An out-of-corporate-body experience

New Thinking 19 November 2019 Ben Hayman

Today, virtually all customer-facing organisations have promoted a focus on customer needs to the apex of their thinking. Many go further, embedding this belief into their daily practice and culture, measuring their success through customer response. This pervasive approach to customer focus has the desired effect, shining through and driving customer acquisition and retention.

Doing this and being truly outside-in in business thinking is no easy task as organisations also have to take care of their internal world of complex technology. Added to this is the reality that a growing amount of customer interaction is mediated via third-party interfaces and different partner brands, integrated against the organisation’s APIs. As a result, there are both internal and external challenges to properly understanding the real customer experience.

Green as far as we can see

Internally, many organisations outsource much of the design and operation of the technology that runs their businesses. In the case of market-specific systems/systems of record, these technologies are often ‘off-the-shelf’ and overseen by the respective vendor. There may be many of these products in play, forming a complex technical platform, operated under numerous service agreements by multiple parties. 

When a process that touches multiple parts of their IT estate is seen to be poor-performing, this can leave the organisation open to difference of opinion amongst vendors as to where the underlying issues are. It’s not intentional on the part of vendors, but when they only have a snapshot of the picture from the inside, it’s pretty hard to have a clear idea of the end user experience. The internal conversations are along the lines of “Things looking good here. It’s all green as far as we can see”. This is typically accurate, but only when looking at one part of the inside-out story.

Closed to the problem

Given all of these internal views, often fragmented service delivery models and inside-out activities, it’s quite often the case that organisations simply do not have visibility of a problem. What is being operated may be functioning and delivering as expected out into the ecosystem, but that’s no proof that the end user is experiencing the level of service the organisation desires or has committed to.

The first indication will often be a spike in call centre volumes or, worse still, an unflattering hashtag starts trending in the Twitterverse, by which time brand damage is already done.

A good digital strategy will put user experience (both customers in the wild and staff) at the heart of the web within an ecosystem of constantly-changing, dynamic partnerships. The delivery of such a strategy will involve trying to create a well-managed, outside-in view. Taking a look back into the organisation as though you were in fact that end user or the user of that service from one of your ecosystem partners.

Understanding the real customer experience

An out-of-corporate-body experience is what we need and we need it to be a continuous one. When delivering services via a highly integrated technology and partnership world, no organisation is in total control of the change cycles that will impact their end users’ experience. The best possible position to be in is to be warned before a production service issue arises – continuous monitoring, emulation, testing and collaborative contracting with partners in the wilds of the internet. Working well outside the digital boundary of the organisation to discover the unknowns of your users’ experience.

It is this set of challenges that we have been exploring with our clients. Finding ways to get a true outside-in view and industrialise the processes involved in digital partnership. As the first step in unpacking this some more, we're pleased to host Rogan Clarke, Director of Digital Change at Inland Revenue at our next Twilight Sessionas he shares some of the observations from our work together on their digital transformation.