumers have.

Ramin Beheshti: I think, if I may, that is the nail on the head, so to speak, in terms of understanding the customer. If I take our organization, we'd gone from being a traditional print publisher, right? When you produce print newspapers, you never got any customer feedback about, did they like this; did they read that story?

I think we've seen a shift, a transformation in terms of, now we need to understand what the customer is experiencing. What do they like? What do they dislike? How are they reading the article? Are they reading it on their mobile device? Are they reading it on the website? All of those and also, what do they want from us?

With the array of customers that we have, they all want slightly different things. How do we service each one of those? I think that, again, as Alicia said, is the key to kind of unlocking a great customer experience. It's understanding what does the individual customer want from you and how are you set up to deliver that.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like part of the problem or the challenge is delivering this experience in a consistent manner across a very diverse customer base at the scale at which both of your organizations operate.

Ramin Beheshti: There are so many different touchpoints that a customer will interact with a brand like the Wall Street Journal. Each one of those experiences has to complement and build on each other. For a technologist, it also means that everything has to be joined up.

I have to have the data that tells me, "Ah, this person has been to a Journal event," and, actually, they're also coming to our website, and they're also a print subscriber. I need to join all of those information points up. I think that's an opportunity for a lot of other organizations to break down those kinds of silos that have tended to exist between all of the different channels.

Alicia Tillman: In today's world, the most effective marketing is that which has a very seamless journey, and the underlying ability to create that seamless journey is technology. How we actually connect from brand awareness to demand creation to customer success and then customer retention is how well, number one, we can build that journey and have content that connects the journey end-to-end, but then the technology has to be equally as sophisticated and seamless, connecting our customers so that they have a very seamless, rich experience across every stage of that journey with the company in which they're interacting with.

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, you're marrying together the technology, the content, and then the data that gives you the feedback so you can be on the right course and course-correct as you may need to.

Alicia Tillman: That's the beauty. First, you always have to start with the process. You have to understand what are all those touchpoints that a customer, a prospective customer has with your brand.

We know that we live in a pretty complex world today. We've all seen the data. Oftentimes, nearly 80% of interaction or knowledge that a person gains about your brand happens without a single interaction with a salesperson, and so then you have to spend a lot of time really understanding, okay, so where are consumers getting information about your brand? There are many channels out there, all of which marketers are looking to become part of in some way.

Then you have to really understand, okay, so what is the information they are seeking? When they come to us as a prospective customer, what do they need to learn about? Then how do we develop that information and then place it effectively on all of the different channels that they are visiting?

Then the other part is then how do you connect it all together? If you're showing up at an event and someone in your leadership is telling the story about the value of a product, you want to make sure that that story that that person is telling is also the same value story that appears on your website because, certainly, people go to visit your website to understand information, and that it appears the same way in campaign content or social media content. Technology is the way to drive that consistency but also drive that end-to-end, highly integrated process across the customer journey.

Ramin Beheshti: One of the other thoughts I had is, the other reason why this becomes complex is, it crosses industry. Alicia touched upon the consumer's expectation. The experience you get in one industry then raises the bar everywhere else, and I kind of think of how Apple changed the experience in retail stores.

That was buying technology equipment, but then if you look at the people who came into other industries like I think of Warby Parker and how they created a completely different retail experience with buying glasses, buying spectacles. You kind of see the cross, as you go from industry-to-industry, what one company does in technology, for example, and influences another company in another organization. I think that is always a challenge because, actually, the consumer is the same consumer. Their expectations are just raising.

Examples of great customer experience

Michael Krigsman: Alicia, who have you seen that's doing this well, companies or industries?

Alicia Tillman: Ramin mentioned Apple as well in revolutionizing the retail experience and what you can come to expect not only about the product itself but about the community that you buy into as well.

Starbucks is another great example of people. They want to buy a cup of coffee not so much because it's necessarily the best coffee on earth but because it allows you to be part of a community that's so much more. The number of people that sit in a Starbucks and just want to hang out all that.

I think that that's something in particular that brands are really recognizing when you see the ones that have set the bar on experience, all those aspects of what goes into creating a great experience. It certainly goes beyond the product and starts to bring you more into the community-like settings that people want to be a part of.

Ramin Beheshti: I agree 100% with Alicia. I think the other thing that we've seen as well and this is kind of almost a trait is around curiosity. Where I see companies doing really well with customers and their experiences is when they're curious about the customer.

This is something that, again, I think we've learned is the customer isn't just the person who buys their product. They've got many different facets to them. The companies that tend to succeed in this game want to understand the needs of their customer and then build either the kind of brand, the services, or the tools to service that kind of customer's need, and so I kind of think curiosity is at the heart of their success as well.

Customer experience strategy and corporate culture

Michael Krigsman: Is there a cultural dimension to those organizations that are delivering these great experiences?

Alicia Tillman: Culture is really at the heart of that. It's the people of an organization that are responsible for taking the vision of a company and really creating a people culture around it.

What are our shared values? What are our beliefs? How are we going to go about solving customer issues and unlocking opportunities? That all stems from the culture that's created by the employees that live, work, and drive it each and every day.

It really is at the heart of the purpose of a company, the manner in which you drive service on behalf of your customers, the way you innovate, and then, ultimately, it's really what helps to drive success. When you think about the period that we're living in, in particular, with the global pandemic, it has really shown us the real strength of a lot of companies and the cultures in which they have.

Advice for business leaders on customer experience management

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for organizations that want to cultivate this kind of great customer experience that you've been talking about?

Alicia Tillman: Understand the vision of your company. It's your vision. It's your purpose. It's your reason for being.

What is the purpose of your products? What is the purpose of your services and the solutions that you offer? What problem are they helping solve or what opportunity are they looking to unlock?

You have to first and foremost truly understand that. That's really about understanding the value that your company offers and how you do it through your products and solutions are the answers. You have to truly understand that and understand that well. Then you have to understand how to deliver that in a way that really meets the expectations of your customer.

Michael Krigsman: Ramin, final thoughts and advice for business leaders who want to put into practice the lessons that you and Alicia have discussed today.

Ramin Beheshti: Alicia covered quite a lot of the cultural aspects. I think the other thing that I would add to that is data. I know it's kind of a term that everybody talks about and it's not a new thing, people collecting data, but joining the data up that you have about the customers, about how they're interacting with you across every single kind of channel. That is the key.

You have to break down as many silos culturally that exist within your organization. You have do the same with the data as well because, in most organizations, the data lives in one pocket over here and another pocket over there. Typically, companies need to connect all of that data and then start to understand what it means or what they need to do with it. That would be my kind of advice.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Alicia Tillman and Ramin Beheshti, thank you both so much for taking time.

Ramin Beheshti: Thank you, Michael.