Bob Olwig has been in the technology industry for over 35 years, beginning as a programmer, before moving to software sales, consulting, and then as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for World Wide Technology offshoot Telcobuy.com. Bob is currently the Vice President of Corporate Business Development and Marketing at World Wide Technology (WWT), a company he’s been with for over 22 years.
Bob leads a team of marketers that leverage technology to create great customer experiences. “We expend a large amount of time as an executive team ensuring that we have a great company culture founded on a core set of values that we reinforce every day,” Bob says. “That really comes through in our customer experience. It’s in our DNA, and it’s really almost an unfair advantage.”
The industry has changed quite dramatically since Bob first joined World Wide Technology and today the Company believes “every business is a technology business” and has a relentless focus on talking to clients about their business challenges and how they can solve them to deliver better business outcomes.
In this interview, we take a dive deep into leveraging technology to improve customer experience and how today’s Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) can use their unique customer knowledge to improve the business.
What are some examples of initiatives you’ve implemented to create a better customer experience?
St. Louis, where World Wide Technology (WWT) is located, isn’t necessarily thought of as a destination tech city, but we’re changing that for our customers. In 2018, we’re on pace to have over 1,500 customer and partner briefings in St Louis. It’s amazing to have that many coming to visit us and learn about WWT.
During these briefings, which are typically one to three days, customers or partners will come to our office to work with us to drill down and solve their business problems. We leverage our ATC Connect app to create a totally personalized experience that is focused on the customer that is there with us. Customers can provide live feedback during their visit and tell us what is top of mind for them on that specific day via the App as well.
Our notion is that you can come to WWT and see technology from the world class partners we have, but the big advantage of coming to St. Louis is that customers can see all of these technologies working together to solve the business problems that they, specifically, are facing. We think of this as experiencing Silicon Valley in St. Louis.
Additionally, we’ve continued to invest in our capabilities not only with the innovation labs in our Advanced Technology Center, but we’ve also invested in people. We’re hiring former CMOs and individuals from digital agencies to be part of our various advisory teams:
- Chief Digital advisors, which include CMOs and Agencies
- Chief technology advisors that bring dozens of years of experience building out core technology infrastructure
- Business advisors that are former management consultants or analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning experts
Through these advisors, we’re able to better relate to the challenges that our customers are experiencing. Because these individuals have years of experience in marketing and product development, they’re able to connect with our clients regarding their specific roles, which then helps us accelerate the relationship and identify the challenges our clients are facing.
These advisors are all about helping us be a more trusted partner to our clients so they open up and share the deep challenges they’re facing. Then, we can take them along a journey to explore how technology can help them solve those problems.
We’ve coined a phrase “From Idea to Outcome (I2O)” so from ideation to business outcome we are there to help along the journey. With all of this, WWT is uniquely positioned to deliver on the business outcomes customers want.
Can you tell me more about the ATC Connect App and how you’re using it to create a unique customer experience?
Ultimately, we’re trying to create amazing experiences for our customers leveraging technology and that comes in a lot of different forms. We’ve created our own experiential app that we call ATC Connect, an end-to-end app that helps us conduct wonderful customer briefings. So as those 10,000 customers or so come into St. Louis we use this app to organize meetings, provision speakers, drive the agenda, and get real-time feedback as the briefing is occurring.
We’re even able to use it to get customer preferences for any nutritional or dietary needs that visitors have, or help book nearby hotels during their stay. All of this, with the intent of ensuring our customers have a great experience at WWT when they’re here.
As a marketer, the ATC Connect App is a great example of digital transformation and one of the most exciting things that I get to talk about with customers. Every one of these customers are using this application and it’s a great conversation starter in terms of why we developed the application and how it’s helping us run our business and be better marketers.
What are you finding are the keys to successful customers experiences on your customers’ end? What are you observing in the market around today’s CMOs?
What CMOs bring to the table is first-hand knowledge of an enterprise customers and prospective customers. That information, or data around their client, is extraordinarily valuable.
Armed with that information about the customer’s interests, wants and desires, and how they’re going to use a product or service the organization is providing is like gold.
In this era of big data, there is more and more information being generated about those customers, their desires, and needs. For a CMO, it’s all about leveraging the intimate knowledge of a customer and based on that information, determining how to create better products and services for their specific needs. It’s not only how to develop better products and services, but it’s also about how to improve that experience while that customer is engaging with you in your organization.
Savvy CMOs take advantage of the enormous amounts of customer data available, then correlate it with data from the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) or social media team, to get a 360⁰-view of their customers. With all this data, they can then achieve a complete view of how to market and engage with each customer.
At WWT, we’re super excited and have our own data science team that is analyzing our customer’s massive amounts of data to determine leverageable insights they are able to activate on. We’re also going a step further by helping our customers leverage AI and machine learning to create better experiences for their teams and customers.
CMOs have long been on the forefront of wanting to be innovative around the use of technology. Some of that has been because of the technologies that CMOs can leverage like Salesforce or running a digital campaign, often do not require close collaboration with traditional IT departments. So, they can be innovative and experiment without having to work with IT, at least initially, to make that happen. We have a very close collaboration between Marketing and IT that gives us a unique advantage in developing these great customer experience apps.
CMOs have that core customer orientation that makes them extremely valuable in today’s market. It can be easy to talk about the new shiny object in technology, but technology is only an enabler; you must first start with the customer needs and then the technology will follow.
What can you tell us about how culture has played a role in keeping customers loyal to your brand?
How we get to a win-win relationship with our customers is our company culture and core values. Much of that is foundational to building trust. We really strive to build a trusting relationship with our customers. We’ve had customers, including AT&T who was our first customer, and are still with us after 28 years. Much of that success is because of the trust and confidence we’ve built with each other.