How to eat the customer experience elephant

Lior Arussy’s latest post got me thinking about organisational transformation.  How do you transform your organisation to make it deliver on the promises that you implicitly (‘brand’) and explicitly (‘value proposition’) make to your customers?  Does it have to be as hard and take as long as Lior suggests?  Before I deal with that question and suggest a way forward allow me to share some experience with you.

How do you transform an organisation?

Many years ago, before I switched to CRM, I used to design and set-up European shared services centres and in the process I learnt a lot about ‘transformation’.  Typically, this meant stripping out everything except marketing, sales and manufacturing from each country and put these functions/activities (customer services, logistics, finance, HR and IT) into a single European shared services centre.  When doing this we had two options: ‘big bang’ or ‘one bite at a time’.  We advised one bite at a time.  Even with ‘one bite at a time’ we found that it was easier to strip the functions/activities out of one country, move them into the shared services centre, deal with the issues and get everything humming perfectly before we moved on to the next country; moving one function out of 26 business units in Europe gave the illusion of ‘one bite at a time’ but was not – we had to learn that the hard way.

Transform the customer experience (and your organisation) one bite at any one time

So how do you eat the customer experience elephant?  My recommendation is to do it ‘one bite at any one time’.  But what kind of ‘one bite’ am I talking about?  Let’s ponder that question together.

The standard and most tempting ‘one bite at a time’ approach is segment your customers and then focus on improving the customer experience of one or more segments.  Does this remind you of the ‘strip one function out of each of the 26 operations and transfer into the shared services centre?’  The problem with this approach is that you will find all kinds of touchpoints are broken.  And that means fixing marketing, sales, customer services, your website/ecommerce operation, logistics, finance…….. That is not easy.  That is not the way to eat the customer experience elephant one bite at a time.

A much better approach is pick an objective and then focus on the one lever (interaction / touchpoint) that has the biggest impact.  For example bmibaby (low cost uk airline)  has increases revenues by £1m+ per annum in their top line.  How?  bmibaby articulated their objective: grow revenues through a better customer experience.  Their consultants identified that the key leverage point was all the customers who had ‘dropped’ their shopping baskets.  The solution was simply to send the ‘dropped basket’ information to customer service agents.  These agents rang up the people who had dropped their baskets and simply offered to help.  The result: between 25% and 45% of the dropped baskets were turned into revenue and the customer experience was improved.

Please remember that the customer experience across the customer journey is like a chain made of links. Some of these links (in the chain) are more important than others from a customer’s perspective: ‘moments of truth’.  Yet not all of these links are of equal importance nor are they all broken or equally broken.  The key is to study the system and work out which link is the weakest link from multiple perspectives.  If you fail to do that then that is like shoring up various holes in the dyke – possibly at great expense – but not the weakest hole.  The net impact is that the water flows through the weakest hole and all of your efforts at shoring up the other holes have been wasted.

Lets assume your objective is to GET more customers.  Then my question to you is “What is your weakest link?”  Put differently, “What is the one area of the customer experience that if acted upon will have the biggest impact in getting new customers?”  In bmibaby’s case it was to help new customer (predominantly) that were having trouble purchasing and had dropped their baskets.

Your objective may be to KEEP more of your customers – to reduce churn.  My question is the same “What is your weakest link?” Put differently “What is the ONE thing that drives your customers to leave you that if acted upon would have the most impact in helping you keep more of your customers?”

If you want to look at it purely from a customer’s perspective then the question is exactly the same: “What is the one thing that is having the most negative impact on your customers?”  Put differently “What aspect of your organisation is the weakest link from the customer’s perspective?”

The beauty of this approach is focus.  Focus allows you to concentrate all your resources and thus allow you to increases your chances of success and do it quicker.   It may be that to keep customers your most important leverage point is the product – improving the quality of it.  So you can focus all of your available resources on just that rather than dispersing them across marketing, sales, customer services, logistics, product enhancement….. Once you have improved the product quality you can study the system again and identify the new link that has become the weakest link and focus your efforts on that.

What do you think?

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.