Why do so many organizations struggle to improve customer experience in a measurable and sustainable way?
The benefits of improving customer satisfaction are well understood and Forrester, among others, has quantified the revenue that improved customer satisfaction can deliver. With its importance in creating customer satisfaction and bottom-line results, why do so many organizations struggle to improve customer experience in a measurable and sustainable way? Based on the large companies I’ve worked with in this space, the traditional lenses of people, process and technology can provide key insights into one specific barrier—organizational structure--and show effective ways to overcome them.
Taking a page out of W. Edwards Deming’s approach to quality management, we must consider the “people” definition as not only the actions of individual employees, but also the organizational structure If we consider people to be more than the individuals within an organization, but to also include the organizational structures within which those employees function.
Most of the challenges I’ve observed in large, multi-channel, multi-LOB companies with which I’ve worked originate in the org chart. The one box that has both responsibility for customer experience and the span of control to impact it broadly isn’t usually found more than 1-2 levels down from the CEO. Accepting that corporate decisions are made in alignment with organizational structure and their inherent effect on compensation, it’s no wonder that most customer experiences are optimized by channel, LOB or product because that’s how the organization is structured. And there’s rarely a leader with enough financial, human and political capital to connect those experiences together into something that resembles a customer-focused experience.
Research shows that consumers are often less-satisfied with the overall experience that what they report for individual products or channels. Bottom-line, the organizational structure creates significant barriers to improving the customer experience in a way that feels satisfying and consistent to those customers experiencing it.
The process of delivering and continuously improving the customer experience is also constrained by the organizational structure. Decisions to improve and optimize any activity, including customer experience, are generally made within the confines of the organizational structure. Goals and KPIs are usually aligned with optimizing performance within a particular channel or LOB, such as call center or mortgage processing satisfaction. When overall satisfaction is measured, it’s often done using techniques that are difficult to deploy that allows ongoing operational measurement of the drivers of satisfaction. And it is rarely done in a way that allows incremental experience improvements to be tested, their impact quantified and financial ROI well-documented prior to making significant investments in experience improvements.