Optimizing the Customer-Organisation Relationship
In a previous article (how to prepare for the next disaster), we addressed the impact of a disaster on organisations, employees and customers. In this article, we zoom in on the actions to take in reaction to the impact on employee-organisation relationships specifically. A holistic customer journey approach will assist to overcome the disaster, helping you to identify the most impactful touchpoints, technologies and ways of working.
Authors: Günther Lemmens, Xavier Denys & Sonja Noben
Actions for new customer-organisation interaction paths
Crises and disasters will make customers change their behaviour and preferences. They will seek products and services offered in business models that are less reliant on face-to-face interaction and primarily reliant on remote interactions.
These remote interactions will be multichannel and combining both human-to-human interactions through video, chat or voice channels. They will also include human-to-machine interactions through digital channels such as internet and chatbots.
Take a holistic approach on customer journeys to maximize impact
To streamline the value chain supporting customer-to-organisation interactions or customer journeys, an end-to-end customer-centric process approach needs to be taken in order to intelligently select the most value-adding digitisation investments.
Scaling up to the full customer journey means focusing on all the customer’s decision and contact points. Often, this is beyond the operational process boundaries within an organisation.
Scaling also implies addressing digitisation across all preferred channels through which the customer interacts directly or indirectly with the organisation. This way you can maximize inclusion and avoid customer disengagement from the process.
Digital channels become the primary entry channels even more now. The customer experience should be taken as a starting point in designing the contact points. Günther Lemmens
Product or process simplification
As organisations have grown, functional hierarchies have been introduced to manage the growing number of people and resources. The customer and product processes have been divided into functional departments. Each department has optimised (the cost of) their functional parts of the process, but that does not mean that end-to-end these optimisations are to the benefit of the customer (time-to-value).
When tackling the customer journey as a whole, process deficiencies and waste are more easily detected as well as unnecessary complexity. Improvements eliminating the waste and only doing the activities that add value will lead to a simpler product or process.
A simpler product or process will have a lower operational cost, it will lower the cost or effectiveness of digitisation and create a shorter value delivery cycle for the customer.
You might ask yourself the question of whether your current functional organisation structure is still fit for this task. Günther Lemmens
Customer-centricity and design thinking
When looking at the end-to-end customer journey, the different touch and decision points of the customer become apparent.
First, when analysing the customer journey, look beyond the traditional boundaries of the organisation. Customer experience often starts and ends within an ecosystem that is vastly wider than the ins and outs of the process within the company (e.g. insurance funds are not always contacted directly but through intermediaries, claims are handled with preferred repair shops, invoices are exchanged with collection agencies, …).
Next, the customer perspective on these journeys will drastically change during and after a major crisis. The customer in the digital era is less and less single-channel oriented and expects his interaction to flow seamlessly from channel to channel while progressing at the same time. Social distancing favours digital over physical channels as a primary entry point. Human interaction channels can complement when needed, though by preference through remote interactions.
When digitising, ensure coherence across multiple channels (even physical ones). This leads to a better handoff between channels and the processes within. As such, the process becomes more logical and transparent for the customer and through automation efficiency increases.
User-centric design of the customer journey means investigating whether the different steps are logical from the customer’s point of view. Use Design Thinking to better understand the customer’s problem or challenge. Explore the full context in which to create solutions and what solutions would be fit for the purpose.
This Design Thinking activity is something you should embed in your delivery process and never consider finished. Look at it as evolutive cycles following the changing ecosystem of the customer and reacting to new information based on the changing needs of the customer.
Intelligent case management
Once you have created the right customer journeys, the next step is defining how emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence can be leveraged to optimise the flow of transactions through the process.
Different areas of opportunity for digitisation can be found within the customer journeys:
- On top of the traditional transactional data passed by the customers, look for solutions that have the capability to complement these data:
- the customer could have the capability to supply extra non-structured data such as pictures (e.g. for a claim in car insurances);
- and add in data you capture from other sources (e.g. comparable claim cases can that help better evaluate the customer’s claim).
- Use AI to interpret and analyse direct and indirect data (e.g. picture recognition to classify the claim).
- Enhance process flow using prescriptive AI that, based on case classification, can decide autonomously what the next steps are in the process or may even close sales contracts for a certain set of simpler cases.
- In difficult cases, data can be pre-analysed by advanced analytics and be pre-packaged in structured decisional data to support expert human decision-makers.
As a result, more customer journeys advance faster, with more consistent and compliant outcomes. Investing in the knowledge and skills in new technology areas such as AI will be necessary for companies going digital.
Customer transparency and feedback
Modelling and designing the process as a customer journey allows adding track & trace process points relevant to the customer. These can be visualised throughout different customer channels (comparable to a postal delivery). This information can be then be used to understand behavior of the customer throughout the customer journey. Based on this understanding new initiatives for improvement can be identified.
New operating model for the digital age
Most companies have historically focused on operational excellence and have created functional silos in which this excellence has been maximised. Now, in order to be capable to boost performance to the level of the customer journey, many businesses and IT departments must collaborate intensively across the different channels to realise the improvements identified by the customer journey.
The best organisational approach is to complement the functional hierarchy with a networked operating model that has cross-functional agile teams collaborating around customer journeys. In this network, customer centricity and design thinking will be key focus points. Therefore, new roles will be necessary such as customer journey owners, data scientists, RPA specialists, UX/UI designers…
The role of the functional hierarchy will shift from command and control to a focus on organisational readiness: ensuring that capabilities, skills and competencies are being developed continuously to ensure that the organisation remains competitive.
Between the customer-centric network operating model and the functional hierarchy, a scaled model creates the necessary connection. Through the scaled model, the functional hierarchy feeds the network with vision and strategy, clear objectives and funding guidelines. The network delivers in short cycles, integrates regularly and feeds back on objectives progress through delivery of product and service increments.
What we observe is that many companies focus on technology first: e.g. Robotics Process Automation is injected to automate repetitive data entry activities in the process. By themselves, these initiatives show ROI, but they do not help achieve the full potential of the technologies.
As we discussed in a previous section, taking a holistic customer journey approach first helps identify more critical opportunities with more important impacts on customer value and operational efficiency. Stepping out of the functional silos and exploring the complete customer journey before digitising is the key differentiator. Next, work on the technology to make the right high-impact investments.
We propose the following pragmatic hands-on 3 step approach
- Start from a business objective. Start where you observe a lack of performance.
- Select the end-to-end customer journeys that are directly impacting this business objective.
- Capture insights from customers and understand their ecosystem. Gain an understanding of what your employees experience and what feedback they receive from customers. We recommend using tools like customer personas and customer empathy maps to document these insights.
- Identify the gaps between customer expectations and experiences.
- Search for the root causes of these gaps (we recommend using fishbone diagrams to execute cause and effect analyses, combined with the 5 whys) and identify new opportunities and solutions.
- Assess the drivers and enablers you require to create these solutions (e.g. technology enablers such as AI, cloud platforms, API’s or usability).
- Identify priorities based on the drivers and enablers, also mapping the effort needed to bring these in place. For certain enablers, knowledge and experience might need to be built inhouse or outsourced before proceeding. Others might be more readily available and can give valuable outcomes faster.
- Define metrics to monitor the customer experience across the different journeys. Where possible, build in data points in the designs of solutions.
- Plan actions based on the potential value for the customer experience and compare it to the risk of not acting.
These 3 steps should be walked through iteratively in short cycles, aiming fast outcomes with rapid prototyping and minimum viable products (MVP), using the customer journey metrics to validate the expected impacts and to define the next set of actions. Take on one customer journey at a time, scaling up steadily to the rest of the customer journeys until maximum customer experience impact is realised.
Using business agility and customer-centric best practices will allow for stronger customer-organisation relationships, especially during unforeseen disasters. By identifying high-impact customer journeys, organisations will be able to optimise across the entire end-to-end network chain. The correct technologies and operating model will further strengthen the ability to overcome the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.
DigitalScaler has the experience to apply agility at scale, enabling you to react to major disasters with more flexibility. We tailor to your organisation’s specific context, creating a more resilient organisation as a result.