Your customer journey is the only thing that ties your business together
While most companies have made the transition from waterfall to agile, from spreadsheet centric to project management, from analog to digital – the same problems still exist everywhere: Departments don’t like to talk to each other while the customer journey forces them to do it anyway.
As a result, business leaders get busy fighting turf wars and making strategic plans to cut each other off. Management spans shrink rather than grow. On average in most corporates, the span is smaller than 5. Which means the reward of playing office politics is usually far greater than trying to innovate on your company’s products, services or strategies to the benefit of your customer (and revenue).
Even though on the individual level people mean well, whenever the group dynamics kick in, adhering to the status quo is safe and going for mediocre things rather than great but risky things are the default course of action. The risky things don’t get you promoted when they fail. The mediocre things are expected to have a certain outcome and are safe. Even if they fail, you probably won’t. Whether it’s the market conditions, a competitor with a big campaign at the same time, or lack of good people in your team. There’s always an easy explanation as to why the usual thing wasn’t your fault this time.
While this scenario plays out over and over again from one company to the next there is one stakeholder that suffers most: the customer. The people who actually might benefit from your product or service being great. And are willing to pay for it too.
Why is it so hard for people in large companies to be customer-centric instead of me-centric?
When you see the dynamics at play – it is obvious why most companies today say they are customer-centric but acting far from it. On paper they are. The strategies are in place, the vision is there. But the execution is totally me-centric still. There are no systems in place to actually work customer-centric. The systems in place are serving the political nature of the business. Low management spans, KPIs based on financial goals, budgets that are predefined for certain things and most importantly the success measurements focus on financial goals.
With the rise of “Customer Experience” or CX as a field, companies now try to turn marketing strategies into customer-focused strategies. We slowly see outcome-oriented approaches surface where customer satisfaction gets measured across the customer journey. A great start but is it enough?
CX often still puts emphasis on the end of the customer journey, where the transaction happened. We can measure (or ask) what a customer thought of the way we handled things. NPS is a great example of a good CX metric used bad. Your own behavior as a customer will highlight this point quickly: when you had an amazing experience purchasing something, you are more willing to share feedback or a review. Having a disproportional bad experience will prompt the same willingness to share your feedback: frustration. All the experiences in between – like those ordinary online purchases delivered at your door in time – are not great ways to prompt your satisfaction response. Yet every company that sells online tries to gauge your opinion, over and over again for any purchase you make.
While CX is still in its infancy there are signs that there is a bigger shift happening. When measuring the end of the journey gives some insight, it gets more accepted to start optimizing other parts of the journey too. Departments start to realize the customer journey cuts across all of them and collaboration is a more stable strategy. The past decades have completely transformed most traditional structured businesses to a digital one. Now that everything is patched together with digital systems companies see the entire customer journey magically emerging from the process.
With the customer journey tying the entire business together, a new way of managing the company is necessary to be future proof. When departments don’t align well to support the end-to-end customer journey innovation will remain too separated from the core business. When departments get to rally around the customer journey, forming multidisciplinary teams focussing on solving customer problems that generate business value innovation accelerates. Companies that are able to solve this puzzle before their competitors get ahead are most likely to stay ahead. The customer-centric transformation is on its way and it has just started.