Sometimes it’s not the experiences that matter, but the spaces between them.
So often, this one important truth gets missed in customer experience planning. We have a habit of designing and optimising individual portions of a customer experience, whether it’s a website, an app, or a retail store. Now we need to shift our focus slightly and start thinking a great deal more about the joins that form the spaces between these experiences. It’s these aspects that determine whether a customer experience sings or it suffers.
Fragmentation... It’s a problem
You may have a brilliantly performing website, and a bricks-and-mortar store that has exceeded its sales targets, even a marketing campaign that appears to be getting excellent cut through. Even with hard evidence that each individual part of your experience is performing excellently, it may still be the case that your overall customer experience is horrible.
This is the problem of fragmentation – often a result of a focus on the pieces of the whole, rather than the whole itself.
The overall experience is formed as an amalgamation of the individual elements that comprise it and is defined by how those elements fit and interact together. A lack of cohesion between channels can have a highly negative impact on how customers experience the whole – so, if you want to delight them, all the parts must work in harmony.
The reason this often doesn’t happen is because business processes get in the way.
To silo or not to silo?
We’re all familiar with the classic and never-ending debate over the corporate structure. The merits of “breaking down silos” is now considered conventional wisdom, so much so that it is now practically a cliché.
But you can understand why the process does still tend to be siloed. Most people are specialists in one or two aspects of the customer experience; they might be web developers with a knack for efficient customer journeys, or skilled customer service managers in a store. When we’re trying to join up the customer experience, you have to develop the space between those silos.
There are two schools of thought for how you approach this.
One way is to break down the silos in whatever way that you can. Implementing multidisciplinary teams that exist horizontally within the organisation, tackling whole journeys rather than particular specialisms.
This can be a realistic approach for a startup. But it’s more difficult for a large company where consistent processes and policies are important.
And so there’s the other school of thought: actually embracing the silos.
Apple – as we know – has a brilliant customer experience. This emerges from a perfectly executed, extremely hierarchical approach, where each team builds a deep expertise in the subject they’re covering. Joining them together is a thin layer of leaders at the top, who set the overall vision and purpose. It’s their job to ensure that each component works in concert.
Different approaches will work for organisations with different structures. But the same principle applies: start focusing on the joins as equally important as the parts, whether you tackle that by forming multidisciplinary teams or having a group of visionary leaders to oversee the strategy.
Equally, business objectives and KPIs must also be joined up, rather than being restricted to individual subdivisions of the customer experience. Whilst it is important to be able to measure what elements are working or not, customer feedback mechanisms should also reflect the emotional reaction people have to the brand experience as a whole.
This is a challenge that every brand must address because when the KPIs are being hit and yet customers are still turning away, people won’t know where to look for the answer. And that could lead to some very frosty conversations in the boardroom.
By Rob Curran, head of customer experience at Wunderman
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