Jasen Lew of Medallia: The Year Customer Experience Management Comes to SMBs

Medallia, a cloud-based customer experience management platform provider, authored a blog post citing eight major trends businesses should be on the lookout for in 2015. Alongside trends like the digitization of wallets and the Internet of Things connecting us with more sources of feedback, Medallia thinks this is the year small and mid-size businesses will get serious about customer experience management (CEM).

Jasen Lew, Medallia’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence, shares why customer experience management at the SMB level will be a major trend this year. And why it’s more about offense, not defense, and how to understand the impact it can have on top and bottom lines. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)

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customer experience managementSmall Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background?

Jasen Lew: Prior to Medallia, I was living in China for a couple years. I had an experience and activities business. Prior to that, I owned a handful of preschools out in Boston. And before that, I owned a software company for three years. So I essentially came to Medallia to help them start up their SMB unit.

Medallia was founded to try to help companies not only gather feedback from customers, but actually provide real-time access and be able to take action on the feedback. Medallia provides a tool to allow organizations to essentially gather feedback, aggregate it and act on it on an individual basis.

Small Business Trends: You recently published an article titled “The Year That Will Be: Predictions for Customers Experience in 2015.” The one that caught my attention is this idea that customer experience management will come to small businesses. 

Jasen Lew: Essentially, this is understanding how the customer is doing throughout their entire journey. It’s about making sure that their experience through your entire offering, not just the bed that you provide at a hotel, is being delivered at the level at which your organization is promising it.

Small Business Trends: How does technology play a role in helping small businesses deliver customer experiences to a larger set of customers?

Jasen Lew: Reviews are critical in the hospitality space. It’s something that hotels really monitor and try to manage for a number of reasons. They’re starting to recognize and feel that the brand they own is having less power and influence over a guest decision to actually stay at the hotel – versus the power of other guests who stayed.

What’s happening is the ability to manage that customer experience as a small hotel, large hotel or a large hotel chain, is paramount because that customer experience directly relates to the reviews that a guest will leave. So brand loyalty is not as strong as review loyalty.

Small Business Trends: Are small businesses going on offense with customer experience management tools and technologies? Or are they actually playing defense?

Jasen Lew: I would say it is more like offense. They see a lot of opportunity to be able to capture and grow. They cannot fight against large organizations with deep pockets. But now they see this as an opportunity with the right tools to compete against other organizations. Regardless if they are a brand or not. What excites them is the ability to show that.

Small Business Trends: Can you talk about the importance of feedback in the context of customer experience?

Jasen Lew: With services like Lyft and Uber, they’re doing something really interesting and essentially at the end of a ride, you just leave. Before you’re able to use that service again, you’re forced to rate the driver. So you’re not allowed to continue further until you offer a rating.

What they’re trying to do is get a very quick snapshot and make it really easy for the guest to provide quick feedback on the overall experience.

Small Business Trends: What are the cultural challenges that small and mid-sized businesses need to be aware of in order to be as successful as they can implementing these tools, technologies and strategies?

Jasen Lew: One of the challenges is the mindset the ROI (return on investment) for customer experience management. That’s assuming there’s even an understanding of what customer experience management is. Meaning, the value of understanding and managing the customer journey.

If you invest a dollar in customer experience or a customer experience tool, what is the ROI? That translation into actual dollar and cents doesn’t come immediately. There is a clear ROI as things move down the road.

There was a study done that showed that once a person makes a reservation at a hotel, if they go online and do further research and read reviews, one out of three of those guests will actually switch their reservation. It’s an amazingly powerful statistic. They took the self-initiative to cancel that reservation and book somewhere else based off of feedback, which is all centered around customer experience. If you think about the volume that exists in that number, it’s pretty phenomenal.

I think one of the challenges is just understanding there is real ROI in managing customer experience. You may not see an immediate impact, but over a period of time you will see a pretty substantial impact to your top and bottom lines.

The second is just an understanding that it’s something that involves the entire organization. Tools like ours enable everybody in the organization to be a part of the whole customer experience management.

Because it is true that, again going back to a hotel example, the front desk person interacts with a guest. The person delivering room service interacts with the guest. As does the person making up the bed, indirectly. So all these people are involved in the customer experience journey. It is not just upper management or certain select few people that have an impact.

Literally every single person in the organization has an impact on the customer. Understanding that impact can sometimes be a challenge.

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about what you’re doing?

Jasen Lew: At Medallia.com.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.