Adobe's Tarkoff Takes On Customer Experience Management

Adobe launches a new customer experience management strategy and Adobe senior vice president Rob Tarkoff talks to eWEEK about it.

On June 20, Adobe announced a new Digital Enterprise Platform for Customer Experience Management, delivering on a new directional push for Adobe. eWEEK senior editor Darryl K. Taft recently connected with Rob Tarkoff, senior vice president and general manager of Digital Enterprise Solutions at Adobe, to get his perspective on the CEM challenges that companies face in a multi-screen, multi-channel world.

eWEEK: What mistakes do companies tend to make when engaging with customers digitally?

Tarkoff: They force customers to work too hard to get what they want. Customers no longer make a distinction between their online personal and business lives. They want to engage with a retailer, bank or tax service, for example, with the same ease and agility as their social networks. Traditional enterprise systems have largely failed when it comes to helping businesses live up to these kinds of customer expectations.

eWEEK: Do customers expect too much?

Tarkoff: I don't think so, but if they do, what does it matter, because you aren't going to tell them to temper their expectations, are you? Customers today are accustomed to dealing with their providers digitally, but they still want to be treated like real people who have relationships with their banks, wireless carriers, etc. Customers expect these experiences to be as friendly and intuitive as Facebook, but they often want it outside of the Facebook paradigm.

As I said, customers don't want to work hard to complete a transaction or get information about rate plans or insurance benefits. Unfortunately, achieving customer experience nirvana often requires a complex, multifaceted business process behind the scenes, because so much of these capabilities are locked in old transactional systems that are inaccessible to most human beings.

At Adobe, our mission is to reduce the complexity of delivering great customer experiences so our customers can unlock the value they have for their customers before they lose them.

eWEEK: Does customer experience management mean customers want their experiences to feel less transactional and more like a relationship?

Tarkoff: Definitely. This has never been truer than it is today, and it's why we make design thinking the center of our customer experience strategy. When we talk about design thinking, it's not only about visual design or "look and feel." It's about looking at a problem from the customer's point of view, armed with everything you already know about them. When you get this part of it right, it gives you more license to engage with customers in an ongoing dialog-which is critical for business in the digital age.

eWEEK: What companies are role models when it comes to managing experiences well across multiple channels?

Tarkoff: One that comes to mind is D&B, the leading source of commercial information and insight on businesses. D&B reinvented its approach to customer experiences when it revamped its research tools for business professionals who use their service to accurately gauge credit ratings. D&B has more than 195 million business records in its global database. They wanted to enhance their ability to provide customers with a consistent, engaging experience as they access this vast information from diverse devices. A new, interactive application enables D&B customers to easily search the company's extensive database and receive real-time data that outline a company's current financial information, which in turn helps them make better business decisions faster.

Another is T-Mobile. T-Mobile implemented a new universal user interface that could sit across all systems and channels, giving company representatives an easy-to-use, intuitive application to quickly access, review, and update customer information and process service requests. T-Mobile increased the potential of its workforce and empowered customers through a consistent, great customer experience that builds confidence and loyalty. From a numbers perspective, T-Mobile has been able to achieve an 8- to 10-second reduction in the time it takes its agents to resolve a customer call. And when you consider its agents handle 220 million calls a year, that's pretty amazing.

eWEEK: How can IT bridge the gap between customer expectations and managing the bottom line?

Tarkoff: Design thinking plays a key role here, I think. Once you incorporate design thinking into the overall enterprise plan, technology innovation becomes part of the complete approach to delivering solutions that are easier to use, more effective and more apt to please the customer. It takes into account business processes, transactions, user interface, personalization, recommendations, measurement, as well as the relevant touch points that today's customers actively use-tablets, smart phones, computers, TVs and so on. What you get is a well-orchestrated series of customer interactions that covers the customer lifecycle, from acquiring and servicing them, to retaining and motivating them to be advocates for your brand and your business-all of which help manage, and improve, the bottom line.

eWEEK: How does CEM differ from CRM?

Tarkoff: CRM is essentially about managing internal data that you have about your customers. CEM is about creating great digital experiences that keep the customer coming back. CEM leverages your historical investments in CRM but takes it to the next level. It's about pre-empting problems in "relating" to customers by designing experiences with customer needs in mind from the very beginning. Customers don't care about enterprise software; they care about a great experience.

eWEEK: In a nutshell, what is the new Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform that you just launched? Why is it important?

Tarkoff: The Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform, or ADEP, really represents the culmination of an incredible amount of work and innovation at Adobe to bring together a new set of technologies that's going to help our customers meet their own customers' demands for a new level of digital experiences. ADEP combines the capabilities in Web content management, digital asset management and social collaboration technologies from our acquisition of Day Software with our core Adobe LiveCycle solutions. It also provides out-of-the-box integration with our new online marketing suite from our acquisition of Omniture. ADEP will help enterprises drive the digital experiences their customers' demand in ways that make them more competitive and keep them at the front of the pack in their sectors as they face this incredible wave of digital transformation happening across industries.