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The Modern Customer Experience Conference Keynotes

The Modern Customer Experience Conferences kicked off Tuesday evening, March 31st, at the Venetian Las Vegas. Excellent keynotes by Mark Hurd, Oracle CEO, and Daniel Pink, bestselling author, host, and co-executive producer of "Crowd Control" on the National Geographic Channel, framed the challenges and opportunities around customer experience, launching two days of inspiring speaker sessions and interactive workshops.  

Hurd’s keynote clearly conveyed the transformational shift taking place in organizations today.  Becoming customer-centric is no longer a suggestion or a best practice - it may determine the livelihood of a company’s future. To underscore this point, Hurd shared that since 1990, 70% of Fortune 500 companies are out of business through bankruptcy, merger, or acquisition.  This trend has only accelerated in recent years.  Since 2000, 50% of Fortune 500 companies no longer exist.

Companies can no longer survive with fragmented sales and marketing processes—they need to integrate siloed processes to deliver a holistic customer experience.  This is often complicated by legacy systems. “The average legacy application in use today by corporate America is 21 years old,” shared Hurd.  As a result, customers receive a fragmented, inconsistent experience and it’s affecting the bottom-line.  Eighty-nine percent of consumers switch to a competitor after a poor experience, but the fact that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience proves how important the customer experience really is. 

To achieve this customer-centric mindset, CEOs must be customer-centric evangelists. Hurd shared how Oracle helps companies to better serve customers and meet their needs. "We bet with our wallet," he said, referring to Oracle’s commitment to the suite of cloud solutions, both through acquisition and significant R&D investment. 

Following Hurd, Pink’s keynote helped reframe the art of selling.  He shared the reality that sales has changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 100, but he also noted an enduring negative perception of salespeople.  He shared the results of a survey for which participants were asked to name the first word that comes to mind when they think of a sales person. Words like pushy, yuck, sleazy, slimy, and worse led the list.

Thirty years ago, buyers had to count on salespeople for information. This “information asymmetry” contributes to the negative perception of salespeople and the concept of “buyer beware.” Buyers must be careful, because in the absence of information, pushy, yuck, sleazy, slimy can rip you off.  Today, we live in a world of less and less asymmetry. We live in a world with easy access to information, endless choices, and many ways for customers to talk back. 

For customers and sellers both, it’s a fundamentally different world.  Therefore, according to Pink, we’ve moved from a world of “buyer beware” to a world of “seller beware.”   In fact, he believes that if a customer has a deep understanding of their problem, they can solve it themselves.  So what does this mean for sales people?  

The ABCs of Selling=Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity

Pink offers a new way to name the traditional sales acronym “Always Be Closing.”  

  • Attunement:  Understanding the other side's perspective, finding common ground.
  • Buoyancy:  Staying afloat amidst the ocean of rejection that sales people face every day. 
  • Clarity:  Curating information and make sense of it – helping to identify new problems. 

 What can sales people do in a world where the perception of sales people remains overwhelmingly negative and buyers have more information than ever before? Pink suggests increasing sales effectiveness by reducing the feeling of power, thinking equally with head and heart, and recognizing it’s not always extroverts that win in sale. It turns out the best salespeople are actually what Pink calls “ambiverts,” but that’s another post. According to Pink, the way to sell is to serve first and sell second—to try to improve your customer’s life in some way. At the end of the day, everyone just needs to be a bit more human.

After the keynotes, Summit attendees were treated to a magic show and cocktail reception. Both were excellent starts to the following few days of intriguing speakers, thought-provoking topics, and inspiring insights to consider for attendees ready to put their customer first. 

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