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Don't become a CX Fail

As the Starbucks baristas surveyed the chaos of hoards of unhappy customers braying for their pre-ordered coffee, they may have wondered: How did it come to this?

The coffee giant’s pre-order app was meant to make it easier for customers. It should have meant the customer could place their order well while on the go, swoop into the store and head straight past the queues to the collection point, and get on their way in a matter of minutes. Instead, customers walked into stores ill-prepared for these sudden spikes in demand.

Such customer experience fails are indicative of how easy it is to rush out your latest innovation without thinking it through. Business are often so obsessed with creating delight with their next innovation or next feature in their app that they often forget who’s going to be using it, how does it fit with the rest of their organization and does it affect any other touch points in the business?

In this article, I’m going to explore how businesses can continue to deliver innovations at pace—but without becoming a CX fail.

Don’t run before you can walk

Businesses undoubtedly feel the pressure to drive for service improvements constantly, such is the fear of losing valuable customers: there’s certainly no shortage of rivals looking to steal your customers. Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook are awash with horror stories of brands that stopped listening to customers and are on the non-stop track to the lands of forgotten brands.

But often, businesses become so obsessed with creating delight with their next innovation or next feature in their app, that they often forget who’s going to be using it, how it fits with the rest of their organization and the impact on other touch-points across the business.

Different types of users

Starbucks isn’t alone in focusing on the end customer and failing to think about the employees inside the business—the ones often on the receiving end of customers’ ire.

Recently, I’ve personally experienced a range of service problems that result from wrong-headed thinking about innovation. In a furniture store, the assistant was so frustrated by her sales interface, and its cumbersome tabs and drop downs that it was almost impossible for her to place my order. I ended up feeling sorry for her, rather than complaining—but my guess is others may not have been so forgiving.

customer journey

If you want to deliver innovations that really delight your customers you have to understand the complete journey. Simply mapping out that journey—including the dependencies on the different business systems, teams, the happy and frustrating moments for employees and customers—will allow you to fully understand what needs to be improved.

If you’re creating a new product, this map enables you to understand the business areas that your new product depends on and prevents you from causing potential strains on other teams and systems.

Include all stakeholders

You also need to ensure you identify every stakeholder at the start of a project and have actual conversations with them to reduce the risks of unexpected issues. For instance, it’s easy to overlook the impact changes can have on call centers.

Recently, I was trying to add my newborn to my Medicare Card. Coming from the UK, it was a new system to me. But even something seemingly simple took endless back and forth. I couldn’t do everything I needed to online. I could upload documents online but then had to call to notify them. Little wonder that the call handler admitted getting lots of calls about this issue: the issues have been raised with the web team but are still waiting for a fix.

You have to question what is going on in these organizations. Are they not talking internally? Are things so siloed that the cogs of the organization come to a screeching halt? If someone had just tested the system, or spoken to the team that has built the feature, then maybe the customer experience would be better; and the calls handled by the call centers would be from the intended users: those people who have genuine problems.

Knowing how to delight

To create genuinely useful products and introduce new customer-pleasing features, we need to understand our users at a granular level: What’s intuitive to them? What are the basic required features they demand from your product? What will they be using on a daily weekly basis? What basic features are your competitors offering? Let’s get these right first before we start adding the moments of delight.

That’s not to say we should create boring products. But get the fundamentals right before you look to embellish. Take Uber: it started with an ‘order a car’ feature that worked really well before they even started introducing other elements. They also created an interface that is intuitive because it uses gestures we are already familiar with.

When Under Armour purchased MyFitnessPal and Endomondo, it got some great tech, but it also got access to 165 million fitness fanatics that use those services.  Under Armor could have used these new platforms—and their customer data—to drive sales. Instead, they decided to use the already successful platforms to provide moments of delight for the customers.

Customers can now book fitness classes through the apps or access yoga instruction videos. This doesn’t directly lead to more sales of their clothing, but Under Armour knows that the more people exercise, the more likely they will be to buy new workout gear. It also adds a new differentiator for the brand and gives consumers more reason to be brand loyal.

This end-to-end view of the customer journey has seen Under Armour introduce smart running shoes that let runners track performance data such as pace and distance. The app can even remind the customer when to replace their shoes. Such thinking has seen the retailer achieve a 28% increase in annual revenues.

under armour

Measuring value

First, to measure the value of CX, we need to have a starting point. This could be in the form of conducting a service design map. Here, you take an overview of the business or service and map the processes customers go through and identify blockers that erode efficiency or confuse and frustrate employees and customers.

To do this right, you’ll need to involve both employees who use the systems and processes, and customers, in the service design or new product workshops. This allows everyone to fully understand what is happening and ensures everyone is along on the same journey.

You can then pick a few areas to focus on improving and experiment to see what works or doesn’t. This is much quicker than spending years planning and implementing ‘the new improved process.' Depending on what area you decide to improve, you will determine how to measure the success. It could be as simple as reducing the number of inbound calls or reducing the time for an employee or customer to complete a process.

I was asked by a government agency to look at their funding schemes for businesses. They constantly received applications from the wrong types of companies and not enough of the right companies. After some research and workshops with their target market, we were able to establish several areas for improvement such as: changing funding names and descriptions, so they make sense; creating clear and concise application forms; and removing the supporting pdf on how to fill out the form by including the help information in the online form.

Finally, you may also want to conduct the CX Index report from Forrester to see where you currently are and monitor your improvement.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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