Design The Customer Experience Inside-Out

There are few companies that haven't embarked upon a program to radically improve their customers' experiences. However, the vast majority of these programs result in failure with the experience of their customers remaining fragmented, inconsistent and frustrating. Our new study of customer experience excellence graphically illustrates why.

Most companies now realize that when designing effective customer processes they have to look at their organization from the customer's perspective and design the process from the outside in. However, companies that excel in delivering experiences that promote recommendation and drive loyalty are those that have realized that the customer experience, the employee experience and their organizational culture are inextricably linked. They have learned to look "inside out," and "outside in," simultaneously. Their approach is systemic and iterative.

As Tony Hsieh of Zappos puts it, "If you are going to put the customer first, you have to put the employee even more first." Conversely, those companies who have failed to make the Nunwood Customer Experience Top 100 rankings look for silver bullets, the one least-effort/ least-cost thing that will transform the experience. The managers of these companies approach the concept of the customer experience naively, failing to recognize that their organization is "hardwired" to continue to deliver the current experience based on its history, values, beliefs and rules set. It is analogous to building a tower on sand; it is no wonder their efforts result in failure.



USAA, Amazon, Southwest Airline, Apple and Zappos top the rankings for the quality of their customer experiences. It is no coincidence that the CEOs of each of these companies have publicly stated that in order to put the customer first, they started by putting the employee and organizational culture first.

Utilizing the extensive findings of our study, we analyzed the practices of these companies and codified the best practice approach into the following steps:

1. Look inside out -- in conducting the Knowledge Audit.

The knowledge audit addresses the questions: what do we know about our culture and how it impacts customers, and what do we know about our customers that informs our understanding of the experience we should be delivering.

2. The experiences customers have with organizations are the result of complex corporate behaviors.

The deeply engrained beliefs, values, measures, management processes, written and unwritten rules that shape the employees environment and through it the experience of the customer.

Excellent organizations approach culture systematically, firstly identifying internal inconsistencies in delivering an outstanding experience, misaligned processes, siloed organizational structures and conflicting KPIs and incentives and, secondly, identifying the unwritten rules that really drive organizational behavior.

Unwritten rules are unique to each organization because they operate below the surface, are rarely discussed or confronted but have a dramatic impact on the customer. These unspoken rules such as "always keep your boss happy," "be seen to excel," "always meet your KPIs," and "hit your targets at any cost" drive behaviors that are often anti-customer.

Identifying the cultural and employee experience attributes that impact the customer experience is rare -- yet it is vital to these top performers.

3. Before commissioning expensive research -- answer the question, "What do we already know about the customer?" Most organizations know considerably more about their customers than they think they do. The problem is that the knowledge is fragmented across departments, people, market research reports and procedural manuals. Creating a single repository of all things related to customers experience is a vital first step.

4. Look outside in -- When designing customer processes most organizations start from the perspective of how can we engineer this process so we can sell more. Often the internal view of the customer journey is based on some form of AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action) plan. Consequently, the process tends to be designed, logically but incorrectly, from an inside-out perspective.

The excellent companies, the ones who ask a different question, 'How do we design a process that enables customers to buy more?," will be the winners in the years ahead.

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