Marlon Bowser, CEO, HTK (data-driven CX & loyalty)
The background to the interview is described below the video embed. I found the interview refreshing and insightful, it provides some great quotes such as: “Context is more important than channel.”
The contextual relevance of voice, SMS, email or web chat as channels will remain for years to come. We really are at the early days of using WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Android Messenger (with RCS hidden under the hood), etc..
Another great point made was the importance of brands putting smiles on people’s faces when and where it matters (context again). Marlon gave loads of use cases. One that interested me was O2’s Marketing IVR, which customizes the IVR menu to the person calling in. If it looks like they need to top-up, then that’s the first item in the menu. If it looks like they could be a churn risk, the give them a bonus with the top-up.
I also learned the ELVIS framework: Engagement, Loyalty, Value, Influence, and Sentiment. In helping understand a customer’s interaction and the most appropriate actions.
Across the many customer communication channels Marlon raised an important point on expectations associated with a particular channel with respect to response times. That is voice is real time, messaging is minutes, an email is days. Which coupled with context, and customer preferences, influences the channel used.
Overall it’s a great practice-focused guide to the reality and complexity of omni-channel communications. I think there’s much we can do in using the data across programmable communications to aid context awareness and put more smiles on people’s faces. It also highlights the importance of professional services to help brands navigate this complex and evolving topic. Omni-channel aggregation is the tip of a massive customer experience and loyalty iceberg.
Marlon has been CEO of HTK for over 24 years. Before customer experience (CX) was even a fashionable thing, Marlon was working on it for telcos enabling marketing and loyalty programs that included programmable communications. Marlon is Suffolk born and raised, and his HQ is based there. I lived in Suffolk for a time, during my BT Labs tenure, which we also have in common.
We first met at an OpenCloud event in 2009, here’s a piece I wrote about the event. OpenCloud were one of the first open source telecom projects, founded 2000, their real-time application server exposed communication APIs. And Marlon was one of the applications that could consume those APIs. Nothing was publicly exposed yet, this was within the telco, it was the very early days of CPaaS.
HTK provides the software and services that businesses need to earn true loyalty, powered by customer experience. From engagement strategies to fully fledged loyalty programs, HTK helps marketers build more profitable customer relationships, with a mix of consultancy and cutting-edge tech. Here’s a piece I wrote about HTK in 2011. One of the things that impresses me is the consistency of HTK’s value proposition over all these years.
Here are the questions I asked:
- What made you found HTK, and how has your company evolved over the years?
- Horizon CXFlow provides timely, contextual two-way engagement across a range of communication channels. It’s the bit that deals with programmable communications / communication channels. I’m interested to learn from your experiences across those channels.
- You have a long list of channels, the obvious ones like CRM, Call Center, Messaging and Chat. But also IoT and PoS (Point of Sale). Which are the most popular, what are some of the more unusual use cases?
- I remember SMS was a significant focus, has that changed given all the other channels?
- Does RCS come up as a channel? Do you think it will?
- Did you ever use proprietary APIs with telcos, or have you only used public APIs from aggregators like Twilio or Nexmo?
What’s changed from your experience with telecom and other service provider communication APIs over the past decade?
Identity verification is a hot area, Prove Identity raised $100M, BigID raised $100M. How does identity verification fit into your solution?
- Customer insight is an interesting area. In my personal experience I feel less loyalty to most of the services I use. And when I use new services, like Instacart, the self-serving approach to customer care really pisses me off. For example, offering a voucher for my next purchase to cover the charge they made for something not delivered. I’m never going to use them again after reflecting on the overall experience. I guess that could be a very smart insight, take his money as we screwed him so badly, he’s lost. Can you make me feel better that customer insight isn’t just going to screw me over machine-style?