The Most Important Customer Experience Technologies


  • Most companies adopting a customer experience strategy already have much of the needed technology. CRM software can provide the bulk of customer experience technology to deliver superior customer experiences if configured to do so.
  • Data is your most valuable asset to deliver differentiated customer experiences. However, data can become unwieldy quickly. A well-defined solution architecture can help manage and transform data into superior customer experiences (CXs).
  • Linking customer experience technologies to CX business outcomes will maximize your success and ROI. The PACE method directly aligns technology with business benefits and is especially well suited to customer experience strategy.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

The Customer Experience Technology Portfolio

There are a lot of software apps that can bring automation to CX objectives. However, our history has been that when CX is pursued strategically, fewer platform technologies outperform a slew of piecemeal tools. In the case of Customer Experience software, less is more.

Customer Experience Technologies
Top Ranked Customer Experience Technologies | source: Customer Experience Research Report

The above graph shows several customer experience technologies and the relationship between software applications investment and impact. Understanding this relationship will minimize your investment and maximize your ROI.

See the Customer Experience technology matrix that shows the most important CX technologies, and the relationship between software investment and ROI.

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Most companies already have much of the customer experience software they need. That is if they have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Many CRM software apps provide the customer data management, process automation and information reporting to deliver highly designed CXs at scale.

When CRM software is properly designed with a 360-degree customer view, customer insights, personas and customer segments, and is the repository for Voice of the Customer (VoC), social engagement and other customer-specific data, it is the most empowered system to deliver relevant, personalized, contextual and even predictive CXs.

Many times, CRM software platforms with their ecosystems of integrated third-party apps can become a one stop shop and replace dozens of fragmented systems. Salesforce with its AppExchange and Microsoft Dynamics 365 with its AppSource are examples of CRM ecosystems.

What's in a Name?

CRM software has gone through a bit of an identity crisis. The term "Customer Relationship Management" was coined by Siebel Systems in 1992. Prior to then there were competing terms for this software category but based in large part on Siebel’s business success the term "CRM software" prevailed.

Well at least until Customer Experience became the next big thing. To capitalize on this customer strategy, CRM software vendors such as Oracle, Pega and others changed their software application name from "CRM" to "Customer Engagement." For example, Microsoft changed their product name from "Dynamics CRM" to "Dynamics Customer Engagement."

Several CRM vendors that changed their application product names from CRM to something else have since changed back. Once you understand that software vendor names are sometimes more aligned with market trends than descriptive offerings you can better assess the right tech stack for your needs.

What CX Software is Needed Beyond CRM Software?

While CRM software can provide the bulk of technology to achieve CX objectives, other technologies will be required. A good way to visualize a holistic technology footprint is with a solution architecture diagram.

Customer Experience Architecture
Customer Experience Architecture

The above sample CRM architecture footprint is illustrative of how technology comes together to deliver CXs from across the enterprise. The diagram is an abstract view that maps how applications and processes move data to efficiently create designed outcomes.

Some of the key components that include essential data that may not be in the CRM system but are needed to deliver differentiated CXs include the following:

  • Marketing Automation Software, sometimes called Marketing Automation Platforms or Marketing Clouds, manage campaigns and the 6 business processes of digital lead tracking, lead acquisition, lead scoring, nurture campaigns, lead transfer to sales and lead analytics. Data in this application will reveal digital footprints and online behaviors.
  • Social listening and engagement apps are available in some CRM systems but not most. Social engagement is key to CX objectives so if it's not in the CRM app a third-party app will be needed.
  • Website integration is needed to answer customer specific questions and deliver "intent data" to the right person in your company. This may also include customer self-service portals.
  • ERP software possesses customer transaction history, things like quotes, sale orders, returns, payments and credits. It often includes customer data that may not be in the CRM system, such as credit limit, available credit and reporting such customer DSO (Days Sales Outstanding) and A/R aging.
  • Ecommerce software pushes completed transactions to the ERP system. However, marketers need access to incomplete transactions so they can respond to things like abandoned shopping carts or gift registry lists.
  • Customer data platforms (CDPs) harvest contact data from multiple sources and consolidate it into unified customer profiles. Without a CDP it is often unclear whether multiple online touchpoints are from multiple visitors or the same person making multiple visits. Without a CDP it's also difficult to deliver contextual CXs, facilitate customer journeys, perform attribution analysis or get accurate cross channel reporting.
  • Master Data Management (MDM) software is needed for companies that manage multiple customer databases. MDM systems link and sync customer data across apps so that there is a single and centralized version of the truth. The MDM app becomes the trusted "golden record" for master data and the source to which all other systems reference for final validation. MDM software is also helpful to manage data privacy and regulatory requirements such as the California Consumer Privacy Act and GDPR.

The above apps are likely only a partial listing. Depending on the business, other applications such as customer sentiment apps, feedback management systems, supply chain management or manufacturing software may contain valuable data to be integrated for the delivery of personalized CXs.

However, one big caution, don't take a boil the ocean approach. Focusing on fewer apps that do the most will deliver far faster and better results than getting bogged down with too much technology.

CRM Software + CX Strategy = BFF

It's essential to avoid a tools-based approach when selecting customer experience software applications. Technology always disappoints when pursued in a vacuum. The better approach is to pursue, design and implement technology that directly aligns with and supports slated business outcomes.

PACE is an IT strategy that manages this alignment. PACE aligns the methods business leaders use to create competitive advantages, described in terms of common ideas, different ideas and new ideas, with a technology portfolio that segments CRM and CX apps into layers called Systems of Record, Systems of Differentiation and Systems of Innovation.

PACE Technology Strategy
PACE Technology Strategy

The PACE method helps steer more investment to the tech capabilities that drive the most business value and less investment toward capabilities that don’t deliver competitive business advantages. It's an effective strategy to avoid some of the common customer experience challenges.

A key point here is that customer experience software is not a business outcome. It's a tool to facilitate an outcome. Technology is an enabler of business results, not a business result. Recognizing that obvious distinction is not so obvious for many companies and a contributing factor to disappointing business software implementations.