Lithium Takes A Stand on Customer Experience Hype


The echo chamber on customer experience is so loud it almost drowns out any creative thought you might have floating in your head. It’s coming from all corners with everyone jumping on the bandwagon. As companies grapple with what it means, if it’s relevant for them and how the heck to get started, B2B technology vendors are circling like beasts eyeing a herd on the savannah

Products, new and old (mostly), are dusted off, given a face-lift and billed as the secret sauce for driving greater customer success, deeper relationships, and loyalty. Vendors putting the customer experience spin on their messaging range from long-established CRM, contact center, knowledge management, and marketing automation to upstart big data analytics, sentiment, feedback, content management, and add-on technology products.

Their promise is an alluring one – just implement their solution and you can check the customer experience box. No pain; it’s just that simple.

The effect of everyone jumping on the customer experience bandwagon is a slowdown in the maturation of this new business discipline. Confusion abounds as does disbelief. No one wants to risk exposing their customers (and their job security) to new engagement practices that might increase instead of decrease frustration and churn.Not so fast.

However, the growing confusion opens unique opportunities for those technology vendors with real solutions that truly enable connective tissue between customers, employees and partners. Vendors that are willing to ‘go against the grain’ and step into the fray with methods, tools, technology and education that help their customers develop and implement realistic, measurable customer experience strategies.

Lithium Technologies, at their annual LiNC2013 user conference, launched a host of new social customer experience products. No stranger to going against the grain, Lithium also announced their blueprint for change which steers customers through the transformation process. Not a gimmick for selling more software but an actual step-by-step approach that guides on the what, when, why and how-do-I-sell-this-internally to deliver a consistent, valued social customer experience.

The four steps of the blueprint are:

1 Creating a disruptive mindset by reimagining your business and customer relationships.
2 Making trusted content the center of your business strategy and customer experience.
3 Infusing social customer experience across all business functional and digital touch points.
4 Repeatedly measuring and proving the financial results.

Rob Tarkoff, Lithium Technologies President and CEO, said, “Lithium’s blueprint is in direct response to customer requests for advisory and insight services to help them make their social customer experience strategy a reality.” He defines social customer experience as “unlocking the passions of your customers in the digital world in a way you can capture those insights, measure them and empower your organization to bring your customers along.”

I think the definition could be stronger and bolder. So, I’ll stick with our owndefinition which is “a buyer’s satisfaction and perceived benefit with or about a brand’s messages, people, processes, products or services, through any interaction across all touch points, over a relationship’s lifetime.”

I’m not a fan of tacking ‘social’ onto the front of customer experience because sends a subtle misleading message to the broader market that this is limited to the digital world. Tarkoff’s position is they “use ‘social’ in conjunction with ‘customer experience’ because they are optimizing the social stream.” According to Katy Keim, Lithium’s chief marketing officer, “our customers talk to us about customer experience and social. There are thousands of companies out there that are just now wrapping their head around social in the enterprise, so it makes sense to call it social customer experience.”

To a packed house of Lithium followers, a veritable cult, the social customer experience message resonated. For them the news wasn’t what Lithium called their new vision but the products being announced and the growing number of customer success proof points. It’s common practice at technology conferences to trot out the logos and talking heads. What isn’t so common is the depth of detail Lithium customers share with the audience; a practice that reinforces the cult culture.

Product announcements included Lithium Social Intelligence which enables brands to measure social customer programs and answer those pesky C-suite questions around ROI, benchmarking and role-based engagement. Mobilesupport was also announced along with a raft of enhancements to existing products.

A partnership with SAP was introduced. Certified by SAP, Lithium plugs social and voice of the customer data into SAP’s Jam system It’s a corporate level relationship coming on the heels of SAP’s investment in Lithium last year.

The partnership is strikingly similar to the relationship between Salesforce and Oracle  where, according to Mark Benioff at DreamForce 2012,Oracle ORCL +0.28% owns the transaction backbone and Salesforce owns all the interaction touch points. Could a square-off be in the making?

All speculation aside, it’s refreshing to see a technology vendor actually understand what customer experience means and walk the talk. I wish more vendors would ‘go against the grain’ and follow suit – for the sake of their customers and customers’ customer.