September 7, 2015

For the love of architecture and culture

Customer experience comes alive in interactions between people. Despite all your processes and tools, it is the behavior in these interactions that counts the most.

When I was in high school, my dream was to become an architect. I was fascinated with the pure simplicity of Alvar Aalto works, amazed with the imaginative designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, and totally in love with red brick architecture of old Finnish factories. Even though I never ended up studying architecture, the affection remained. Luckily architecture has a lot to do also with my current job – enterprise architecture, that is.

Drawing the floor plan: customer experience strategy

Customer experience (CX) strategy can be defined in multiple different ways. Whatever the definition, the most important thing is that your CX strategy should be “outside-in” – it should be about planning your future by looking from customer’s perspective. To me, the key elements of CX strategy include:

  • Defining your intended customer experience, i.e. what is the experience you want to deliver to your customers. Based on their CX Index data, Forrester has found that emotion, i.e. how an experience makes the customer feel, has a bigger influence on customer’s loyalty to a brand than effectiveness and ease.
  • Identifying customer personas, i.e. understanding the variety of individuals behind the demographics of your customer segments and roles within your client companies.
  • Identifying the journey of your customers, i.e. what do your customers do, think and feel when they have interactions with you.
  • Identifying the high priority improvement areas by combining all of the above, i.e. asking how you should act in order to deliver the intended experience to your customers, serve different kind of customer personas, and how  to support their activities along the journey, you should be able to identify the touchpoints and areas that have the biggest potential for developing the experience you deliver.

So what do you do when you have your CX strategy, your floor plan, in place? This is the moment when you should take a look at the structures and magic of architecture.

Improving the building blocks: enterprise architecture

A lot of research shows how inextricably customer experience is linked to employee experience: company’s ability to link customer and employee experiences together is an important source for competitive advantage (take a look at e.g. IDC Experiences Survey 2015). It is important to support everyone in the organization so that they are able to do their part in delivering the intended customer experience. Are your processes, tools, technologies, available information, reward structures and governance models tuned to support the employee to excel in his work – or are they hindering their ability to engage with customers, as also Eric Berridge asks in his blog post in Computerworld.

It’s about developing your structures in order to take your CX strategy to operational level: to be able to implement your outside-in strategy, you need to look also inside-out. You need to match all the elements of your CX strategy to your enterprise architecture and ask for example:

  • How are your processes linked to customer journey?
  • Who are the people within your own organization involved in each stage of the customer journey, both in customer interface and in “back office”?
  • What tools do they use?
  • Do you support your customer’s journey also in digital channels?
  • Are your people rewarded for delivering great customer experiences?

And above all: how could you improve all these elements to better support your employees in their work.

In the end, it’s about culture

People are the ones who make or break the customer experience, and their behavior cannot be changed just by building the structures described earlier. Your brand’s ability to deliver great customer experiences is largely affected by how motivated and engaged your employees are.

How do you build engagement then? In a workshop some time ago a team was brainstorming on how to improve their ways of working. There was a lot of great discussions but one sentence stopped me: “Give me freedom to change what I think doesn’t work and allow me to create something new”, had one of the participants written on the wall. If this person would feel empowered to do this, I bet he would be (even more) engaged to his work.

Empowerment is about allowing your employees to deliver the desired customer experience. And that is a lot about trust. It’s a lot about the underlying beliefs in the organization that either strengthen or dilute the trust. It’s a lot about leadership that should build employee engagement and reinforce the beliefs that strengthen trust. To summarize, it’s about corporate culture.

Architecture is not enough: you also need to think how to create a corporate culture that builds engagement, empowers employees, nurtures trust, and enables the whole organization to deliver enjoyable experiences for your customers.

After all, also outside corporate world architecture is only one expression of culture.

Read also: Attitude makes the difference and visit

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Read our study about digital CEM in the Nordics

Read how decision makers in Finland, Sweden and Norway see CEM, now and in the coming years. A Tieto commissioned study with 320 c-level respondents in retail and financial services.

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