Cracking Tomorrow’s CX Code

Lisa Loftis, Principal Product Marketer, Global Customer Intelligence Practice at SAS)

Data-driven marketing secrets: Decode customer journeys, understand data governance, and overcome cultural hurdles for a customer-centric future.

Lisa Loftis, Principal Product Marketer at SAS, boasts a remarkable career spanning over three decades. Her journey began at Innovative Systems, Inc., a pioneering company in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where she helped develop groundbreaking name and address cleansing software. Witnessing the early adoption of customer information files (CIFs) in financial institutions, she foresaw the potential for data-driven customer focus. This vision forms the foundation of today’s customer data platforms.

Fueled by this passion, Loftis embarked on a 25-year consulting career, guiding companies through their transformations toward customer-centricity. She played a pivotal role in aligning systems, organizational units, and business practices to create cultures prioritizing the customer. Her dedication to excellence led her to SAS, a global leader in analytics and MarTech solutions, where she has made significant contributions for the past 12 years.

In this interview, Loftis generously shares her invaluable insights, drawing from her extensive experience to illuminate the evolution of customer-centric technology solutions and their critical role in shaping the modern business landscape.

Excerpts from the interview; 

As a Principal Product Marketer in the area of customer intelligence at SAS, what are your key responsibilities and main focus areas?

I am responsible for communicating how SAS’s multichannel marketing hub, SAS Customer Intelligence 360, and SAS’s fully independent first-party ad server, SAS 360 Match, bring value to marketing and CX organizations, fit into the MarTech space, and promote analytically driven personalized customer journeys. This entails understanding the key marketing and technology trends, talking to customers, marketing, and technology practitioners about their challenges, issues, and successes as well as participating in thought-leadership activities (speaking engagements, articles, eBooks, roundtables, etc.) designed to articulate the SAS point of view on all things marketing, CX, and MarTech. 

How can organizations leverage data and analytics to improve customer experience and drive business growth? What are the key factors for success in data governance and quality initiatives?

Analytically driven attribution and embedded analytical capabilities that range from “do it for me” segment discovery capabilities to AI-driven real-time offer optimization and integration with decision engines are just a few of the capabilities marketers are looking for in a fully functional personalization tool. In the CMO Council research report Cracking Tomorrow’s CX Code, four of the top six MarTech categories were AI/ML, marketing attribution and measurement, Customer Data Platform, and real-time personalization.

Marketers also told the CMO council that their biggest MarTech challenges include the inability to link customer data sources, the inability to link online and offline customer identities, and poor data quality. Hence, data quality and governance initiatives are critical. My go-to definition for data governance is “the organizing framework for establishing strategy, objectives, and policies for corporate data”. To this end, a successful governance initiative should aim to achieve the following: position enterprise data issues as cross-functional; establish business stakeholders as information owners; align data quality with business measures and acceptance; and foster improved alignment between business and IT while also removing IT from business decision making (e.g., what is an acceptable quality level).

With the increasing focus on data privacy, how do you ensure customer intelligence practices align with ethical considerations and compliance?

At SAS, we have developed a responsible marketing (RM) framework designed to address ethical considerations and compliance in response to key trends like organizational data governance, consumer privacy, generative AI, and continually changing customer expectations.  

The SAS RM framework focuses on three distinct pillars: responsible use of customer data, responsible use of marketing and advertising technologies, and responsible use of marketing resources (money, people, channels, etc.). Establishing and enforcing processes across these three pillars can yield significant benefits for the brand.  

A few outcomes brands can expect include:

  • Create Competitive Differentiation through Data. Communicating how customer data is used transparently creates a sentiment of trust, respect, and equity with customers, ultimately improving loyalty and extending relationships.
  • Make Agile, Better Business Decisions. When a brand markets responsibly, it maintains full control over data, analytics (including ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies), and engagement solutions. This provides confidence and control, which translates to extracting information rapidly in a performant manner for more agile, better business decisions while promoting accuracy and improving ROI.

How can organizations overcome the cultural challenges of adopting new technologies and becoming more customer-centric?

The organizational change principles I highlighted for data governance apply to the cultural change necessary for CX. Cross-functional strategy, objectives, and policies around customers must be established. To this end, a successful CX initiative should aim to achieve the following: position enterprise business process issues as cross-functional, establish business stakeholders as an information process, align performance objectives with business change, and foster improved alignment between business and IT.

What advice would you give to organizations just starting with CRM or CEM?

During my consulting days, we coined a definition of CRM designed to guide companies just starting to become customer-centric. While developed many years ago, that definition is still very relevant today. It reads like this: “CRM is the ability to align organizational structure, organizational culture, business strategy, and customer technology to facilitate both the satisfaction of the customer and the long-term benefit of the organization”. I would substitute customer experience for CRM and MarTech for customer technology in the modern version of this definition. Still, other than that, my advice would be to incorporate all four areas into the initiative while also developing and incorporating a Responsible marketing framework.  

What are you most passionate about in your work?

I think the RM framework is worth continuing to discuss because it hits every aspect of what marketers and CX leaders need to do to succeed.