Power User Exchange 2017 | Reflecting on 3 days of illumination

Ken White | Sep 28, 2017 Ken White 09/28/17

Every year we host two client events—Forum in the spring and Power User Exchange in the fall—and after each one, we come away incredibly inspired by our clients’ passion to know more and do better. This year’s Power User Exchange was no exception. The insights we covered could easily fill a book—but for the sake of brevity, I wanted to give you the cliff notes version and share my 3 biggest takeaways. 


1. Data science is fundamentally transforming CX innovation

If there’s one thing that becomes quickly apparent after spending a few days with hundreds of insight professionals, it’s the amazing human capacity to solve complex problems. But even with that innate ability, there are still limitations—especially when it comes to something as large-scale and data-driven as the customer experience.

Fortunately, technology advances in leaps and bounds, and every limitation is a prelude to innovation. In the opening session, Sr. VP of Mobile Technology Lou Bellaire explained how SMG’s data science team is using evolving technologies to shape our product roadmap and help clients build better customer connections across every touchpoint. A few highlights:

  • omniCX™ diagnostics: By collecting web traffic data and layering it on top of CX insights from physical locations, we can help clients identify potential points of friction in the customer journey and build more effective omnichannel strategies.
  • Advanced, multi-source text analytics: Using open-ended comments from multiple channels to feed SMG’s deep learning algorithm, our research and tech teams are working together to tie phrase-level sentiment to CX scores. That means clients get a deeper, more contextualized understanding of what makes for an exceptional customer experience across every channel.
  • Prescriptive analytics: We can go a step further by combining those text insights with behavioral data captured through SurveyMini®—SMG’s location-based mobile research app—to help clients understand which actions will drive customer loyalty and shorten return visit cycles.


2. Visual thinking helps break patterns of habituation + illuminate divergent paths to insight

Those advancements in data science have the potential to unlock a new level of insights—but reaching that level still requires human intervention and critical thinking. Keynote speaker Sunni Brown used a combination of visual, design, game, and improvisational thinking techniques to challenge the way we approach organizational problems. Here are a few of my favorite highlights:


  • Reality is pixelated: The data helps aggregate and summarize experiences, but it’s ultimately just a number. Too often, we forget that it’s not always possible to find the definitive, black-and-white answer. Sometimes it’s more important to reframe the problem and better define the question. Brands that do this effectively are more capable of navigating a world of gray areas.
  • Habituation stunts innovation: Every organization talks about streamlining and process optimization—and for good reason. But you also have to be wary of falling into traps of habituation, which lead to formulaic problem-solving and ultimately inhibit brand agility.
  • Ask questions + experiment frequently: Chances are, if you arrive at an obvious solution to a common problem, your competitors have thought of it, too. Using sequential, cause-and-effect lines of questioning allows us to veer off the beaten path to insight and discover potential brand differentiators.


3. Great things happen through true partnership + a shared commitment to action

As much as I love the keynote presentations and tech innovation updates, by far my favorite part of every event is when we get together for the Top Partnership Insight awards presentation. That’s when we get to articulate the difference between having a customer feedback program (essentially a list of reviews) and a customer insights program (making sense of the data and using it to drive business results). Beyond that, the awards allow us to:

  • Foster a healthy competition that drives client success
  • Celebrate when our clients act on insights in meaningful ways
  • Encourage clients to share and learn from one another


This year we added 6 awards to our growing library of 70+ Top Partnership Insights (congratulations to Banfield Pet Hospitals, Biscuitville, Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bros., Frisch’s Big Boy, and Heinen’s). From using CX feedback to inform product launches to measuring new lines of business to ensure long-term success, our clients are truly committed to putting their customers first.

Thank you

I’d like to personally thank all of the attendees at Power User Exchange 2017. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into creating an event like this, and your attendance, participation, and continued partnership makes it all worth it. I hope to see you all again next year.

And don’t forget to take your insights with you: all of this year’s content is available exclusively to SMG clients.

Ken White
Chief Client Officer

Customer Experience Update