business design

A Case for Complexity

A Case for Complexity

Our hyper-focus on the snippet, the blurb and the micro-moment is causing us to lose something. Entrepreneurs and companies quit trying to solve the hard problems. Solutions to hard problems are not easily communicated. They are not easily pitched. They are hard to sell. But those are the problems worth solving. They are complex. Likewise, the solutions are complex.

Business must act more like a laboratory and less like an assembly line.

We are in the middle of massive business, political and societal shifts. The situation goes beyond mere change. Change implies evolution in a predictable direction that can planned for and adapted to. The shifts we are experiencing are volatile, full of rapid, explosive, and sometimes random shifts coming from often unexpected directions. 

Marketing starts with designing your business.

Most companies are organized in a way that maximizes efficiency for the company. They are not deliberately and intentionally designed to maximize effectiveness for the customer.

Your customers  expect a seamless, consistent and unified experience across every touchpoint irregardless of where the interaction falls within the org chart.

You have an opportunity to create a great experience for your customers by deliberately designing an organizational structure that better represents how they want to interact with your company.

Try using your own services to find structures that need to be better designed to deliver a better experience. While you are using your services ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a reason for every interaction?
  • Do the structures in the organization work together to meet your expectations of the interaction?
  • Which structures create value?
  • Which structures stopped the smooth flow of information?
  • Which structures created a disjointed experience?

The traditional company structure  is a legacy of the industrial revolution. Customers today have much higher expectations for the interactions they have with companies. It is time to spend as much time designing the company structures as we do the products and services we sell.

Business is an Experiment. Not an Equation.

Most organizations want everything to be an equation. They want a world of well defined inputs with predictable outcomes, something that can be explained with an algorithm then optimized for efficiency. The reality is business is an experiment. There are three major hurdles to businesses running effective experiments.

The first barrier to companies experimenting is someone at the organization has to be willing to say "I don't know." This simple yet powerful statement is the foundation for experimentation. The Freakonomics Podcast has a great episode on this subject, The Three Hardest Words in the English Language. Leaders feel they need to have all the answers in order to lead and employees are afraid they will look like they don't know what they are doing if they don't have all the answers. Without the confidence to say "I don't know." organizations are stuck doing only those things they already know how to do.

The second barrier to experimentation is a lack of know-how. Business people, trained in finding and optimizing efficiency, have no idea how to run an experiment. They don't know how to develop a hypothesis, design an experiment to test the hypothesis and interpret the result in the broader context of the company and the customer journey.

The third barrier to companies running experiments is the guarantee of failure. If an experiment is delving into something new and not just confirming a bias then the initial hypotheses will almost certainly be wrong. Although there is often as much to be learned from a failed experiment as there is from a successful experiment, it still takes great courage to propose failure as a path forward.

If a company is unable or unwilling to experiment they will be limited to doing what they already know how to do. As barriers to bringing new products and services to market continue to come down companies that do what they have always done will face increase competition and commoditization. Companies need to develop cultures where "I don't know." is an acceptable answer,  failure is an acceptable outcome to trying something new and the knowledge and skills necessary to experiment are intentionally cultivated.


The Death of Multi-Channel

In the world of customer experience 2014 was the year of multi-channel. Companies worked to develop a presence across devices, platforms and networks. In addition to their traditional advertising and marketing channels companies expanded further into SMS, mobile web, mobile apps and a wide variety of social channels in an effort to be where their customers were. While companies did a great job increasing their presence, the services provided via each channel remain limited. This will be a liability for companies operating with a multi-channel perspective.

Companies operating with a multi-channel perspective dictate the types of services and information a customer can access via each channel. Customers can get product information from a website, access a limited storefront on a mobile app, participate in fun campaigns via twitter or Facebook and get support via a specific phone number or email address. While this is an efficient way for a company to organize, it creates a fragmented and disjointed customer experience that fails to meet the customer expectation.

Customers expect to be able to get access to all information and services via every channel. Companies need to be able to deliver a full range of services and information everywhere they have a presence. Customers should be able to shop, research and get support regardless of the channel. This requires a significant shift in perspective from channel centric to service centric. Instead of looking first at the channel then defining the services and information that will be provided on that channel companies need to look at the service then define what that service looks like on each channel. This results in every service have a presence on every channel in a way that takes advantage of the strength of that particular channel. (See Using Twitter as a Tech Support Channel).

There are three key requirements for delivering a great customer experience with every service across every channel:

1. Open and accessible IT architecture

Companies need the ability to aggregate data across owned and unowned sources and present that data to customers and front line staff in an actionable format on any device. You need an architecture that support marrying CRM data with Social data with POS data and delivering that information to the right person at exactly the right time. A well design architecture can enable this kind of agility while supporting scalability and extensibility.

2. Detailed understanding of the customer

Companies need to understand their products and services from the customer perspective. Tools like Customer Journey Maps (CJM) help companies understand how customers interact with their products and services and identify touchpoints that need improvement. Companies can also use the CJM to map data to touchpoints, identifying areas where their data or understanding is incomplete.

3. Ongoing assessment plan

Technology and people change too fast to set it and forget it. New channels open up and old channels grow stale every day. Companies need to establish a cross-discipline assessment team to assess the companies understanding of the customer journey and the channels in play at least once a quarter.

2015 is the year of deliver a great customer experience everywhere. Companies that succeed will enjoy greater loyalty and word of mouth.