Smart Communications, a global leader in cloud-enabled enterprise customer communications, was recently recognized as a Leader in Gartner’s January 2017 Magic Quadrant for Customer Communications Management Software.
Loyalty360 caught up with Smart Communications CEO George Wright to talk about this esteemed honor and his thoughts on topics such as technology, customer engagement, customer loyalty, and personalization.
In this era of rapidly evolving technology, what does this recognition from Gartner mean to your company’s mission?
George Wright: For us, it offers further recognition of our position as the pioneering innovator in customer and business communications and the importance of true cloud capabilities. Our Customer Communications Management (CCM) software has been digital from Day 1. It was a risk to develop the industry’s first cloud-based enterprise CCM solution, No one had tried to bring communications into the cloud before. Now we are seeing the market taking the same path, whether in hybrid cloud form or in full cloud.
It also validates our decision to adapt our business to focus solely on delivering enterprise CCM, using the most modern architecture and cloud capabilities. We’re very proud to be the only independent entity exclusively delivering this for the world’s largest enterprises and recognized as a leader in this field by Gartner as a result.
How has your commitment to delivering a global strategy for CCM and enterprise communications evolved in recent years?
Wright: As customer habits and cloud technology have developed, it’s become clear that CCM is — and should be — much more than a back-office function. Customers are now interacting with businesses across a broader range of digital channels, and expectations of these interactions are rising, which makes connected CCM systems and digitalized, interactive communications, at scale, even more vital. We are more dedicated than ever to providing solutions that give business users exceptional usability, and put customer communications at the center of their business strategy.
How have customer communications changed in recent years and how are loyalty marketers leveraging them better to achieve enhanced customer engagement/customer loyalty?
Wright: The conversations businesses have with their customers are getting increasingly complex, with millennials and post-millennials interacting across a range of online and offline channels, yet demanding instant and tailored communications. As a result, businesses are under pressure to understand how personalized messages can be delivered via the right channels and at the ideal moment to boost customer loyalty while remaining compliant with regulatory guidelines as they protect and promote their brands. Greater awareness of the role communications play in driving business success has created less isolated management — cloud-enabled communications solutions are now an integrated business function, not just a process handled by the IT department.
What is involved in the challenge of personalization? And what are the challenges and/or opportunities of creating a single view of the customer?
Wright: The key challenge of personalization is ensuring that customer conversations feature information that is always relevant to individual situations, or context. But this is really hard to do as the data that personalizes communications is often held in separate systems, by different departments, and potentially by different brands. The opportunity then is for solutions – like Smart Communications – that are very good at bringing data and content together without requiring massive integration system projects. By harnessing the power of the cloud – using standards like XML and having a modern architecture – these are the elements that help us realize the opportunity to achieve true personalization.
What are the biggest benefits you receive and challenges you face with surveying and/or listening to customers? Is this process changing at all?
Wright: In the world of enterprise software, you can’t have a successful business without constantly listening to your customers and the benefits of doing so are clear. Understanding how our solutions help our customers’ businesses on a day-to-day basis and getting direction as to how our solution needs to develop is key, so we can build capabilities that increase the value further. This process continues to evolve with our customers’ needs.
We organize very successful customer workshops, run product advisory groups, and receive constant feedback from our product support team. We understand that creating online communities around our products is one of the best ways to receive customer feedback and it’s a method we will focus heavily on in the future. We’re fortunate to work with the world’s largest enterprise companies as they scale the conversations they have with their customers around the world, as it allows us to learn from the expectations they hear from their customers. We strive to maintain our position at the forefront of the industry to ensure our technology and roadmap can be scaled to meet these ever-changing demands.
What does being a challenger brand (or a disruptor) mean to you? And what are the opportunities and challenges associated with being a challenger brand?
Wright: A challenger never stops trying to innovate and build new solutions that propel the market forward. It’s never complacent.
Having just recently become an independent company, I often say that we’re a startup that also happens to be the original innovator in the market. We’re going to continue to disrupt the market – a market which, as we see it, is still held back by legacy solutions that are all about print first and digital second.
Since 2004, we’ve been digital and we’ve helped businesses to move beyond traditional enterprise communications using the most modern architecture and cloud capabilities. Building our solution from the ground up meant we were the first to enable cloud-enabled CCM and bring personalized customer communications to the business user. We have the solution that business users turn to when their needs outgrow their current capabilities. And we have the agility needed to adapt as customers’ needs continue to evolve.
What do you see in the future for cloud-based enterprise customer communications?
Wright: The future of enterprise communications will be closely tied to changes in the way customers choose to interact with businesses. As emerging channels and tools – such as wearables, instant messaging, and social media – take precedence as customers’ preferred means of communication, it will be essential for businesses to take a more connected and integrated approach. We see this change driving businesses even further toward the cloud — which makes it easier to unify systems — and away from fragmented and restricted on-premises solutions. The cloud offers control and flexibility, and that – along with exceptional usability – is just what enterprise communications will need to stay relevant.