In my role I spend a lot of time talking with organizations in both Corporate and Government sectors about creating great customer experiences. In fact, understanding the challenges and opportunities for these organizations is the aspect of my role that I enjoy the most.
These organizations all want to achieve great digital customer experiences…who wouldn’t? After all, consumers are crying out for the convenience of self service and it is the lowest cost channel so the Organisation can do more with less (as everyone’s always asked to do). So what’s the impediment?
Unfortunately in many cases its IT. The specific function of the business that was put in place to “enable” the business is now often seen as an obstacle to progress.
Now I started out my career as a Software Developer and have worked for IT service providers for over 90% of my working life (with a brief stint in the IT department of a large Financial Services company) so I am completely respectful of what the IT function needs to achieve and how complex it can be. But that still doesn’t sway my opinion that we often “get in the way” of the business doing what it needs to do.
So let me propose two alternate and complementary approaches to developing engaging customer experiences.
- Customer Experience Layer (CX Layer) – a customer centric online presence that enables the customer to quickly get done what they need to get done but which may be loosely or not at all coupled to core business systems like ERP and CRM.
- Integrated – A customer centric online presence that is tightly integrated with core business systems to provide real time information on Stock Availability and Straight Through Processing for orders, etc.
Some customer functions simply can’t be solved with a CX layer – for example, topping up a pre-paid mobile absolutely requires integration and straight through processing…I need to make a call NOW, I’m not waiting 24 hours.
Yet other customer functions can simply be over engineered providing unnecessary integration up front. If I’m ordering a mobile phone online, I don’t expect it to magically materialise from the USB port on my laptop. A delay in order processing is quite acceptable provided you haven’t sold me something you don’t actually have. So real time Stock Availability may be important. But order processing may not.
One of the reasons I’m proposing this approach is because I’ve seen it work. Let me describe some examples.
- Telco Product Selector – in 8 weeks we developed and deployed a rich and intuitive Product Selector for a telco to simplify the process of filtering through devices, plans, accessories, etc. There was no integration for ordering. Completion of the product selection resulted in an email to a Customer Service rep that called back to fulfill the order. After 3 months, use of the online channel to choose a product increased 400%. it was still fulfilled over the phone, but the costly sales process was removed from the call centre and shop front. The customer was empowered to choose online, and then order completion was a friendly phone call about what had been selected. Yes, live in 8 weeks.
- Government Grant Finder – at any point in time, the Australian Government offers around 600 grants to businesses to help with establishment, growth and diversification of that business. Successful Australian businesses are good for the economy providing jobs and paying taxes. But the process of finding the grant was cumbersome. In 6 weeks a Grant Finder was developed and deployed that asked the user 3 to 5 questions about their business and then filtered the available grants. Each filtered grant linked to the government agency responsible for issuing the grant. No integration, just links. Applications for Grants have increased significantly and feedback on the customer focused grant finder has been overwhelmingly positive.
- Financial Services Product Ordering – the information required to open a financial services account can be daunting and often involves information the individual(s) don’t have at hand when starting the process. As a result, paper is the traditional medium for opening accounts. You can take your time, come back to it, share it and sign it. BT Financial Group worked with Avoka to replace the paper forms used by advisers to open accounts for Wealth Management and Investment products with SmartForms enabled with Adobe PDF technology. The forms contain business rules ensuring they are completed correctly first time, every time. Then, shock horror they are printed, signed and faxed for manual processing. But you know what, the forms being manually processed are correct and complete. No rework required. Perfect Solution? No. Good enough? Ask the Financial Advisers that love the new SmartForms.
But before the Enterprise Architects cry foul…in every one of these examples the solutions were designed to be integrated. The solutions are ready to deliver XML or call a WebService when ready and in one example, this work has occurred to deliver straight through processing. But what’s really important to remember is that the customer and the Organisation were delivered a better experience in a short timeframe, enabled by IT.
We always should strive for the Integrated solution to avoid technology silos, manual rework, etc. But it’s not always the right solution. Technical solution elegance shouldn’t delay progress. If the business can’t provide a great online solution, customers will go elsewhere and that’s in no one’s interest except your competitors. And if you are Government, it might help with Citizen Satisfaction.
So before you think that beautiful customer experience you’ve dreamt of is simply “too hard”, think…can it be done as a CX layer over existing systems with loose or manual interfaces? We’ve seen it work in the short, medium and long term.