London’s Heathrow Airport serves more than 75 million passengers every year. To accomplish this, Heathrow needs robust capability in a host of different areas — parking, security, train service, retail spaces, and more. But to passengers, Heathrow is simply an airport, a single entity. However, what happens on the way to or from, or inside the airport affects customer perspectives about it as a whole, and those perspectives are powerful.
That is the underlying reality of experience businesses. To succeed, companies need to understand the customer journey, and how to make it more streamlined, simple, and delightful for customers. For Heathrow Airport, that meant studying when, where, and how customers interacted with various parts of the whole, and what their impressions were along the way. The study found that security was the largest predictor of customer experience. Making an effort to improve that experience would elevate perception of the entire airport ecosystem.
Business Insider now predicts that 40 percent of businesses will fail over the next 10 years because they are unable to keep up with changing customer expectations. And, according to the 2017 Adobe Digital Trends Report, by 2020 customer experience will be the leading differentiator for businesses — surpassing even product price. In other words, businesses need to learn how to empower their teams to keep up with the rapid pace of change if they want to survive the next decade.
Uncovering the origin of customer journey friction.
To understand how to improve the customer experience offered by your business, it is helpful to first understand at what point customers have difficulty during the customer journey. Bruce Swann, senior product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign, explains the root cause of the problem. He says, “most organizations today are structured from a marketing perspective — organized by channels. Often this is a result of strategies that an organization has taken over time. You have different technologies to support each strategy, and then you have a different team managing each technology.”
As businesses grow and add new technologies, they often bring in new talent to understand and operate them. In light of that, it makes sense from a management perspective that the new talent and technology would be grouped together into a new business unit — but this is how departmental silos originate. Unfortunately, when organized this way, business units tend to keep to themselves rather than collaborate.
Without collaboration between business units, companies won’t be able to build the kind of complete customer profile needed to map the entire customer journey. Instead, each segment of the journey will be managed by a different, isolated department, leading to a disjointed customer experience.
Think it through — identify your silos.
In order to elevate customer experience in your business, it is necessary to work through these silos by employing the right technologies and training. Bruce is quick to point out that, while eliminating silos entirely to unify the customer journey may be the ultimate goal, trying to start that way might be too much to handle. “You don’t necessarily start by destroying silos — you eliminate the problems silos cause. This is profound because you can’t simply tear an organization apart and still expect it to function. Even here at Adobe, we’d love it if everybody just ripped everything out and replaced it with solutions from the Adobe Experience Cloud. But in reality, that’s not practical. Businesses need to start somewhere, and then build upon that. So don’t get so caught up in eliminating the silos — focus on the problems that silos cause.”
Chris Nguyen, a group product marketing manager for Adobe Experience Manager, suggests that you start by mapping the customer journey. “You have to consider any touch point or channel a customer uses to engage with your business — be it sales, in store, or online. Even more than identifying who, it’s about identifying how and when the customer engages with your organization.”
Once you map the customer journey, you’ll be able to see which organizational silos are handling which segments of the journey. This will help you to see which teams need to better integrate at which points in order to make the customer experience seamless. To manage that integration, and thereby bridge the gaps between silos, you need the right training and the right technology.
Lay the path — align goals for experience business integration.
One reason customers experience disjointed journeys is because the various departments along the way have different motives. They may have different goals, measures of success, and even incentives. The first step toward integration is to align these goals across the organization, and then train employees to work toward the new, unified goals. To do this, it can be helpful to define who your customer really is.
Bruce talks about this alignment, citing the example of Marriott Hotels and their journey toward integration and an improved customer experience. “They had to start by defining who their customer was,” he says. “They defined their customers as their guests, and then looked at interactions. Any given guest might make reservations online. The same guest might also download the app or make a phone call. That guest might be a business traveler during the week, but a leisure traveler during the weekend. Knowing the customer helped Marriott see how the silos actually overlap.”
Some departments are not traditionally “customer facing,” so such a definition may seem hollow to them, but they still have an important role to play. Haresh Kumar, director of strategy and product marketing for mobile and connected experience at Adobe, explains that role. “When you think of the customer experience, everyone has a customer, either internal or external,” he says. “As an organization, take the view that, if my internal customers — or employees — are happy, they can serve the external customer even better.”
By aligning the organization around a single customer vision and unified goals, you can cluster your silos closer together and encourage sharing across departmental borders. As a result, different departments can clearly see where they have the most impact, and how that impact can be improved by partnering with other teams.
Soften hearts — overcome resistance to change.
Of course, change isn’t always easy. Employees get accustomed to the way things are done, and they often resist changes to those processes. Even leadership might resist change if they feel it undercuts their authority.
In these cases, most resistance comes when individual silos have to scale back their efforts in order to align with the overall organizational goals. This often makes them feel like they are being sidelined. The key here is to help people in the silos connect with and own that big-picture vision of the customer and customer journey, not just the goals within their individual silos.
Bruce recommends that you start small. “Pick a project where teams can collaborate and work with one another,” he says. “Learn from that, and then grow based on the learning. Maybe bring on an additional channel or bring something to the strategies within different channels.”
Chris agrees. “The best thing for a company isn’t necessarily to go out and try to fix the entire customer experience journey up front,” he says. “Instead, focus on value segments within those customer journeys. Focus on where you can get the most value. Start there.”
Travelocity, for example, focused on its email campaigns. By sharing information between the IT and email-campaign silos, the company was able to decrease the time it took to create campaigns from 3-5 days down to a matter of hours. By refining its picture of the customer journey, Travelocity could be more strategic and personalized in its campaigns, improving click-through rates by 15 percent and email-open rates by 40 percent.
Support the effort — empower with experience tools.
To make this integration work, you also need to provide teams with the right technology. For customer experience improvement, you need a strong foundational platform that can support the various apps and tools your teams need to succeed.
The customer journey provides guidance about what specific tools a business needs. For example, in the early part of the journey when customers are anonymous, companies need an audience manager. In terms of Adobe-specific products, Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target work together to accelerate the beginning stages. Before and after a purchase, the customer might join a loyalty program or opt into email contact — this is when Adobe Campaign is effective. Campaign takes customer data and uses it to customize future contacts. Through the entire journey, a content engine like Adobe Experience Manager provides the foundation into which other solutions are integrated.
Supporting your employees with the right technology makes a big difference in how they’re able to support the customer. T-Mobile provides a perfect example of this in the context of integration along the customer journey.
T-Mobile tracks its users and sends out periodic offers, like most companies do. With T-Mobile, however, those offers are customized and integrated. If you click on an offer to upgrade, for instance, you will be taken to a portal where you can set an appointment at a local store. When you arrive for your appointment, there’s an associate ready your new device that is set up with your account information. Or they might, alternatively, show you various options for devices based on your preferences, and then help you get everything set up on the one you choose.
The email connects to the appointment-setting system, which integrates with the in-store scheduling system, all of which are designed to provide a personalized experience for the customer leading to a purchase decision. This would not be doable without the right technology framework and integrative tools in place for communication between teams.
Keep the end goal in mind —upgrade your business.
When it comes to the customer experience, top brands like Heathrow, Travelocity, T-Mobile, and Marriott, agree that it is important. But getting started, and making it seamless can be a real challenge. By first defining your customer, and then mapping out that customer’s journey, you can begin to focus your efforts. Using that customer journey as a roadmap, align your organizational and departmental goals, then integrate the teams necessary to achieve those goals along each stage of the customer journey — and don’t forget support functions like finance, HR, and product development.
Then, using technology, uncover the weak points along your customer journey, and build cross-functional teams to address those points. Don’t worry initially about tearing down silos. Let them do what they do, but focus on bringing silos together to share information and expertise to streamline the customer experience, and achieve your shared goals. Start small, but start now, and you will get up to speed, and position your company to succeed in the future experience business economy.
Hear more stories from top brands who know the power of putting great customer experiences first in their organizations.