Meet Mykolas Rambus, Quaero’s new President
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Last month we announced that Mykolas Rambus joined Quaero as our company’s new president. We recently had a chance to sit down with Mykolas to discuss his career journey, his perspectives on the customer experience and intelligence market, and why he decided to join Quaero to help shape the next chapter in the company’s history.
You have been both an entrepreneur starting companies from scratch as well as a senior executive at well-known global enterprises. What have you learned from these experiences that is relevant to leaders who are trying to navigate their companies during these extremely challenging times?
Mykolas: I’ve had the somewhat rare career experience of founding and building several companies from a blank sheet of paper as well as successfully operating as a senior executive within multi-billion-dollar enterprises. I’ve served in chairman, CEO/general manager and CIO roles. I’ve also operated on the frontlines during two eras defined by substantial volatility and uncertainty: the dot.com bubble and the Great Recession. My collective experience gives me great appreciation for the challenges—and the new emerging opportunities—facing leaders as they navigate today’s uncertain business environment.
So, what have I learned along the way? My single biggest lesson is that every executive in every large enterprise must unleash their “inner entrepreneur” when customer demand shifts suddenly and unpredictably. This has certainly been the case for most industries during 2020.
While there are demand shifts in any economic cycle, what we’ve witnessed during the current global pandemic is unprecedented. Certain sectors have confronted severely declining demand (e.g., restaurants, hotels, airlines, shopping malls, and commercial real estate) while other industries have witnessed stable or increasing demand (e.g., hospitals, grocery stores, telecommunications, package shipping, loan refinancing).
As an executive, you have to be agile in every sense of the word to react to these shifts in direction. As importantly, you are going to witness the ultimate “stress test” of all of the customer technology and data systems that your organization has designed and implemented.
Yet, many executives are frustrated. Why? Their organizations claim to be “data-driven” or “analytics-led” with respect to managing customer experiences, but few have built this capability. This gap can usually be traced to multiple hurdles that must be overcome.
First, it’s very hard to wrangle customer data—especially when you might have petabytes of data flowing through your company. Executives often underestimate the challenges with assembling and reconciling customer data from hundreds, if not thousands, of disparate sources.
Second, you have to know how to extract useful insights from datasets that are exponentially increasing in scale, breadth and depth. All customer data is not created equal (e.g., datasets that measure media consumption, automotive sales, and point-of-sale retail payments are all vastly different in structure). Therefore, access to deep sector knowledge is essential.
Third, you may have consolidated all your data and derived penetrating insights into customer segments or individual consumers, but your organization still may not be able to translate these assets into actions that are effectively and efficiently orchestrated for improved customer experiences and a better bottom line.
Along these lines, I had a memorable epiphany many years ago in one of my prior roles. My corporate team built our own business intelligence environment that produced a ton of analysis, but it wasn’t moving the needle on business outcomes. After months of tireless experimentation and iteration we finally discovered how to best marry first-party and third-party data to uncover some truly game-changing insights. This was the first time I clearly understood how much work it takes to ensure your teams have access to the right data at the right time. It has become my passion to help more companies create a path and a platform to uncover these game-changing ideas that always lurk somewhere inside their customer data.
Can you talk more about the challenges facing large enterprises at this juncture?
Mykolas: Sure. Holding aside everything associated with running a global company during a worldwide pandemic, organizations remain under tremendous pressure to constantly improve the unique experience they deliver to each of their customers. Amazon has set a high bar for being able to demonstrate that it understands consumer preferences and behaviors. It uses the insights it gathers to shape future shopping and marketing experiences. Now, consumers expect that level of personalization from every product and service company in their orbit.
Companies in every market position are challenged to offer experiences that approach what highly capitalized category leaders demonstrate as a “best-in-class” approach in any segment of the customer value chain. In fact, it’s more important now because of the economy. When customer churn is a big issue and a bigger risk, marketers have to do their very best.
The challenge isn’t just capital constraint. For marketers, it’s “career-constraint.” On average, CMOs have just over 2 years to prove their value and retain their jobs. This showcases the urgency of solving the omni-channel customer experience problem. You can’t do that without assembling and actioning customer data in a meaningful way.
One of the biggest challenges our clients face is data proliferation. If you spend time with the experts who tackle this on a day-to-day basis, and you discuss their internal first party data, you soon realize it’s voluminous. The data comes from everywhere: website, mobile apps, online surveys, chat bots, SMS texts, call centers, branch data and a host of other touchpoints. There may be multiple systems due to a decentralized operating credo or perhaps M&A activity that hasn’t yet dealt fully with post-M&A systems integration. Frequently older legacy systems don’t “talk” to one another. It’s an incredibly complex situation.
For most organizations—particularly those that are global and/or highly regulated—just managing first party data is exceedingly tough. However, these same firms also want to take advantage of all of the external third-party data that enables them to enhance their customer profiles. Taken together, this creates a litany of data sources to manage. Marketers know that they have to do it quickly so they can make decisions about how they engage customers—not just on a campaign basis, but on a real-time basis. The job becomes harder and harder because of the proliferation of ways that consumers interact with brands while their experience expectations continue to escalate. That said, there are more opportunities than ever to leverage new solutions to tackle these challenges.
Gartner and other analysts have said Customer Experience is often the critical factor driving successful customer engagement and increasing revenues. Do you agree?
Mykolas: I completely agree. The total customer experience includes every aspect of how the company’s products, services, solutions, sales, marketing, and customer service connect with the customer. Unfortunately, few organizations can assemble and produce a customer profile that is accurate and timely—which is an essential element in being able to personalize the customer experience and make it more relevant and engaging.
The companies who are running away with the ball are the ones who understand the connection between harnessing their data and improved customer experience. They’re starting to appoint CX officers or are assigning that function to the CMO or chief growth officer. It’s absolutely the right direction. All these functions realize the importance of data to driving successful engagement, but they all have different needs. Marketing wants it faster. Technology wants it to be less expensive. Data wants it easier to deploy and risk mitigated. Analytics wants flexibility so they can solve hard problems. We wake up every morning knowing we have to solve for all of these needs if we want to fully satisfy our clients.
What is it about Quaero that attracted you to the company?
Mykolas: One of the key reasons I was excited to join Quaero was the company’s ability to deliver data management, orchestration and analytics capabilities via a unique customer data platform (CDP) that provides significant momentum for enterprises—especially for large, complex enterprises. I’ve already watched Quaero’s team in action; this is a team that truly helps clients achieve their aspirations of being data-driven, analytics-led organizations.
Part of what makes Quaero distinctive in today’s CDP market is the company’s legacy and culture. When our CEO, Naras, founded the company he originally designed and built a services business that would help enterprises improve their direct-to-consumer marketing ROI by leveraging customer insights. This created a culture grounded in deep expertise around understanding what really makes consumers tick—and what’s needed to influence their behavior at scale.
Five years ago, the company made a sharp pivot from services to software. The team injected their domain expertise around consumer behavior and shaping consumer experiences into Quaero’s CDP platform. The years of experience that went into designing this platform is helping organizations solve sophisticated business problems today. More recently, Quaero has created an exciting CDP-as-a-Service model (CDPS), which is the first such innovation in our industry.
My initial instinct when joining the company is that Quaero now has the same long-term growth opportunity in the CDP space that Salesforce brought to the CRM space. All of the thinking that’s gone into Quaero’s CDP-as-a-Service could put us on a similar trajectory by effectively, efficiently, and easily solving companies’ complex data problems. The work our teams are doing with customer data is foundational. Every company needs it—and I’m super excited about that insight!
One final question: as you step into the role of President, are there any insights that you would like to share about your leadership style?
Mykolas: That’s a great question! Early in my career I had the very good fortune of meeting a senior officer in the Green Berets. I had finished my sophomore year at college and was interning in Washington, DC, when this gentleman—purely by happenstance—became a lifelong mentor, a friend, and later, a work colleague. The life skills I observed in and learned from this individual have helped me throughout my career.
What stood out was the pace and precision at which this individual operated. From the moment he walked into the office to the moment he left for the day, he worked with a level of efficiency I’d never seen before in my life. At the same time, he was remarkably agile and adaptive. He could pivot as needed and maintain his operating style even when circumstances required that he change his focus and attention. His example made me want to be just as determined as he was every day to make meaningful progress.
In my experience, this leadership and operating style is a very simple concept, but it is hard to consistently achieve. With years of practice and patience, this principle has prepared me for approaching a wide variety of opportunities and challenges with more confidence and conviction—something I always aspire to bring to the frontlines as I seek to deliver results for my clients and my colleagues who put their trust and faith in me every day.