Business agility in the customer experience age
Customer experience should be at the heart of all business strategies, but many companies lack the necessary structures to ensure it actually is. Kieron McCann writes
Most businesses looking to thrive will put customer experience (CX) at the heart of their business strategy, but not all have the right structures in place to make this happen. CX is already differentiating innovative companies from the rest, but it’s not just about having a friendly voice on the phone or smart uniforms on a reception desk. You can’t deliver great customer experience without a digital dimension anymore. Customers demand a personalised digital experience and additional momentum for this is fuelled by increasing innovation in marketing technology.
However, in order to capitalise on this, businesses need to adopt an agile approach and processes. A siloed approach can’t work when your customer expects their experience and interaction with your brand to be consistent and personal, wherever and whenever they join the customer journey.
Buying tech for tech's sake
As someone who has worked in both marketing and product design, I know product managers are always keen on finding new technology to make their product or service better. Such new innovations form a natural part of product management and are integrated incrementally, not necessarily as part of a wholesale digital transformation project.
The market moves so quickly that often there just isn’t time to wait for new capabilities to be built so new product features are outsourced to smaller, agile partners and suppliers to fulfil. As a result, product experience can race ahead of the capability of the rest of the organisation leading to a proliferation of channels, technologies and sticking plaster fixes rather than a consistent approach. However, product managers have, on the whole, focused on what happens within the product domain, not what happens either side.
In an age of mass personalisation, driven by digital innovation, customers expect and demand a good experience across the entire journey. And a poor experience at any touchpoint devalues the whole journey. This requires the product to be aligned with experience, the collation of the right data to drive the insight and the identification of opportunities for innovation. Digital products are about evolution, agility and continuous improvement. As digital becomes an ever-increasing component of the product offerings, product managers will need to adopt this agile mindset and work collaboratively with marketing and colleagues across the organisation.
Treat the customer journey as a whole
What is needed is a longitudinal view of the customer journey as a single end-to-end experience from awareness, through to consideration, purchase, in-life and renewal. This needs to be done for every single customer and not an aggregate made up of various slices of organisational silos. Overcoming this challenge is what digital transformation can help with. It’s also what it can bring to product management and innovations.
Today, experience is the product. Digital tools can help track across multiple channels and dynamically personalise along the way, but technology alone can’t provide the answers. It needs to be used to free you to work smarter and to think differently it needs to be more than the sum of its parts. If technology alone drives your innovation, you may well end up with a load of cool features, but these won’t necessarily add up to a great experience for your customer.
Data, meet personalisation
A personalised experience that meets the needs of each customer requires a huge amount of data to get right. Quite simply, it's the fuel that powers the customer experience, and product managers will need a plan for how to collect and use this data and what additional sources might be mashed up with it.
A good example of this organisational change can be seen in vehicle manufacturing. Where once, car companies focused their efforts on getting people into the showroom and making a sale. Once the purchase was made, aside from maintenance and services, it was really just a question of hoping they returned when it was time for a replacement. Even though the driving part of the (literal) customer journey was the most critical, it was a black hole so far as interaction was concerned.
Today, connected vehicles are able to provide a constant stream of data on how customers are using vehicles in their everyday lives. This, combined with features like smart device integration, means the focus has shifted from the product (car) to the individual consumer (driver) opening up opportunities to connect and engage between purchase. In this scenario, even one of the biggest physical products a consumer is likely to buy begins to have a digital aspect.
As product managers start to evolve into 'journey managers', or 'offering managers', the process of delivering customer experience will need to involve people from across the organisation. This means multidisciplinary teams, working together to deliver change. So, digital transformation will impact significantly on product innovation and management. But, the secret isn’t the technology itself but how businesses structure themselves to best leverage it to continuously improve the customer experience.