May 15, 2013
It may come as a surprise to some to hear that technology teams play an important role in the implementation of an effective customer experience strategy, but that's the conclusion from our latest research.
Companies which lead in the Customer Experience Index have some distinctive traits which set them apart from the typical IT organization. One of these traits is the ability to understand the language of the customer experience professional. The IT app developers, architects, and analysts who work with the customer experience professionals in these organizations all understand that customer experience is delivered through a series of customer touchpoints.
These touchpoints occur as a customer moves along a particular journey in order to satisfy a need or want. Customer experience professionals examine customer journeys associated with different customer personas. (Personas are fictional characters used to model the key behaviors, attributes, motivations, and goals of a company's target customers, created from primary research with real customers and taking the form of a vivid narrative description of a single person to represent each behavioral segment). Each persona can have one or more journeys, with many touchpoints along the way:
A touchpoint is just what it sounds like — a point at which a person comes into contact with your company / brand / product / service. Some obvious touchpoints include a website, a retail store, using the product, getting help, and even disposing of the product. But touchpoints also include some less obvious touches such as advertising and referrals from friends. Some touchpoints are controlled by your company — your website, for example — while others are entirely out of your control — referrals, for example. Touchpoints with particular meaning to a customer become moments of truth when a customer decides to continue along their journey or switch to another provider.
Rather than consider each touchpoint as a standalone occurrence, customer experience professionals view each touchpoint as part of an overall journey, allowing them to design the journey and consider how one touchpoint is used to move the customer along their journey toward their next touchpoint. While it's possible to improve customer experience by examining each touchpoint in isolation and making superficial changes to the touchpoint, customer experience winners go deeper than this, looking at the entire journey and uncovering root causes for poor customer experiences.
When you consider the customer journey as a life cycle, with the end of one journey feeding into the beginning of another, you begin to get a picture of the lifetime journey of your customers and truly understand just how many possibilities there are for customers to be tempted away by your competition. Very often it only takes one truly disappointing experience to lose a customer for a lifetime. And the value of a customer over a lifetime is significantly higher than the cost of one transaction not being completed. Customer experience professionals develop customer journey maps to illustrate the various journeys made by each persona.
Customer Experience Ecosystem
To fully understand the customer journeys, it's important to develop the concept of a customer experience ecosystem — a visual representation of the relationships among the employees, partners, processes, policies, and technologies that support a customer journey. And this is where many business architects begin to connect the dots between what is happening along a customer journey and the back-end capabilities the company uses to deliver customer value. There can be many capabilities required to support a particular customer touchpoint. The root cause of failure at a customer touchpoint may result from a design flaw in a particular business capability far removed from the actual touchpoint.
By understanding the principles behind customer experience design, IT professionals are positioned to become an extension of the customer experience team, bringing to the team a deeper understanding of the supporting business capabilities in the customer experience ecosystems, and helping to design more effective customer journeys.
One of the roles CIOs play in customer experience is to encourage IT professionals to learn and apply the language and techniques of the customer experience professional to the design of systems of engagement — empowering them to become an extension of the customer experience team.
What do you think? What is the role of IT in helping develop a winning customer experience?