What to watch out for when researching and testing journeys

Previously:

Why you need to pay attention to customer experience

What to watch out for when researching and testing journeys

 

1. Last Click  can be a costly mistake

The customer journey does not begin with the last click before they visited your ecommerce site. No assumption could be more damaging than this one.

Here’s an example of what happens before “LastClick” (Uses App to order)

 UJ1

You need to take off that blindfold and clean your glasses if you’ve been ignoring this part of the journey.
Once you have got ahead, next you will need to criss cross this journey with the interactions with your competitors if you want to stay ahead for any length of time.  And don’t forget all those potential customers who have been influenced by this on-line saga.

For an interesting interactive tool that can be filtered by industry classification to get a glimpse of how last click relates to the other channels and influencers, check out the ink below

http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/tools/customer-journey-to-online-purchase.html

 

2. Its not what they say, or what they do, or even what they say compared to what they do, but it’s what they tell their friends that is interesting.

If you have spent any time working with professional market research you probably noticed that people tell you what think you want to hear, what they think makes them sound clever, or mostly what they believe the group will be impressed with.

It takes a great deal of skill to capture useful insight from market research and to make large investments on the basis of just a market research report, however good, is a fatally risky thing to do.
People invariably do entirely different things to what they expected they would do in a particular situation and even from what they planned to do.  It can be very difficult to explain why you did this, you can read the underlying Social Psychology theories and decide whether to believe them, or not, but it wont change the facts at all.
People are more driven by their acceptance in, or leadership of groups than any other thing and hence, once they announce to the group what they are going to do,  it is more likely that they will do it than not.  Hence the most valuable insight into what someone will do is what they are wittering about in social media.
Be warned of course, just like other forms of research, this is one more voice to add to the conversation, not the single source of truth.
Just in case you are thinking it, most people ask this , there is a big difference between what people say in idle chatter to their friends and what they tell you in focus groups. The latter is not populated with their peers and it ends when they leave.

 

3.    The journey does not end at purchase, or anywhere close to it.

If you have been following the series so far, you will remember that in paragraph 5 of the last section I presented some hypothesis about the power of referral from your customers.  This is a very valid argument indeed for being switched on to the journey after purchase. In many sectors of course ,there is an ongoing relationship with the brand.

First of all the product may be one that is repeatedly used over time, each repeated use will therefore be another interaction with the brand and the quality of that interaction does count. Additionally there will be the difficult period when customers are learning to use your product and later there may be issues that require active support.

If you take the view that once they have purchased and you have their cash, there is little motivation to spend more money on them, then you are greatly mistaken, because even if they never plan to make another purchase of your product, they will talk to everyone they know and their influence will cost you dearly. Put together enough of these negative voices and it will put you out of business.

A far more constructive way of thinking is to ask yourself what up-sells, or cross-sells you might be able to introduce as a result of providing high quality personal support. If you don’t have other products, this may be the catalyst you needed to re-think your brand and product strategy

4.  Pay special attention to understanding Critical touch points (Moments of truth)

A user journey can be and usually is very complex, even when we only represent the main points. Even this however, is a potentially misleading picture. Thee are always Moments Of Truth when you win or lose on the tiniest of margins and these are the ones you must identify and focus your closest attention on.

For example: When the customer finally returns to your store feeling really happy with her decision, clicks buy and you don’t have her size in stock. That’s not a good situation.

When she clicks buy and gets a spinning thingy that goes on and on. Not good.

When she buys and although being a regular customer she is asked to enter a lot of information yet again despite being on a sunny bench with her HTC One and her longest nail extensions. You are really pushing your luck here.

It’s not all about clicking buy, it could be when she decides to see what people are saying about you and the first thing she finds is a blog by an irate customer of yours that you didn’t even bother to respond to let alone apologise for. The writing is on the wall.

These moments of truth may differ for different customer segments and personas, so you really need to know this and it may even differ at different times of day or seasons or with different devices.
For cheap flights customers I would say that, certainly for me it is “Paying the bill”,” Leaving on time”, “Arriving on time”.  The other stuff in this case is far less important and if it can only be done at the cost of these three, I hope they just ignore it.

“Learn what the Moments of truth are for your customers and focus a lot of your attention on getting them right, it will make a huge impact on your top and bottom lines.”

ZMOT-GRAPHIC1

According to Google, there’s a Zero Moment of  Truth.

“that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service you’re thinking about trying, or buying.”

When I talked previously about taking a hit to let customers realise how badly they want your product, this was ZMOT.
When Henry Ford gave them a smelly noisy Iron horse and changed their lives, that too was ZMOT.  For you and I, winning at ZMOT means deeply understanding our customers habits and preferences so that we can be there at the moment when the inspirtaion hits them and showing the the right messages to take them to the next level in the journey.

1MOT

In bricks and mortar terminology, this is nothing more or less than “First Impressions”.  Until Google gives you the time machine, you can’t go back and redo first impressions.
We spoke in the last instalment about how People see what they expect to see and feel what they expect to feel,  well this is ground zero. Here is where you set that expectation and it had better be good.

2MOT

This is when they open that box and your shiny product falls on their toe and puts them in hospital, or they struggle with one point white print instructions on grey papaer in broken Korean. You may well have thier money in the bank right now, but dont fool yourself about the importance of getting this right.

3MOT

Is the remebered sensations of using your product and how they compare to the expectation.  Wow that requires some thought.
Its not enough to have a great product, but it should be at least up to the expectation. Not only do they need to like the product, but they need to trust you to give them an even better one when your competitor moves the goal posts with a new offering, otherwise you’ll be saying an early farewell. Don’t forget that it is not just your product, but everything your business does in the public eye as well as how you answer your phones, or not and help them when they have a problem.

4MOT

This is when they talk about you to their friends and social media contacts. This is one you absolutely must win

Using information to support the entire customer journey

Previously

The customer journey  begins when she becomes aware of your existence and never ends, though it is at its most fruitful when she places an order and subsequent orders.

Previously we discussed the folly of looking at “Last Click” as the beginning of this purchase journey, the reality is that it began some time in the past when she stumbled on your business either through a friends, in a blog, or via a search or advertisement. In reality every purchase is generally precluded to a greater or lesser degree by a process of discovery, comparison, discussions, eavesdropping, information gathering, price comparison and leading finally to an order being placed.

Whether and when that order is placed will be contingent and whether she found sufficient information to support a decision, what information she found, what advice she got, what her peer group are doing whether she is in front of her favoured device for ordering, whether she has the cash available yet  and a probably many more issues. For example it matters little that she made her mind up on day one, if she wont have the cash until her salary clears in three weeks. It wont matter how good a deal you offer her if all her friends are advising against your product and so forth.

It is never possible to know all of these inputs and be aware of the state of play, but at least being aware of what it takes to sell an item is very important in determining what steps you take to improve that user journey in a way that is profitable. Below are some examples of information you may collect and use to improve the user experience and deliver revenue upside. This will of course vary from one situation to another.

  1. It begins with being found. You must know where the hungry crowd are going and make sure your food stand is right in their path. Being there when they are hungry is just as important as part of serving your customer as it is to your revenue targets. How to do this is a little off topic for today.
  2. Making sure that the gossip they hear and the advice they receive is unlikely to be negative is critically important. The means of promoting positive vibes in social media are well documented and to a lesser degree we know of business that can help deal with negative comment when it occurs.
  3.  Making the right first impression is critical. The expectation you set is a key metric against which your performance  will be measured.
  4. Becoming memorable and easy to find again is now a key goal. Any way of beginning a relationship that allows you to communicate further is great, getting the customer to download something that will act as a reminder for them is also very valuable. E.G. a useful app for their phone.
  5. Storing a cookie that helps you track their consequent visits and actions will make it much easer to judge their likely needs at any time.
  6. Running multivariate tests allows you to not just find out which inputs drive the most orders, which combinations pf inputs are most successful. This drives very accurate views of customer behavior and allows you to optimise everything.
  7. Once you understand the average customer journey you can provide content and services that help the customer at key junctures while updating your understanding of where they are at with their buying process.
  8. Understanding a little more about the type of product they shortlisted and what they rejected may also help you to understand their needs and preferences.
  9. Knowing the times of week, day, month, or year when they are most likely to make a purchase may help you in selecting an irresistible offer.
  10. Knowing which devices they use for purchase may help you to time your offer better

Here is a simplified example.

Background

My company sells widgets to consumers and the customers come form all walks of life. They purchase from the ecommerce channel. There is a lot of competition online  and customers tend to switch suppliers regularly as offers change. Price is important, but its not the whole picture.
We use advertising via keywords to drive customers to landing pages where they find information on exactly what they searched for. They can also follow links to the main site where they can  learn more

Mrs Jones

Our best customer is Mrs Jones. She uses search engines a lot but not just for finding products but also searching the news and gossip sites. She talks to a lot of people on forums and uses them extensively for advice before purchasing. Mrs Jones enjoys the purchasing process so she does not mind seeing plenty of offers, but she is rarely swayed from her initial choice. Often she decides what she wants and then goes looking for proof that she is right.

After she first selects a product, we know she is giving it strong consideration because she then visits our comparison charts and follows links to some of our competitors.

Our strategy

We think she trusts us because we are not hiding from our competitors and we give her honest comparison. We also help her out with the evidence she is looking for.

We have her email in an opted-in list and we know when to send her a little extra information if she goes quiet. We have a clickstream that identifies a quest (product she searched for) and the different types of investigation she did so far, so we can guess where she is in the purchasing journey.

Sometimes, when she goes quiet, it means she has bought elsewhere, but often she is just waiting to get paid or some other reason, so we keep in touch, but we are careful not to upset her. We rely on her to visit again and to recommend us. On average she makes five visit before purchase.

She is very influenced by social media so we spend a lot of effort on maintaining a good reputation.

Our content is tagged to match the different stages in the quest such as price comparison, features comparison, evidence gathering etc. These tags help us to develop the clickstream that places her on a purchase journey. Because she has purchased before, she is able to purchase with a single click.

Pre-visit

She visits an exhibition  where she sees our stand and meets a polite person who gives her a free pen.

She searches google for comments and finds a positive attitude towards us and our products

First visit

She spends some time reading the general information, downloads a calculator tool and leaves via our comparator to go to a competitor site.

 

Still collecting information

The following week our advertising network presents her a little reminder advert while she is on a competitor site and she returns to ours. This tells us she is still actively and seriously searching and we are high on her list

Decided now

She returns at the weekend and spends some time on the cost of ownership calculator using her tablet.

We know that she likes to purchase using her PC and she might still feel like this. We also believe that price is the only thing now influencing her.
We email her a very hot offer that needs a response before Tuesday and we give her a special hotline for telephone advice promising no switchboard and 12 hours a day of service.

Finally an order

She immediately calls our sales staff explaining a slight issue she has yet not resolved. The sales staff are able to put her mind at rest and she places a n order there and then. It is completed in seconds and she has an email confirmation

Delivery and service continues

Delivery occurs on Wednesday and our service staff phone her unexpectedly to talk her through getting started seeing that she expressed concerns. She expresses her delight with the service.

Recommendations

On  Thursday our sales staff call to make sure she is OK and ask her if she would be happy to recommend us on a social network, she agrees readily and goes public with her satisfaction. This has three important implications:
1. We are committed to keeping Mrs Jones happy.
2. Mrs Jones has publicly praised us and it would be extra hard for her to ever contradict this.  She will make allowances if ever called on to do so.
3. Others who see her comments will be encouraged to do business with us

We have not just sold a product, we have bought a supporter and gained valuable advertising of the best kind. If we worked out the Cost of Goods Sold on customers like Mrs Jones, it would be in low or even negative figures.

 

 

Using personalisation cleverly to grow your customer relationship and keep your sanity

In my next  instalment I plan to look a little more closely at the broader context of recommendation engines and how they might be used but foe now I will simply point out that they are broken into two broad types Content Based and  Collaboration Based. The first refers to product knowledge and the second to behaviour of customers. Today I am only discussing the latter type

There’s two fundamental types of customer information used in recommendation engines and customisation strategies: 1. Real time knowledge of customer in context and 2. Historical knowledge of people with context.

I like to refer to them as 1. Personal and 2. Collective.

The first problem you run into when you start an ecommerce store is that you don’t have any historical data to start from. Making decisions about “people” is another way of describing prejudice. Of course all prejudice is not bad, we help old ladies across the road and we are kind to children. But when somebody hears my accent and offers me a particular brand, I am irritated.

What I find especially infuriating is when I simply cant find what I want on Google because it thinks it knows what I really want based on the fact that I looked for it twice last week.

The point I am making is that people are individuals, they change their minds, they like variety, they find what they are looking for and loose interest, in fact they really do not want to see what they just bought on offer at a better price.

The bottom line here is that relationships have always been difficult even when you are at the next desk or sharing a home, let alone seeing a cookie form the same machine create different click streams and view different content.

Personalisation and making recommendations based on algorithms can be high risk and must be done with care and forethought.

 

Context

Context is a critical factor in storing and classifying interactions for recommendations and personalisation.  When I go in our local store the shopkeeper who knows me very well takes into account the day of the week, time of day, look on my face, which shelves I’m looking on and what he remembers about my usual purchases and he then decides whether to let me walk out or to ask if he can help. He rarely gets it wrong.

If he did get it wrong very many times, I would be very tempted to walk a few yards extra and shop anonymously. Why should I have to explain myself?

personal1

Imagine if he wiped lots of stuff off the shelves on the basis that I won’t be interested in them today, but filled the shelves with what I bought on this day last week, or on my last visit.  Not very good.

Imagine if I run a social network, I know a great deal about where you are going, what you like etc. If I provide your phone network, I know who you call, and receive calls form, when you use it and how long for, when you never use it and when it is off and where you are right now. Maybe I see your calendar and your emails too? Not to mention half a dozen spook outfits eavesdropping.

With this kind of information I could be very invasive, so it is critical to only use this type of data with the customer’s consent and to put that customer firmly in control in case they should change their minds. The way to achieve this is to offer them value in return for their data.

 

In a typical e-commerce implementation you will have access to the following types of information:

Purchases,  wish list adds, cart adds, views, shares, favourites, downloads, shares, watches, likes, follows, where they were referred from and you may know about the search terms they used to get to your site.

You may also know about the sites these customers visited after they left your site when they have been active, their spending patterns, whether they buy for children, their gender, devices used, devices ordered from, devices emails were read on, where they have browsed from geographically, and a whole lot more. Once registered you could collect data on their social media activity.

If you are an OmniChannel retailer, you will have more data in your CRM, your ERP, and other places

data sources

This information exists in many places: In your customer database, in the web server log files, out there on social media sites, on Google, in an advertising network you work with,

 

In a typical solution, the information might be classified in three ways: 1. Customer , 2. info and context 3. Offer.

e.g. you create facts such as:

Customer, info,  (info context), Offer.

John Brown, likes(3) (June 4 14, Saturday, mobile ), gizmo product

John brown, price search(June 6 14, Monday, PC), gizmo product

 

Each piece of information is about a specific offering or product and it relates, of course, to an individual customer. In addition to that basic information, it is invaluable to collect context.

Understanding that Mr Brown never orders on his mobile, but does look at info helps you decide what to present to him. Maybe the solution is to offer him a convenient app that makes ordering easier. Certainly if 80% of his browsing was on mobile devices and 100% of ordering was on a PC,, this would be a strong indication

The way you might arrive at this type of conclusion would be to query these stores of facts, summarise what we know and make inferences.

This is a lot like data warehouses where you store vast flat tables, analyse them once then stores summaries in a more accessible system.

 

e.g. John Brown, likes(3), gizmo product  That weighted his interest at 3

Two days later he returned infer a higher interest, say 4

He asked for pricing info, this puts him at 8 or thereabouts

So we can summarise it as ; John Brown likes (June 6 14),gizmo product (8)

We know that he orders via PC, that was not a barrier.

We know that seeking price info is a sign of desire and conviction so why did he not order?

We might assume the price was too high.  Perhaps we are all too aware that we are not the cheapest in this market and we rely on positioning to overcome price objections.

We may decide to send a once off special offer on Thursday morning, so he cant resist because he frequently browses then so he may have free time on Thursdays.

That is an example of generating a “Next action” on the basis of knowledge and intelligent inference.

Of course it could be that he planned to order on Friday at the full price, that is a price we either do or do not decide to pay for John Brown’s business. Eventually we will know enough to be able to predict this accurately.

If we knew that he was a highly influential blogger with a large following, I wonder would this influence our decision?.

bigdata

Contrary to what is written by cloud vendors and Hadoop junkies, this kind of data and that kind of information is rarely dependent on petabytes of data spread across numerous clusters. It could be done with a basic RDBMS, though it would probably be easier with an RDF store downloaded for free.

Don’t get me wrong, there would still be some development to do and it wouldn’t work till a bit of data had built up, but you don’t have to be Google or Yahoo to benefit from this technique.

 

An interesting side effect of this approach is that the longer the customer keeps visiting the bigger investment you have in keeping her, because you know exactly how to twist her arm. Her customer lifetime value is infinitely greater even at a discount. Perhaps eventually, these relations will be reflected in the price each individual customer is asked to pay.  There’s a thought to conjure with.

What if John turns up at your Branch in Oxford street with his decision made and ready to order? What if he orders online but wants to collect from your store in Paris next week?  What if there’s an issue after delivery and he wants to get help form your store in Las Vegas while on his travels?

What if the cart tells him “sorry, we’re out of stock” and then he walks to the shops and sees one in your local store?

I know just how difficult these problems can be and how expensive it is to overcome them. It requires not just a technology rebirth, but a culture change like no other.

Lernaean Hydra, your time is up.

Simple, but powerful tools to truly build a relationship with the customer, some obvious gaping opportunities to cut costs and some basic principals of architecture that even the bin man could understand in one lesson and yet are ignored by 99 percent of technical architects. If you are serious about competing in business, read this.

HYDRA
HYDRA

Lernaean Hydra (slain by Hercules ) was an ancient serpent-like beast, with reptilian traits (as its name evinces), that possessed many heads — the poets mention more heads than the vase-painters could paint, and for each head cut off it grew two more
Next time you are trying to stay awake through the IVR while being invited to search their website instead of calling the machine, or chatting to a script via “live” text, think of Lernaean Hydra.

Ever ordered something online from Acme Gadgets PLC and then tried taking it into their Acme store just down the road because it didn’t work or you needed help? Oh no you don’t, this is the wrong head, you need to call the IVR and report it to yet another head, then wait till yet another head sends out the courier to take it away and . . . familiar? I bet most readers could immediately think of several of their current suppliers who behave just like that. Could this be your business?
I recently completed some work for a well known utility and when their customer moved house she first received a “Sorry you are leaving us …” message, she then naturally panicked and spent an hour or two with the IVR to eventually speak to someone who passed her eventually to someone else to be told that all is well and she will have a supply at her new house after all. Maybe!. Experience suggests otherwise. Another week and she received the “Welcome as a new customer” letter. You may find this hard to believe, but during all this time, a Programme was running internally to reduce the size of the call centre by preventing people from calling it (Logical). The most successful trick was hiding the phone number up to 9 clicks deep.
Since then I encountered the same experience when I myself changed mobile packages with the same mobile network. It’s very easy as a business to drift into this situation, mainly because you can get away with it, i.e. the competition are just as bad. It doesn’t help that the systems you have available to run your business don’t talk to each other well and few architects have the knowledge, or the will to fix this problem even if somebody somewhere were to express the desire.

Now set that aside for a minute. Actions are pretty bad when they become mixed-up and after all everyone gets it wrong at times, but what about when actions are designed to be obtuse. Imagine a company that has set aside many millions of pounds for an advertising and marketing campaign whose goal is to “ convince the customer the we are their best friend and totally committed to giving them a great service”. Now imagine if the self same CEO told you he is “investing” in another programme to allow no more one-to-one contact with customers apart from the bereavement team. This would mean that instead of a wait between 35 and 85 minutes for any kind of assistance there would be no assistance for the majority of queries and issues other than searching an FAQ. Would that situation leave you with one or two questions?
I have just spoken to such a person, so this is not fiction, in fact it is the current trend in many industries. Imagine if a business like this were to ban Social Media engagement because they were worried that the customers would get talking about the lack of service. You guessed it. No doubt most readers have their own list of experiences with corporate schizophrenia.

Now perhaps you thought Lernaean Hydra with her many heads is a disturbing picture of a business that likes to believe it has a personality and a brand and is customer friendly, but the truth is far, far worse, because in reality our monsters not only have many heads but at least one derrière per head and out of these derrieres pours endless mountains of poo. It’s not pleasant and it doesn’t even grow the lawn, but some clever people are determined to gather all of it and analyse it to look for traces of information that might tell them more about their businesses. Well let me tell you up front that for the most part they will simply turn a lot of small poos into a “big poo”. If they ever did find the answers, here’s what it would say: “Your customers despise you, but they tolerate you because they know that the alternative is much the same.”

You buy something for 15 pence and sell it for a pound and only make 7 pence profit, the rest you waste on nonsense like this and your shareholders are also in despair. Your employees are autonomons who live out the bizarre role you gave them because they are very adaptable and resigned to the inevitable.
Any executive who wants to know about her business need only walk around for a few days without the mask and talk to the people on the job and dare I say it, talk to customers. These know all these answers, but nobody asks them.

For qualitative issues we used to use samples as big as 300 when I worked in research, but we all knew that equally useful results could be had with 20 or 30 and there are many who say a great deal fewer will give us reliable answers. In fact there are empirical studies to prove it. Do we need “big data”, no we certainly don’t. If there is anything we do need it is “small data”, or better still “smart data”.
What I am saying here is not that we don’t need the information, but simply that we don’t need a great stinking pile of data in order to get that information, nor do we need the cost associated with it. Maybe the health service could find cures by analysing past results etc, but that is something different from the little dashboards most of our clients and are capable of dealing with and imagining with when they are shelling out for humungous data servers.
Microsoft recently released a convincing paper demonstrating that few companies on earth have more data than can be analysed and presented on a bog standard database server. I agree.
Don’t get me wrong there is a role for big data, but not the one most people are determined to tackle with it.

When you exist in an environment where inexplicable behaviour can go un-challenged, the next step is for this behaviour to find its way into the planning process and even strategy, if not by design, then at least through tolerance. What this says about modern business is truly frightening and what it says about customers and their power to move markets is in many ways even more frightening. I happen to believe as did Milton Friedman, that only the power of truly free markets can guarantee individual freedoms long term, though unlike Friedman, I accept that sometimes freedom needs some minimal regulation. We could talk about free markets, or about corporate strategy, but that is for a different forum. I am just concerned with cutting through the nonsense and pointing out the glaringly obvious as a starting point on the road back to business sanity.

In the next instalment, I will be talking about good management practice leading to sensible, though sometimes revolutionary use of technology to support strategies that can drive any business into a clear lead in any sector you wish to name.
I believe we have a duty in business to use technology intelligently to serve our customers and drive returns to employees and shareholders and in the following instalment, I will show you a simple technique to make sure that you know how your technology decisions are impacting your customers so you can make better decisions.

In another instalment, I will talk about some obvious gaping opportunities to cut unnecessary costs and some basic principals of architecture that even the bin man could understand in one lesson and yet is ignored by 99 percent of technical architects

In further instalments I will talk about the cultural barriers (the stuff we don’t ever discuss around here) that stand in the way of making businesses work though technology and I will show you simple tools to help you discuss and master strategy and planning as a precursor to technology investments.

 

Good management strategy and practice supported by intelligent modern systems

Previously

Good management strategy and practice supported by intelligent modern systems

Lernaean Hydra, your time is up.

Give big data the heave-ho for now and get a birds-eye view of your business without a single nosql database.

Here’s how we approached the solution

Naturally I can’t publish the whole thing if only for sheer volume, let alone sensitivity of information from some of the underlying cases, but I will pick a few areas just to demonstrate the approach and hopefully let readers see how. At this stage we have a high level description of goals we need to achieve, but before we get to the point where we have plans with timescales, budgets, resources, success criteria and all the other important things, we need to know a little more about what is involved in each solution, whether we have the capability to do it successfully, what order they need to be done in and what impacts positive or negative each solution might have. We also need to produce business cases to establish that the investment in the solution is at a level that provides an acceptable return taking into account any risks and opportunity costs and finally we need to establish measurement means and metrics in order to track benefits. Before thinking about delivery of something like this you have to first analyse the receiving organisation and understand the dynamics into which you are introducing solutions. Everything that is wrong is as it is for a reason and sometimes that reason is a force that is still in place and waiting to thwart your best efforts. Using models can sometimes be overkill, especially when used by enthusiasts rather than pragmatists. In reality if box doesn’t need ticking don’t tick it, but the time it took to decide that was a very small amount of time well spent in the interest of thoroughness.   Already, the small section of this picture we picked upon has exhibited a complex web of problems that impact each other in many ways and we have as yet not even attempted to find solutions. The identification of solutions and selection of the best approach to each is the next important step. Once we have this in place we then need to start thinking about how these solutions will be delivered successfully within this specific organisation.   In order to demonstrate the method, lets take some examples that are not too complex or too simple. I will select thre problems to address but later I will focus on just one of these in order to keep this readable. 1. Poor packaging. 2.       Poor help and support.  3. Low skilled staff. Having again used the “ask why 5 times” approach we came to the conclusion that: 1). Staff were not trained because we had no written materials with which to train them. Even the offshore staff could be trained if we had the materials. The reason for no materials is that we bought the hardware in Asia and the little black and grey manuals in 6pt txt were unreadable and unfathomable, but we just accepted this as par for the course in our business. We accepted it because nobody had veer suggested any other potential solution and there was a assumption that had we ever considered doing it, it was probably very expensive. The main reason though was that we felt we had already paid for this and were not willing to do it again. On top of this, there was no role in the hierarchy with accountability for the customer experience. 2). Help and support was poor because support staff had no idea how to help them and were only there to listen and to deal with total failures demanding returns. 3). The packaging was poor because we accepted the Asian packaging aimed at a different market, language, culture and price-point and never took responsibility for this, nor did we ever appreciate the importance of packaging in the user experience.  Visit diagram 1 in the last episode for a reminder of the user journey A simple dependency chart revealed the order of attack and we had a plan.

dependency
Dependency chart

There are a few headings you need to use when considering an organisation in this context: Here is an example of a very simple and fairly abstract table used for this purpose.

Goals Create legible training and help material Design attractive packaging and instructions Train the support staff
Participants   New people need to be hired or reallocated for this New people need to be hired or reallocated for this The people who develop the material are ideally placed to train as well
Social structure This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place. The knowledge Is with suppliers and in another language. . This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place Purchasing are money focused not customer focused and they buy this stuff in Asia very cheaply. This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place Sales staff walk away when the deal is signed leaving nobody responsible. Customer service is seen as a cost base
Environment This stuff is purchased by “Commercial”. They are a law unto themselves and seem to have gained almost untouchable status. Ideally they should be considering this type of issue when selecting a supplier. Sales won’t touch this.  It needs a place of importance in the structure This stuff is purchased by “Commercial”. They are a law unto themselves and seem to have gained almost untouchable status. Ideally they should be considering this type of issue when selecting a supplier. Sales won’t touch this.  It needs a place of importance in the structure No consideration has ever been given to training Recently we outsourced most of it and this has made matters even worse. Nobody seems to have much contact with the offshore call centres and it is a very hot potato just now
Processes The process currently involves receiving batches, spot checking goods and then checking them into the stock control system. QC happens again just before dispatch but it is poor and often there is an acceptance that support will have to carry the can. Sales have sold and dispatch have dispatched. The process currently involves receiving batches, spot checking goods and then checking them into the stock control system. QC has no interest in packaging they only consider the hardware items Nobody questions the quality of packaging, support or other peripherals. People ask the guy next door when stuck and they tell customers to read the manual, or they are if in doubt, to  send it back

Before you can attempt to drive these changes through, you need to understand the way decisions get made in this organisation. Remember we are not doing this with the intention of changing or fixing any of these behaviours, our only goal is to make the most of what we have in order to deliver our changes. There are three fundamental lenses we use to look at decision making in organisations, and in the interest of remaining jargon-free, lets call them Rational, Political and Garbage can. There is usually an element of all three but generally there is a strong leaning in certain functions such as in this case programme management. In this organisation it looked something like this: There are a few headings you need to use when considering an organisation in this context: Here is an example of a very simple and fairly abstract table used for this purpose.

Goals Create legible training and help material Design attractive packaging and instructions Train the support staff
Participants   New people need to be hired or reallocated for this New people need to be hired or reallocated for this The people who develop the material are ideally placed to train as well
Social structure This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place. The knowledge Is with suppliers and in another language. . This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place Purchasing are money focused not customer focused and they buy this stuff in Asia very cheaply. This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place Sales staff walk away when the deal is signed leaving nobody responsible. Customer service is seen as a cost base
Environment This stuff is purchased by “Commercial”. They are a law unto themselves and seem to have gained almost untouchable status. Ideally they should be considering this type of issue when selecting a supplier. Sales won’t touch this.  It needs a place of importance in the structure This stuff is purchased by “Commercial”. They are a law unto themselves and seem to have gained almost untouchable status. Ideally they should be considering this type of issue when selecting a supplier. Sales won’t touch this.  It needs a place of importance in the structure No consideration has ever been given to training Recently we outsourced most of it and this has made matters even worse. Nobody seems to have much contact with the offshore call centres and it is a very hot potato just now
Processes The process currently involves receiving batches, spot checking goods and then checking them into the stock control system. QC happens again just before dispatch but it is poor and often there is an acceptance that support will have to carry the can. Sales have sold and dispatch have dispatched. The process currently involves receiving batches, spot checking goods and then checking them into the stock control system. QC has no interest in packaging they only consider the hardware items Nobody questions the quality of packaging, support or other peripherals. People ask the guy next door when stuck and they tell customers to read the manual, or they are if in doubt, to  send it back
Programmes Commercial Sales Operations
Rational behaviour   Logic and rules above all else, including sometimes common sense Programmes insist on business cases and examine the rationale when a project or programme is ready to begin All decisions are made on a cost basis and calculated don to small fractions of percents Most decision are driven by pound and pence targets Ops is mostly rational and processes are driven largely by systems
Political behaviour   Worrying about impacts on self ahead of all other concerns There is a Program Office that insists on following certain procedures and everyone in this is very careful to be seen to follow he rules regardless of the outcomes of their chosen behaviour. There is some political thinking in terms of correct behaviour when dealing with vendors but apart from this it is not a prevalent force. If anything the odd corner is cut when maybe it should not. Lip service is paid to the rules but they are broken as and when it can be done without too much risk. The outcome is everything even at the expense of negative impacts The rules are more important than the outcomes in Ops, nobody gets sacked for following the rules
Garbage can   Jostling to get own pet projects ahead regardless of what is  best for the business Deciding which project gets started and funded is almost entirely about jostling for space and funds with others. When it is politically favourable then old campaigners will quickly suggest their solutions to the problem of the day ad grab some budget. For all the process, it is mostly organised anarchy No real evidence of this behaviour mode This months target is more important than anything including the long term good of the business Little evidence of this behaviour

Who are the key stakeholders and what is their interest? Now lets diagram the key stakeholders who can impact delivery of our project.

stakeholder proximity chart
stakeholder proximity chart

Above you see a representation of the various groups involved and the distance apart represents their level of interest and involvement.  The ones outlined in Orange are the ones directly impacting the customer experience though as you can see some could scarcely be more remote and detached from it. Others such as finance and Purchasing are key drivers if not always actors in the state of customer experience, though mostly unaware and disinterested. Clearly there is work to be done to rally these stakeholders sufficiently to deliver a result.       Here is another view from a communications viewpoint communications matrix

  1. Clearly we need to convince finance to release some capital. Finance are mostly outcome driven, though they also like to stick to process so  until we present a strong business case correctly presented, we will not achieve much.
  2. We need Operations and Customer services both to adapt new ways and this will stir up certain rivalries that need to be handled by HR.
  3. We need HR onside for process changes, but also because we are recommending a Head of Customer Focus to champion the customer experience and have jurisdiction across channels and across departments form the proposition right through marketing and sales and support and who above all else, will be accountable for customer experience. We need a well defined and supported plan with clear structures and accountabilities for any changes and enlist HR in refining this, debugging it and implementing it. We can then get their moral support.

 

  1. We need Purchasing to get much more involved with the customer experience aspect so they understand the total cost, not just the hardware when making their decisions and we need to communicate better with external and offshore customer service people. This will be a substantial change for purchasing and will need to be carefully planned with HR to ensure there is sufficient incentive. .

Finally we will need to take a closer look at the technical situation to see what is possible and how big a job any changes might be.   The technical solution was twofold.

  1. We needed to purchase a  Knowledge Management System to keep track of the training materials and make it available to the website, the trainers and the customer service staff as well as to the SME and author teams who would keep it up to date.  There are many good COTS versions available and this is a straightforward technical solution.
  2. We needed an ESB solution to hold a single copy of each piece of critical information in SAP so that we could access it quickly in high volume and without putting any strain on the SAP installation. This we would need no scaling of SAP and no high cost integrations for each new web page or system. A standard ESB would provide simple APIs, web services and publish subscribe PUBSUB approaches for our dev teams.

Before   before integration architecture or as-is     After Integration target architecture   The programme plan     Let’s now create a first draft of the programme for this one chosen problem of high customer support  costs and low customer satisfaction. Do remember that we are not trying to document an entire programme in a blog and there will be major omissions, but do feel free to bring this up in the comments section. Below are the key headings

  1. The vision and benefits. Important changes in any organisation or even in an individual rely on beginning with a clear vision of the future and why you want to get there. This vision should motivate you along the way and provide guidance in times of ambiguity. The benefits should form a solid business case and stand up to close scrutiny.
  2. The journey Every vision entails a journey and it is made up of a beginning, a middle and an end. The middle will develop fully later when we get into project planning, but for now the” where we are”, “where we want to be” and a high level understanding of “how we will get there” is what is needed to get off the ground. The important thing about the middle is that we include the business and IT changes required to drive benefits along with technology.
  3. Knowing when we have arrived. Benefits measurement strategy and progress monitoring are both part of this.

We must have a measurable outcome to focus on even if the measurement metrics seem vague to some, we also need a way of knowing how we are doing while still on the journey to the first deliverable. Remember that there are usually deliverables in the sense of process, or technology to come first and quickly followed by business change and benefits realisation. Before the process or technology changes are made there is no opportunity usually to begin on delivering and measuring benefits. I am not about to blog an entire Programme plan so I will leave you t imagne the remainder.