The simple truth is that the scope of customer experience is misunderstood. Customer experience involves all the activities of a brand. There is no magic elixir because there is no separation between any part of a brand and its customer experience.
Forrester defines customer experience as “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” CXPA defines it as the “Perception that customers have of their interactions with an organization.” Looking at either of those definitions, what part of customer interactions and perception is not influenced by all activities of a company? How a company hires talent to build services and products? How a company works with vendors to source components for its products and services? How a company advertises its products and services? There is not a sub-set of activities that can be defined as customer experience. All activities directly or indirectly impact the customer’s experience.
It is easier for brands to think of customer experience as external touch points, but that drives us back to the internal. Does a company have (or at least communicate) the right purpose, right mission and values, to hire the right talent, who will create fantastic products and great external touch points? If not, how is a brand supposed to magically create better touch points?
Without considering how the external and internal are tied together, we abandon external and internal to evolve independently. If we leave customer experience in the external domain, we have separated what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling from understanding how the front, mid, and back offices deliver at those touch points.
This isn’t to dismiss the buzz around customer experience.
Change is happening faster and faster. Between globalization and technology, every industry is in the process of being democratized, disrupted, or disinter-mediated. Competition is increasing from new brands that have no legacy infrastructure to overhaul or business models to protect. These new brands grew up with the Apple stores and Starbucks experience. They understand customers expect every product usage and service experience to make them feel extraordinary. All other brands are expected to meet these same expectations.
Everyone loves to talk about breaking down silos.
In theory, it sounds great. Break down the silos, everyone will talk to each other, everyone will be on the same page, everyone will row in the same direction. Except the silos are there for a reason. Maybe the business model required it. Maybe the regulatory environment required it. Or maybe it’s just human nature to protect our territory. Whatever the assumptions, the reality is that breaking down silos requires the reorganization of a company.
Complex changes run into two significant challenges.
First, any mature company has (correctly) focused on gaining as much expertise as possible in their respective industry, and optimizing processes, products, and technology for a certain segment of the market (and possibly create silos). Shifting to a more customer-centric point of view is a challenge when everything has to be re-evaluated. Even though the current landscape (or a look into the future) shows clear threats, any significant change transformation looks risky. And scary.
This leads us to our second issue. People. Companies are made of people. And people don’t like change. Any change that threatens their job, bonus, or power. Even employees that have nothing to protect have a difficult time understanding why they might have to change when they are several layers away from touching the customer. External stakeholders will not like the change either. Analysts would prefer predictable growth year over year. Regulatory constraints may slow down change.
This brings us to purpose.
While most brands have written down mission statements, they are usually uninspiring. Without a clearly stated purpose, a meaningful purpose, a purpose greater than selling more of XYZ, a more customer-centric purpose, it is difficult to motivate and inspire the need to change direction. Once we can define that purpose, then we can update the corporate strategy to align with the new direction, a filter that impacts how we make choices about hiring and talent development, products and services to provide, and the processes and technologies needed to execute.
In no way can this type of change be seen as a project or initiative. It is the evolution of a brand. It is a big, hairy, and ugly journey.