As anyone with young children will attest, the well-known TV character ‘Bob the Builder’ is best known for coining the phrase ‘can we fix it?’, followed by the cry of ‘yes we can!!’. True to these words, Bob and his trusty sidekicks, Scoop, Roley and Dizzy (among others), do indeed fix things. So what (I hear you think to yourselves) has a child’s cartoon got to do with the subject of Customer Experience? Allow me to explain…
Despite the emergence of Customer Experience as a core strategic priority for organisations across multiple industries in recent years, customers all around the world are yet to see a seismic shift in their daily experiences. The more companies seem to talk about Customer Experience and Customer Centricity, the more random our experiences as customers become. The more businesses who shout about the heady heights of their NPS scores, the harder it becomes to think of experiences that we can remember as customers for the right reasons.
Over the last few months, I have been describing the Customer Experience ‘discipline’ or ‘profession’ as one akin to the creation and piecing together of a jigsaw puzzle. Whilst many companies have successfully created fundamental pieces of the puzzle, they are finding it more and more difficult to figure out how to connect the pieces together – hence never actually realising the vision that the completed puzzle would create.
One critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is missing as much as any other is the connection to our friend ‘Bob the Builder’. In my experience, the inability of organisations to actually FIX the issues that are having the greatest detrimental effect on the customer journey is one (if not the) greatest reason why Customer Experiences rarely seem to change. In the context of Customer Experience – for most, the phrase ‘can we fix it?’, needs to be followed by ‘no we can’t!!’.
As a closet process improvement professional (I am a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt among other things!), the link between actually improving business processes and the customer journey has always been obvious and logical. Aligned to the simple principle of ’cause and effect’, I have always strived to help the organisations I worked for and now work with, to help understand that if we improve what we do (the business processes that drive the things our customers interact with), then our customers should be happier as a result (in terms of their perception of the things they interact with).
It is not rocket science – but then not a great deal of the theory behind Customer Experience actually is. However, despite sounding and being so obvious, it is remarkable how few organisations are actually ‘fixing’ the major problems that exist in their customer journeys. The thing is (at risk of sounding unbelievably obvious), until or unless you actually change, amend, replace, re-design or improve a touch point in your customer journey, nothing is actually going to change for your customer! In fact, the longer you take to change anything in the customer journey, the more likely it is that customer perception of it will actually decline.
As a self-confessed process geek, the simple fact that companies are failing to fix the major issues in their customer journeys is one of the most frustrating and annoying things about the way organisations work today. There are a number of reasons why this is the case – the three most significant (in my opinion) are as follows:
- Lack of specialist process improvement or customer experience design resources – improving or re-designing processes are skill sets in their own rights. Many business people just do not have the capability to do it. Bringing in specialist resources to drive tangible change is essential if you want to see demonstrable change in customer perception and commercial performance
- Failure to use these specialist resources to fix the customer journey – there are still far too many organisations using the specialist resources they do have for the wrong reasons. This continues to be the case with businesses that possess Lean capability, using experienced professionals to specifically eliminate cost (and as a result to the detriment of the customer experience), rather than to fix the customer journey (which would not only be to the benefit of the customer, but would also eliminate cost at the same time)
- Procrastination – perhaps the biggest frustration of all are those companies that know full well what the major problems are – yet that continually delay and defer change in the desire to gather more facts or data; or because they just cannot commit to making change happen
On a weekly basis I am interacting with more and more business professionals who are struggling to understand why their organisations are finding it so hard to see a demonstrable change in Customer Experience. Despite the ever-growing body of publicly available research that proves the link between improving Customer Experience and commercial performance, the majority of businesses cannot seem to make the aspiration a reality. Yet although there are a number of reasons why this is the case, the most obvious one is the glaring boil, carbuncle and wart, staring them in them in the face!
Fixing the customer journey is HOW you can change the perception a customer has as a result of their interactions with your company. Until you change the journey, you will not be able to have any control over changing customer perception. If you have resources that know how to drive change and fix things – then you MUST use them to do it!! It really is/should not be complicated!
So, having read this, ask yourself the question in respect of your Customer Experience:
‘Can we fix it?’……….
Hi Ian, to add some thoughts… I do believe one of the reasons WHY (or rather WHY NOT) it is happening is the “different perspective”. I have found a perfect picture showing this “in a glance”. A picture is more than a 1000 words, so please check: http://www.slideshare.net/piotrem/customer-his-voice-contribution-into-business-process-management (slide #12)
Another inspiring and insightful article.
After reading your articles, two contexts where fixing the customer experience is challenging came to my mind.
The first is represented by those experiences characterised by complex customer journeys. By that I am referring to those customer journeys that are not owned by a main stakeholder but there is a supply chain comprising multiple suppliers operating through a network of relationships. The classical example is represented by package holidays. While tour operators like Thomson, First Choice or Thomas Cook, just to mention a few, have a direct influence on some components of the supply chain, others are not under their control at all. However, those are touch points part of the overall customer journey and customer experience as a whole. I happened to be in a packed lounge of Corfu’s airport three years ago in the middle of the summer; there was no air conditioning and it was pure chaos. Thomson had no responsibilities for all that, but for me it was part of the overall customer experience. When you go on holiday, and you are unhappy with something, you tend to complain with the tour operator because you identify it as the “owner” of your customer experience. I love the Greek islands and in September I went to Lefkada. The majority of the umbrellas by the hotel swimming pool were broken: honestly, I do not care if it is the end of the season but there are 34 degrees and I need to repair from the sun. I felt that the hotel, to some extent, was not looking after the clients’ needs and expectations using the appropriate standards. These are small examples to show that there are complex journeys with multiple stakeholders and fixing the customer experience is not easy at all because the operator which is at the top of the chain does not have direct control on all the touchpoints with the different suppliers.
The second context is represented by the retail sector and I have in mind many of those shops you can find on Oxford Street here in London. What is the cause here of very bad customer experiences? Having to deal with disengaged, underpaid shop assistants who received very little training, have no clue of what they are doing, most of the times are in between jobs or in London only for a short period of time just to learn the language. Fixing the customer experience in these contexts is very hard because there are too many business decisions that should be reviewed! But then there is another question I should ask myself: are my expectations too high and not appropriate for those retail experiences? In that case the problem is me who I am not the right target and not the customer experience itself.