There was a lot of talk at this week’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference about creating unified customer experiences. Questions being bantered around included who should own the unified customer experience and what technology should be deployed to ensure a unified customer experience.
Of course, and as Tom Asacker (@tomasacker) rightfully pointed out in a tweet, you can never create a unified customer experience, as the customer experience gets formed in the mind of the customer – not in the actual transaction. That experience will be based on a customer’s context that is totally outside of the company’s control.
But assuming that what is meant is to attempt to offer a consistent customer experience, as it would be witnessed by a neutral observer – it is interesting to see how most people focus on the company’s hardware, people and infrastructure, and don’t talk much about the company’s software, its culture.
As you (hopefully) allow more and more people within your organization to interact with your customers, prospects and detractors, you will dramatically increase the number of touch-points between your company and the marketplace. If it also your goal to humanize the experience with your company by allowing employees to be themselves and not to sound like corporate automatons, you will also increase the chances of inconsistent user experiences.
So how do you manage that customer experience across those multiple and diverse touch-points?
Technology and organizational responsibility may play a role, but the fundamental thing you have to have in place for any of this to work is the right corporate software – the right culture. And you can influence culture by adopting, and by living by, a simple set of values. Do like Dell, where the simple values are “be open, be transparent, be simple, and be caring,” or Jetblue, where the values are “safety, caring, integrity, fun and passion.” At Jetblue it allows them to predict how frontline employees with react to a customer problem within 97% accuracy – there is no software or organizational structure that would do that for you. There are of course other examples of companies doing that right, including the Ritz and Best Buy.
But how are those values different from your vision, mission, values, beliefs and other corporate documents that are often useless?
At those companies where they work, everyone lives by their values. It forms the DNA of their culture. If you cannot live by those values the organization will eventually repel you.
In those companies where it does not work, nobody, including the executives who spent fortunes on creating them, could recite their values, let alone live by them. They are a useless set of words that gets used in the annual report once a year.
Culture will trump anything in this large-scale social age, as it always has.