Today, customers are busier, smarter, have shorter attention spans and most importantly have less desire to make products or services work together.
Apple, Amazon, and EBay are examples that have taught customers that products, services, data, experiences, and design can all work together to provide a totally seamless experience.
Increasingly, this is what customers are increasingly wanting, and to do that you’ll need to rethink the way you innovate.
In Jeffrey Phillips post “Using ecosystems to build seamless experiences” we raised this present poor understanding within a business, that many lack a good understanding of customer needs. Actually, it is far worse than we initially felt, still more on that later.
This is a longish read but an important one, to frame our need to think through innovation differently, through a new lens. Take your time, knowing why we need to change is critical. There is a new innovation era that holds promise if we think differently.
Customers do expect seamless experiences, they want them curated, personalized and do expect authentic experiences that are matching their lifestyles, needs, preferences, and habits. Solutions are needed to fit into the tasks constantly evolving for them, in this connected network world we increasingly live in. Innovation needs to deliver on these changing expectations.
How can we achieve seamless experiences when we don’t have seamless organizations?
Yet before we get to argue for this real customer need of seamless experiences we have to resolve the lack of our seamless organizations. How can any digital transformation take hold within the organization when there is such a serious lack of customer-centricity? Business units stay locked in silos, being measured by how they perform their tasks, they continue to build their individual business case, often over the detriment of others.
Business units still feel they are internally competing for scarce resources and capital and guard what they have jealously. The internal push is constantly on the need to invest in the front-and-back-end solutions, yet they lack this understanding of the customer journey, totally filtering out significant parts of the customer expectations, preferences, and values, if they do not fit their internally measured task at hand.It is not the ideal environment for a ‘seamless’ anything.
Something has to change within organizations but what? Regretfully these highly disjointed and dysfunctional structures are totally irrelevant to the customer and their needs and until this re-orientation to serving the total customer experience need is recognized, organizations remain ‘locked’ in the past. Customers live in a world increasingly highly connected to their ways, it can be designed, adapted, extendable and full of experimental solutions they can piece together and maintain a level of control over. They expect smarter, personalized, connected and responsive solutions to their needs as they interact within this new ‘social digital contract’.
Customers live in a world increasingly highly connected to their ways, it can be designed, adapted, extendable and full of experimental solutions they can piece together and maintain a level of control over. They expect smarter, personalized, connected and responsive solutions to their needs as they interact within this new ‘social digital contract’.
Business has to find ways to connect back with the customer who is running faster ahead.
Connecting individually, organization by organization is going to be a slow and limiting path to take. The value of connecting in the cloud, on platforms, and in ecosystems accelerates the transformation need dramatically, yet it is demanding work and entails significant leadership, vision, risk, and change. This challenge of digitally connecting their organization, encouraging them into the outside world, most leaders are just not comfortable to do and often the least equipped to do it as they are not so digitally connected. It is wrenching work in almost every way to set about transforming how a business needs to be managed today to respond, survive and relearn the digital transformation going on.
This challenge of digitally connecting their organization, encouraging them into the outside world, most leaders are just not comfortable to do and often the least equipped to do it as they are not so digitally connected. It is wrenching work in almost every way to set about transforming how a business needs to be managed today to respond, survive and relearn the digital transformation going on.
The transformation path we read about focuses far too heavily on big data, analytics and all the promise of rewards yet to come. We need to think utterly differently. If you do not eradicate this ‘inward’ focus and place customers at the core then those that fail to adopt will eventually perish. We need to learn to connect, engage and collaborate across the entire ecosystem that has the potential to change our, single part of this, ‘out there’ is enormous innovating potential.
Technology is disrupting everything around us.
The mantra of “we need to accelerate innovation to grow” may still be top of a leader’s agenda but it is the ability to become agile, flexible and ‘seamless connected’ to be constantly evolving, adapting to change, and meeting customers that are moving faster. Customers are well aware of the overwhelming choices they have and want a seamless experience when they do engage, anywhere, anyhow and anytime.
Customers today are quick to judge, fast to walk away. You might pour hours into your website, your brochures, TV and media promotions but if you fail to connect and offer a fast response to inquiries or complaints then you are history! If you cannot offer the ability to track orders in real-time, still can only interact on limited channels and restrict or have disconnected ‘flows’ of information that can’t be accessed easily, then you are rapidly becoming prehistoric! If a business does not understand all the
If a business does not understand all the touchpoints within the customer’s experience journey how can they design this into a more ‘seamless experience’?
We do need to “walk in our customer’s shoes”
We all hear that phrase “we need to walk in our customer’s shoes” but do we honestly, even understand what this truly means? Executives often view the world from the safe environment of their office, disconnected from the real world, still reliant on historical data and predetermined views of delivering discrete products or services that get a job done.
Today businesses just fail to engage with their brand in the way customers do, how can they when most inside organizations are not allowed to use most of the social media sources while at work? Knowing how the customer works, the decision-making process in his or her mind needs engagement, it needs real-time engagement, it needs connecting constantly, prompting and probing, in multiple interactions, not discrete moments to gain a richer holistic insight, to turn into lasting value-adding conversation for all sides involved.
We here talk about how customers do not want discrete products, they want to connect, engage and build more, much more if the relationship was more of a two-way partnership and as this still remains only one way the business simply misses out, if it can’t adapt to this changing, demanding customer world of extracting what makes sense for them, personally.
Take a look at Amazon and how it quickly went about building different business opportunities as it connected into the customer at its core, it saw the potential need and capitalized on the opportunities. Nike has become far more than a brand of shoes or sporting apparel, with the connecting of the ‘experiences’ have now become the brand. It has gone from selling sneakers to being a lifestyle brand, launching ‘wave upon wave’ of fitness programs and concepts, ensuring the designed products meet that lifestyle needs through a partnership engage constantly with their customers. The end result is how it cements the customer loyalty and their experience constantly, one that builds a bigger innovation potential and growth business.
Our problems lie within ourselves operating as a distinct stand-alone business entity
So many of our organization struggle to have a good understanding of their omnichannel presence, they lack a comprehensive customer journey map in many of our organizations and can’t leverage all the channels, they stay ‘fixate’ on their internal issues and problems. They continue to live in a disconnected world until they understand the customer need.
The sad thing is, many of the executives within organizations recognize that they must create a better customer experience, solve the constant messaging across multiple platforms and organizational response. Yet how many still have not even taken that one, defining step of creating a single, integrated customer response or engagement unit?
In all honesty, most of our businesses today are at a shockingly early stage in designing a technology roadmap that aligns to the customer journey need. They can’t track, connect, engage, integrate and customize. They still focus on sales volume and repeat purchase on what they have and cannot yet consider lifetime sales potential, or know how to build customer influence on others.
If you find time just read the two reports shown as links at the end of this post. Not pretty reading.
The message is “customers make little conscious distinction” on what you worry about
Customers have changed their habits in many ways and business organizations need to react to that in convincing ways. The question is how quickly can they transform as this is a real ‘burning platform’ for many.
Customers, when they hit problems, they exit fast, become disenfranchised and the word quickly spreads, from family to friends, into both physical and social media communities, to quickly raise their bad experience and undermine the fabric of organizations reputations and brands built over many years.
The overwhelming need to change
The risks are rising of being disrupted lie within the organization’s unwillingness to change. Unless the focus does not shift dramatically to working progressively towards a delivery on connecting a seamless customer experience, one valued and increasingly expected today, the organization will struggle to engage fully and understand the customer decision making. The question becomes how can organizations transform themselves quickly enough when it seemingly seems highly complex?
This is where ecosystems and platforms come in.
Just imagine each silo has to plug into the same platform to engage, build into and extract. Visibility quickly rises, collaboration becomes increasingly the order of the day. Through the cloud, platforms and across business application, all are operating on the same operating system, not multiple versions, waiting for IT and budget justification to update.
The engagement becomes where and when the network and collaboration parts grow in importance, as feed into and live off of each other making a living, engaging ecosystem. You turn from being inward to engaging outward in all your measurements, metrics, and rewards. ‘Reacting and responding’ becomes more central to employee incentive to pay against as “the effectiveness measure” needed today to the essential collaborating need.
You then begin to turn from being inward to engaging outward in all your measurements, metrics, and rewards. ‘Reacting and responding’ becomes more central to employee incentive to pay against as “the effectiveness measure” needed today to the essential collaborating need.
Equally, the ability to have all ways of connecting with the customer managed in real-time, in the cloud and on connecting platforms, built on evolving knowledge, insight, and understanding, where the data flowing in, from the multiple touchpoints. Imagine all being captured, understood, personalized and built into a ‘web of understanding’ that drives the insights that generate the next level of innovation.
Then as you build your awareness of the ecosystems of your own business and its capabilities, mix in the customer’s engagement and needs you begin to recognize the value of others, within the design chain, those other stakeholders who are the expert in different parts of the connected need of customers.
‘Dumb’ or discrete products turn into ‘smart’ ones and ‘stand-alone’ products become connected platform solutions that those within the ecosystem jointly work upon, as they meet the existing personal needs. Yet they also extend these out in surprising new ways so the customer experience goes way beyond what is existing, it captures their imaginations and quickly becomes their choice.
Increasingly the value is residing in this complex web of collaborations, working towards delivery of seamless experiences, made up of multiple brands building constantly on what they are learning in the ongoing engagements.
A pipe dream or beckoning reality – your choice?
We are witnessing the connecting of technology, people and things in dramatically different ways. The recognition that moving towards the goal of providing ‘customer seamless experience’ lies in leveraging across platforms, ecosystems, different vested parties and working to align all of what this means, by making the customer the centre of the focus, so by deepening their experience, the value in return is greater than what one individual organization can offer today, as it stays unconnected in their ecosystem.
It is hard, demanding and risky work. The rewards equally are not crystal clear so you can provide a safe ROI to those not hearing the stirring going on that movement of the ‘restless herd’, their customers, on the edge to stampede, thinking about their need to seek out new feeding (engagement) grounds, leaving you, the bricks and mortar tsar, staring at dwindling sales, wondering where your customers have gone.
No one suggests this is not an easy journey, far from it.
Evolution takes time, it is deliberately breaking with quarterly returns, it is our imperative as businesses to take a longer-term investment perspective but multiple impact points along this transforming journey.
Can we determine a transformation that yields increased market share, positively impacts employee morale, increased customer revenue, increasing customer engagement and greater volume of channel options to design innovation around?
It is a different world, made possible by recognizing what technology, ecosystems, platforms and striving towards the seamless experience that we can all drive towards, it is becoming an essential journey which allows innovation to enter a new era, to deliver the returns needed for the investments-to-be-made.
We must move from thinking of innovation as an exercise in creating distinct, stand-alone products and think about the customer’s total needs and expectations. Rarely do customers need one product or service to meet their needs, they constantly need to seek connections everywhere, why not deliver these to them?.
Companies that recognize the value of ecosystems and organize themselves around these will have a distinct advantage. For too long the focus on innovation has been too narrow. We should think about concepts like ‘experiences-to-be-had’ and not the ‘jobs-to-be-done’ as we need to connect far more broadly across our ecosystems to adapt and thrive in new ways.
We do need to widen the aperture through ecosystems and platforms but narrow the focus down to deliver complete solutions that meet customers’ needs and expectations, in increasingly seamless ways. To do this all involved need to see things differently through a new, more connected, lens.
TWO Essential Reads that I have drawn insights from to help me build my thinking here.
The 2016 State of Digital Transformation by Altimeter, a Prophet company.
Creating a Seamless Customer Experience by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015.