"Who owns the customer experience?" is the wrong question.

Blog /Customer Experience Wrong Question
NTT DATA Services CIO 100 Blog post

Some things are hidden in plain sight. Like the arrow in the FedEx logo or the number 31 in the Baskin Robbins logo. Or, for you fellow travelers, the TSA Pre-Check, Baggage Claim and Ground Transportation signs at many airports.

Since the end customer experience is always due to a series of interactions between the customer and multiple parts of an organization, it should be obvious that many people have a stake in owning the customer experience.

But just like any shared-ownership situation, it’s really tough to pin down exactly who is doing what. Or indeed, who is in charge of the overall effort. For those of you that doubt this point, please immediately organize a family reunion, a church potluck, a football pool or a company sports team. Call me back to discuss this further over a glass of Alka-Seltzer.

This point was especially emphasized during the roundtable I hosted at CIO 100 a month ago in Colorado Springs. Some of the brightest thought leaders, practitioners and decision makers who are designing customer experience solutions and strategies attended the forum. There was near unanimous agreement that everyone has a role to play in owning the customer experience.

Customers expect to interact with companies through multiple channels like online, social, physical, phone, chat, etc. and expect all these channels to be integrated. For example, you might research a health insurance plan online, buy it at a branch and seek status on your claims through a call-center. The probability of customers experiencing some friction as they navigate across these channels is very, very high. A live poll of the attendees revealed that having to answer repetitive questions created the most friction. Handoffs in a customer experience generate repetitive questions like the new automotive model year changeover generates clearance sales.

A Christmas Forest

Wait time, attitude and missed commitments – we all have our personal scars due to product and service mishaps. So did one of the attendees whose large pre-lit Christmas tree ‘died’ three days before Christmas. The manufacturers offered to replace it in four weeks – so unless you decorate a Valentine’s Day tree, not a great customer-focused solution. However, the membership warehouse club, who sold the tree but had no more in stock, proactively resolved the issue by replacing the needed plugs the next morning. A great example of the retail partner stepping in where the manufacturer failed.

So how do you overcome this friction? How can one tighten the links across various channels, entities, participants and processes? At the roundtable it was felt that the biggest obstacle to improving customer experience was business processes that are obsolete. That’s probably a hint that someone needs to reinvent Business Process Reengineering (but with a new title that includes Digital somewhere in there). This problem needs to be recognized and some attention given to it as part of a Digital strategy.

Have a Car on Us

Another attendee at the conference had purchased a new car from a dealer that ended up having a leak in the sunroof. Instead of replacing the car immediately or fixing the leak, the customer had to take the dealer to court to resolve the issue. After four years of litigation, the dealership eventually settled the case and lost a customer for life. Seems in this case stereotypical brutal business tactics were not restricted to the realm of used car lots but also the new car dealership and the manufacturer.  Plenty of blame there for everyone.

Clearly organizations need to create new behaviors where:

  1. Everyone across the organization recognizes customer needs, quickly uncovers issues and takes immediate action to improve the customer experience.
  2. Leadership makes investments and demonstrates a commitment to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

With this approach, omnichannel becomes an opportunity to delight customers in many ways and further improve business impact rather than a minefield where customers are annoyed and abandon your brand in hordes. Irrespective of the channel, whether selling through a retailer or creating a viral video about your offering or giving out online coupon codes, eliminating customer friction can have a profound impact on your business.

When I say that everyone owns the customer experience – it’s just stating the obvious.  But think about your own poor experiences with companies that you purchased from. Wasn’t it obvious what they needed to do to fix things for you? Obvious and oblivious can sometimes co-exist, unfortunately.

To learn more about the quick polls during this session, check out this infographic.

Post Date: 2017-10-26

Brad Rucker

About the author

In 1981, Mr. Rucker spent his entire monthly salary on a TRS-80 Color Computer, taught himself to code and never looked back. Since then he has been a programmer, DBA, system designer, project manager, CIO, CTO and COO. Currently he serves as SVP of the Digital Applications & Information Management Practices at NTT DATA Services.

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