The architecture behind customer experience
Article

The architecture behind customer experience

Businesses across sectors face the challenge of overcoming internal constraints and enabling an excellent customer experience. Back-end systems in particular are frequently a no-go area, limiting the organisation’s ability to deliver customer-centric services. Businesses that understand customer-centricity can develop abilities that matter to customers, instead of deploying internal solutions that have little impact on them.

Organisations are not designed for customers

Most organisations – especially ones with complex transactions, such as banking insurance and telecoms – invest heavily in optimising and improving internal processes and systems. Their system landscape is designed to do complicated calculations, fast processing and high volume transactions. Processes are designed around internal functions and optimised for specific departments and responsible roles.  Customers – who really don’t care about all that internal stuff – are forced to contact department X first and use channel Y to get what they want.

Customer IDs reduce human beings to numbers

When taking an outside-in view of an organisation several structural issues become apparent. Customers are seen as customer IDs, not as individuals. Common human events such as relocating, changing provider, consolidating multiple products and asking ‘stupid’ questions, can lead to unnecessary irritations.
Most customer processes and systems are built on cases and user stories that don’t reflect the customers’ reality. People who want to make an inconsequential change to a financial product – such as changing email address – are forced through a complicated process of steps and decisions that are irrelevant to them.

The gap between customers’ experience and business’s abilities

Customers have common expectations when they buy or consume a service and usually have a good sense of what is of value to them. Failing their expectations leads to negative experiences. Organisations focus on transactional capabilities to deliver service: speed, access, quality, level of configuration – but often fail on the essential business abilities – timely communication, relevant instructions and considerate recommendations. A train running late is experienced as annoying. Not informing the people waiting on the platform is infuriating.

Over 50% of companies plan to increase the staffing of their centralised customer experience team in 2014.

Better systems don’t necessarily deliver a better customer experience

The default solution for organisational challenges seems to be better, faster, smarter systems. Apart from the apparent costs and increased complexity these entail, there is the more fundamental problem of having created a solution in the wrong dimension – with no positive impact on customers. IT solutions will fail to deliver business value when they are supposed to ‘fix’ organisational problems such as lack of clear policies or misaligned processes between departments.

Customer-centric business architecture

Businesses develop smarter systems, better process and empowered people. While these abilities are essential to run most businesses, they are not enough to achieve competitive advantage in most sectors.
Clear policies, best practices and simple procedures all enable an organisation to perform better. More importantly an organisation with customer-centric policies and practices will offer a superior customer experience over one with fast systems and efficient processes.

Key business abilities that impact customers’ experience

Customers face a business’s practices, not the underlying processes and systems. These practices – how staff and customer facing systems act and perform – depend mainly on internal policies and procedures.
A business that operates on the principle of trusting their customers enforces this with internal policies that treat bad customer behaviour as the exception. The organisation is able to simplify onstage and backstage processes and systems instead of maintaining large fraud systems that irritate customers and hinder staff.

Build the customer experience around best practices

Boil down to the essence of what delivers a good customer experience and you get simple principles : instructions that are easy to understand, products that quick to activate and troubleshooting that solves any problems fast. These are not product specifications, but service characteristics that can be designed to make an experience feel effortless and efficient. Customer-centric best practices make positive experiences possible, despite flawed systems or processes.