Businesses invest considerable sums of money with vendors like Box, Cisco, Google and Microsoft for a collection a technology we call collaboration tools. As an analyst, though, the question that has dogged me in watching this space is "why?" As in "what is the actual value a business gets from investing in collaboration technology?" The vendors' rationale for acquiring collaboration tools has shifted in emphasis over time, going from a conversation on cost savings to one on productivity gains. However, cost savings is an undifferentiated and limited message while "increasing productivity" can feel ephemeral because it is difficult to measure. Yet my inquiry queue remains full of companies trying to figure out how best to deploy these technologies and my briefings calendar is filled with startups and incumbents pitching new offerings in this space. This brings me back to my original question: Why?
One of the things we spend a lot of our time doing with our clients is delivering workshops with their key stakeholders. These workshops take many forms, but our most effective (and popular) are the customer journey mapping workshop and the customer experience maturity assessment workshop. These workshops are great: a killer combination of research-based structured framework and the brain trust of key client stakeholders who really know their business.
But it occurred to me after the last workshop I helped to deliver that something else was happening . . . something that wasn’t on the agenda, wasn’t in the statement of work, and wasn’t really planned. And this thing happened in pretty much every workshop I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
The thing that happened was that people talked. I mean really talked. These workshops are structured so that people are not just sitting around a conference room table. They’re standing up and moving around the room, writing on little bits of paper on the walls, windows, and even the floor. And it’s at this point that something really cool happens. The discussions get focused. In one recent case, Manulife arranged a series of Client Experience Labs, and it invited all the most senior people from across all of Asia Pacific. Because this was not a Forrester-run event (we were just helping out by delivering content on our maturity assessment and customer experience ecosystem frameworks), I had a chance to observe the participants as they were working through the journeys their clients had to go through. What I noticed was this: at one point, 11 senior executives standing around a journey map on the wall talking about their clients. Nothing else mattered in that moment. How often does that happen in our busy work lives?
It all started with Johnny Cash. There he was looking out at me, his greatest hits, from the bargain bin at my local electronics shop for a fiver. Wow, a great bargain feeling that you simply don’t get from digital downloads. Unfortunately, upon returning home, I realized that my MacBook does not actually have a place where you can stick in a CD. How was I going to transfer this music now?
So I did what I normally do (and what the majority of consumers now normally do). I jumped online and went looking for an external CD drive for my MacBook to transfer my A$5 CD (the bargain cost of that CD suddenly lessened by needing to buy a piece of hardware to transfer it). I found what I wanted easily, bought it easily, paid for it easily. Satisfied.
And then it all went to pieces, thanks to Australia Post. And why did it go to pieces? Because Australia Post’s customer experience ecosystem is broken. Here’s why.
When customers in Australia are not home to receive a package, the delivery person leaves a small postcard telling them that they can pick up their package from their local Australia Post depot. Mine is a 10-minute drive away in a place called St. Leonards. I’ve received many of these cards, and I noticed with frustration that sometimes I was actually home when the card was delivered, and no attempt had been made to try to deliver the package.
The business press has come alive over the past few weeks as companies as diverse as Delta, Facebook, and Tesla have publicly declared that they want to own software development for key applications. What should catch your attention about these announcements is the types of software these firms want to control. Delta is acquiring the software IP and data associated with an application that affects 180 of its customer and flight operations systems. Facebook is building proprietary software to simplify interactions between its sales teams and the advertisers posting ads on the social networking site. And Tesla has developed its own enterprise resource management (ERP) and commerce platform that links the manufacturing history of a vehicle with important sales and customer support systems. Tesla's CIO Jay Vijayan, in describing his organization's system, sums up the sentiment behind many of these business decisions: "It helps the company move really fast."
When Forrester first introduced the customer experience (CX) ecosystem concept three years ago, we found that companies’ attempts to innovate their CX were limited by tunnel vision. They couldn’t see beyond the surface layer of individual touchpoints to understand the intricate web of behind-the-scenes dynamics that really create the customer experience.
To update our research on the CX ecosystem, I’ve spent the past few months conducting dozens of interviews with senior executives from a range of industries. I’ll reveal my complete findings at our Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East next month, but I’d like to start the conversation here by sharing one piece of good news: Companies are starting to get it — at least theoretically. Most companies now understand that interactions deep within their own organizations and outside their borders determine the quality of all customer interactions.
I have lived in Australia for almost two years, and while my family in Canada loses power due to ice storms and snow squalls, I sit writing this post in 38-degree Celsius heat as Sydney experiences the first heat wave of the summer (but not the last). So, this time of year does not at all feel like Christmas to me. However, there are certain inevitable experiences that remind me that yes, indeed, this is the festive time of the year. Christmas parties, decorations and lights, mobs and mobs of people doing their Christmas shopping (in shorts and T-shirts), and for at least the past decade, the now-inevitable act of waiting for holiday packages from online shopping to arrive.
This is where this Christmas story really begins. eCommerce shopping is now a stalwart of the holiday season, as savvy shoppers do their Christmas shopping online to avoid the crush of people at the shopping mall. While this is definitely a stress-saver, the online shopping experience produces a new kind of stress — the stress of wondering if the package ordered will arrive in time for the big day.
One of Forrester's customer experience key frameworks is called "the customer experience ecosystem." This ecosystem is an observation of the fact that companies that deliver good customer experiences understand that their businesses exist in a highly complex network that extends far beyond the walls of their headquarters. This includes partners like agencies, suppliers, tech vendors, contractors, etc., etc. And all of these other residents of the ecosystem can make or break a great customer experience.
A customer experience ecosystem map is a visual technique that connects end-to-end customer processes to the ecosystem of employees, partners, capabilities, processes, technology, information, and interfaces involved in delivering the experiences. Without these maps, companies regularly perform blind-man-and-the elephant exercises in which different silos of an organization see only parts of the customer’s experience related to their own jobs. A customer experience ecosystem map breaks down this tunnel vision to help systematically improve or redesign experiences to deliver value.
Customer experience ecosystem maps are evolved from service blueprints, which experience designers have used since at least the mid-80s. They essentially start with a customer journey map that depicts the experience a customer has in a scenario that describes the context and the outcome the customer seeks to achieve. But it doesn’t stop there. It continues to map the value stream responsible for delivering the experience.
Why bother with this exercise? Here are eight reasons:
Like it or not, the success of your customer experience initiatives depends on business technology.
That’s because the quality of customer interactions with your brand results from a complex system of interdependent people, processes, policies, and technology that we call the “customer experience ecosystem.” And just like a natural ecosystem, when your CX ecosystem gets out of balance, every part of it suffers — especially your customers.
An increasing number of CIOs, enterprise architects, and application developers get this. That surprises many of the marketers and other business people I talk to on a regular basis. But it shouldn’t: Business technology leaders are ideally placed to see the connective technology tissue needed to create a standout omnichannel customer experience.
To help shed insight into the complex interplay of customer experience and business technology, I recently sat down with Stephen Powers, Forrester vice president and research director serving application development and delivery professionals, to record a podcast. You can hear it in its entirety below (episode 1) or choose topic-sized cuts (episodes 2, 3, and 4).
Even companies that make customer experience a strategic priority struggle to implement major long-lasting improvements. That's because they fail to connect behind-the-scenes activities to customer interactions. These firms need a new approach to customer experience management: one that considers the influence of every single employee and external partner on every single customer interaction. Forrester calls this complex set of relationships the customer experience ecosystem.
Healthy customer experience ecosystems create value for all of the actors in the system. To nurture a healthy ecosystem, firms must balance the needs of and engage all of the parties involved. Customer experience leaders need to:
Engage employees to meet business and personal objectives.
Engage partners to drive results for their organizations too.
Engage customers to create experiences that meet their needs, are easy, and are enjoyable.
I’m not the biggest NFL fan in the world, but now that I live in Boston, I follow the Patriots. I think it’s actually a requirement of citizenship.
And I do have a passing interest in some other teams. Who doesn’t love watching anyone named “Manning” throw a football? (Unless it’s against the Pats in the Super Bowl.)
With that as background, may I say that the now-ended lockout of NFL refs set the low watermark in football customer experience? Yeah, customer experience — not just for all those who buy tickets, but for all of us who “pay” for the games with our time by watching ads.
Lest we forget, let’s count some of the ways that the replacement refs ruined our Sunday afternoons and Monday nights:
Stopping the game every other play to try and figure out what really happened. Football is supposed to be a sport, guys, not a meeting of the local debate team.
Making game-changing calls that the replay showed were dead wrong. Hey, if you screw up, 'fess up — then make it right and move on. My sixth-grader knows that, so why doesn’t Roger Goodell?
Clogging the air time on ESPN with self-righteous defenses of their bad calls. (Okay, that didn’t happen on Sunday afternoons or Monday nights, but it was worse because it spread more pain across three weeks when all I wanted was to see the top 10 sports plays from the previous day. Argh!)