Providing a seamless, ‘end-to-end’ journey for customers remains a far-off dream for many organisations. The reality is that the opportunities posed by digitisation and analytics have been stifled by legacy systems, siloed organisational structures, and a lack of knowledge in the senior leadership team.
Chris Hallmark, Director at OEE Consulting, urges executives to take ownership and be more collaborative. “You get senior people guessing what the process is actually like – most senior leaders are blind to the customer experience. You often need a combination of people who are senior enough to make decisions and people who actually deal with customers,” he says.
This requires joined-up, commercial thinking across an organisation. “Poor data can sometimes prompt businesses to focus on an individual channel, in particular digital, at the expense of others,” adds Chris.
“For instance, I know of a company that had an excellent digital channel, but it was only used by four percent of their customers. A large portion of the organisation’s investment and focus was directed on a tiny digital route that didn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things.”
Phillippa Crookes, Senior Relationship Manager at Criticaleye, comments: “Senior executives and boards must face up to the fact that long-standing assumptions about customer loyalty no longer apply in a digital world.
“In many cases, significant change is required within an organisation. This can range from introducing new technology and technical skills, to better cross-functional collaboration and moving away from a command and control style of leadership.”
It’s far safer to hide behind trite phrases and light-touch marketing, without ever daring to address the root of the problem.
Bill Payne, Board Mentor at Criticaleye and Chairman of Primedoc, a document and workflow management company, comments: “Businesses sometimes talk about their customers as if they are static. They don’t accept that they are changing more today than ever before.
“Leaders need to constantly challenge their processes and recognise that customers are ahead of them in terms of their ability to use technology – customers will use every channel available to seek out the best deal and experience.”
Mark Parsons, Chief Customer Officer for the UK and Ireland at DHL Supply Chain, says: “Planning a new customer journey is easy. However, the consequences of that new journey on the existing business are often hard to determine.
“It can become quite a painful process, which is something most businesses tend to shy away from. The fact is, ducking the challenge will not help.”
Collaboration may sound warm and fluffy, but it's extremely difficult to build in organisations that are marked out by clearly defined functions and territories. “Silos are built by budgets and to topple them you have to overcome a certain element of budgetary parochialism. However, when you are re-structuring your business around a customer journey, you can’t choose to keep a silo around say, the finance department, you have to go all the way,” states Mark.
It's why there has to be ownership of the changes, as well as alignment in the top team. Chris explains: “There needs to be someone in the company who is responsible for the entire customer journey, who owns it from start to finish. If this is not the case, businesses will break the journey apart and multiple people will own different parts of it.”
In other words, there may be fewer squabbles and less friction in the short term, but all the while a business will be steadily losing touch with what customers want. Chris notes: “Understanding the customer journey will offer a wider window into your organisation and the problems it faces.