The gap between customer expectation and most business realities gets wider every day. Customers want things to be simple and expect instant gratification. It was good when I could find and play any song I wanted on Spotify; it’s great when a playlist is automatically queued up for me based on my mood and preferences. My expectations are raised, and this experience leaks into how I want to do my banking, my online shopping or book my next business trip.
But creating a seamless customer experience is still very much aspirational for many organisations. The harsh reality is that most global organisations still aren’t structured in a way that makes it easy to succeed. Where customers see things purely in terms of the transaction from beginning to end, many companies are still structured to view experiences through the vertical lens of product lines, channels, and ‘touch-points’. Customers can have a good experience – but only if they stay in the same company silo. Dare to cross the invisible boundary lines, and you are bound to be disappointed as the experience becomes fractured and complex.
The result is that a seamless experience is often only really achievable at a superficial level, typically in the form of localised versions of ‘Company.com’ or ‘brand.com’.
Customer experience at the level that really counts, at the point of transaction or value exchange, stays locked in existing product or market silos where the budget and decision-making powers still reside. While it would be high on the executive wish list, marketers can’t count on the CEO agreeing to rip apart and rebuild the entire organisation to become completely (culturally and structurally) customer-centric.
Make way for the journey manager
But there is a way forward. There are ways to achieve a far greater level of seamless experience across structurally entrenched silos, without having to raze company structures to the ground.
One such innovation is the introduction and increasing mandate of Chief Customer Officers or Customer Journey Managers; senior people ‘with teeth’ in the organisation, charged with looking at how customers interact across channels, product lines, and internal organisational constructs. They are there not just to shape but to drive solutions that answer “how should this work for the customer” and “how do we make this, simpler, more seamless and more personally relevant?”
Additionally, digital platform vendors are rapidly innovating the features and the fundamental architecture of their solutions to better enable a horizontal, customer experience centered view. It’s now possible to have a single point for managing content, tracking behaviors, developing insights and generating profiles, independent of channel.
Got both of those? Still not truly seamless? There’s more to do yet.
Managing the transition
It’s the introduction of these two new capabilities that need to be handled carefully, and this is where most attempts to create a truly seamless customer experience can come undone. This is, counter-intuitively, where it’s wise to bring in new people and platforms with as little initial disruption as possible.
No big bang, no breaking down of siloes. Initially, you install a central platform that allows creative freedom for the multiple parts of the business to craft, deliver and manipulate their own ‘touchpoints’ – much as would be the status quo.
The tipping point for change is actually now: with the right central roles in place and the other underlying platform capabilities, you have the means to start measuring behaviors and building up insight across the business. Getting insight into the hands of centrally based Experience or Journey Managers is singularly the most powerful asset to then start challenging and driving change across organisational boundaries and geographies and executing at scale.
Insight drives change
Just as Spotify used my information to improve my experience and drive up my expectations, so insights can be served up as services to different channel or touch point owners. As information provided by a central team that helps them improve their own touch points first, so their expectations for customers increase. The more this happens, the stronger the analytics and insight become; insight drives change which, in turn, drives deeper insight.
It’s a stepped process of change, with interim states designed for flexibility and learning. Product or channel owners remain liberated to drive experience improvement in their own part of the journey. They are aided with valuable insights to do this, without having to build themselves all the sophisticated capabilities they need.
The greater the scale and adoption, the stronger the insight at the ‘center’. Journey Managers then know exactly what to change to make the overall customer experience better. This is the first foundational capability to then facilitate setting centrally defined ‘standards’, making organisational changes and implementing cross-channel solutions based on fact and clear business logic.
In summary, for those organisations that are willing to make the big, painful structural shifts to deliver truly integrated and seamless customer experience, the technology is there, ready and waiting. But for those companies where these major changes are some way off, the road ahead isn’t necessarily blocked. Establishing the right central capability can build up enough insight, clarity and confidence to help ‘oil the cogs’. This in turn makes the structural shift possible, and catalyzes the move towards genuinely great customer experiences.
For more information on managing structural change, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Herb van der Raad for CMO.com and is republished with their kind permission.
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