As a systems architect focused on designing game changing business processes and technology systems, I am hypersensitive to every process that I am exposed to in my day-to-day life.
This sensitivity to process allows me to see and understand how things are connected end-to-end. When I have a particularly good or particularly bad experience interacting with an organization, I immediately reverse engineer the processes that led to the positive or negative experience.
I find myself doing this all of the time at Starbucks – some stores are exceptionally efficient and leave with me with a positive emotional response as I walk out the door, others leave me scratching my head. Disney is another example of a great experience that I study whenever I visit a theme park with my kids. On the other hand, dealing with Comcast always leaves me feeling angry and frustrated.
A positive trend that I have observed at the intersection of process and technology is a focus on creating great customer experiences. Companies are investing time and money to design systems and align business processes to focus on eliciting a positive emotional response from customers at every touchpoint throughout each stage of the customer lifecycle.
While some innovators are getting this right, I have had a number of encounters recently where I was reminded of how far we are from this focus on customer experience reaching critical mass. Not only were these experiences terrible, leaving me with feelings of animosity towards the brands responsible, but the root cause of these poor experiences was mismanaged technology “upgrades.”
To add insult to injury, neither of the organizations involved made any attempt to smooth out the business processes disrupted by the botched technology implementations. They simply explained away the disruption using footnotes buried deep in documents that nobody actually reads unless they have to. These companies added friction and complexity to already inefficient processes. They pushed opportunity cost burdens onto the customer. And in both cases they simply shrugged their shoulders and pointed to system upgrades as if customers would just nod their heads and say, “Oh, I guess that makes everything OK.”
Why in a million years would you make your customers suffer through a miserable experience just so that you can reach your own internal technology goals? Why would you think for a moment that your customers even care about your technology goals unless they provide them with increased value or a better experience?
Could you imagine what your customers would think if your IT department botched a major technology rollout that forced them to spend time and money working around your process disruptions? Do you think that simply thanking them for their understanding while you worked to reach your own arbitrary technology goals – goals that were set without their interests in mind – would fly with them?
If switching costs are low enough, you will soon find yourself referring to these customers as “former customers.”
While the vision of designing and applying technology to improving customer experience is one that should be embraced, not everyone is in a position to make this happen. Some companies have significant gaps in current capabilities and organizational maturity that need to be addressed before taking on new technology initiatives.
Recognizing these gaps requires serious organizational introspection and political courage. Can your look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you and your company have the will to take on such an undertaking with the best interests of your customers in mind?
If you can’t answer with a definitive “yes” you are only going to make your system problems into customer problems.