By Burges Karkaria
Chief Technical Officer, Customer Experience
The statement ‘The bigger you are, the harder you fall’ (or fail in this case) is very applicable while talking about “Customer Experience” challenges faced by large corporations. Big corporations understand the value of providing superior Customer Experience very well. They also have immense resources at their disposal to tackle the problem. Yet somehow they find immense hurdles in nailing the customer experience challenge.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer Experience is several different things, but simply put, encompasses every interaction your customer has with your company. This could involve a retail shopping experience and the lines at the Point of Sale, or calling the help desk or trying to find some information about your products online. I will however focus on the digital experience portion in this article. The digital experience the customer has with your company spans many digital assets. Some assets are owned by you while some assets are not (think of review sites, or search engines or online stores selling your products). It also spans all parts of the customer journey. Right from researching products (both your and competitors’ products), to going through the inquiry and purchase cycles to actually using your products and dealing with any issues while doing so. For large corporations the “customer” could be a complex labyrinth of B2B customers, B2C customers, partners etc.
Why is Unified Customer Experience Important?
Well for starters, Digital Experience is the brand! Let’s say you are selling a wearable and your site is slow or complicated, customers will associate that with you and your products. They start thinking your wearable itself will maybe slow or complicated and may instead choose a competitor’s product. First impressions are the most lasting sometimes and the first interaction that the customer has with your company is generally before they have ever touched your product.
Customer Experience further needs to have a unified feel. Whether customers are researching or buying or looking for help your digital experience needs to be contiguous, consistent and familiar. Kim Kopetz, Director of Customer Experience Office at Intel, calls out the importance of Customer Experience via two vantage points. “From the company perspective, a unified customer experience is important so that we can better understand a customer’s end-to-end journey, and use that data to optimize engagement strategies and execution plans. From the customer perspective, a unified experience provides a seamless, integrated, and ideally intuitive way to interact with a company that fulfills individual needs and desires.”
Why is Unifying Customer Experience so Hard- Especially for Big Companies?
Any big company starts off with a smorgasbord of customers as mentioned above. The requirements and needs of different segments are different. More importantly, the internal factors make the vision of a world class customer experience even harder. Most companies have different people responsible for different parts of the business, who touch customers at different points in their journey. The engineering teams expose the technical documentation, the marketing teams handle the marketing messaging, the sales teams handle the e-Commerce and order management, and customer support teams provide technical support.
Further systems used for these are based off of multiple vendor offerings each having a separate customer experience, out of box. For example the communities or service cloud experience offered by SalesForce (out of box) will be completely different compared to say the e-Commerce experience offered by IBM Websphere Commerce engine and so on. Changing the “skin” to rebrand and normalize is not trivial or cheap. Add to that the multitude of legacy systems, custom home grown systems etc. and the fact that the solution stack keeps morphing over the years and you have an interesting Frankenstein-ish setup as far as your customers are concerned. Trying to align funding models to change these systems in lock step is a huge challenge in itself.
Again, Kim summarizes this very well: “Unifying a customer experience is hard because organizations are often designed and optimized around functional silos, such as sales, marketing, support. Getting siloed groups to align to a common “outside-in” perspective and understanding baton passes between groups is difficult, not to mention the challenge of comprehending the required integration of customer-facing systems, processes and communications.”
Strategies to Help Unify Customer Experience
Large Companies have finally started to recognize and address this problem with more vigor than ever. Following are some key considerations:
- The first step is to acknowledge the problem and establish a central Customer Experience office that is empowered to guide a unified customer experience across the silos.
- Next is identifying the clear areas where improving customer experience has direct ROI benefits. For example, simplifying the digital support that’s integrated with the order history, reduces support calls, resulting in huge savings. Or, integrating order history with technical documentation may provide ease of product use while helping cross sell opportunities. These then need to be comprehended as a collective roadmap impacting multiple siloed systems that change in tandem.
- Key vendors need to be brought together in partnership with your company to help shape their offerings to work well with each other.
Burges Karkaria is the Chief Technical Officer for Customer Experience at Intel. You can follow him on @IntelMktCTO or @BurgesKarkaria on twitter. The views expressed by the author are his own and don’t represent any official company views.
Intel, IBM and Salesforce are registered trademarks and reference to their products are just used as an illustrative example.