The key to transforming an old-model organization is to flood it with the experience of the customer.
The experience of the customer is the spear point of change. If anything is going to shift organization-centric thinking, it is a constant stream of examples of the difficulties customers have when interacting with the organization.
For years, organizations have become more and more distant from their customers. They have used technology to create a great digital wall of separation. Digital touchpoints are not about humans touching each other, but about humans touching technology. Touchpoints are about human separation and distance, not about closeness.
Technology, as it is being used by many organizations, is creating a barrier to entry. It’s not a barrier to entry for competitors, but rather for customers. It’s harder for employees to get out to the customer and it’s harder for customers to get into the organization.
That’s because relationships are seen as a cost. While potential customers are seen as an opportunity, current customers are seen as a cost to be managed down. Organizations are doing everything possible to reduce the points where employees and customers interact. The result, taken to its extreme, is a type of disconnected, sterile efficiency. The result, from a customers’ perspective, is disloyalty and the desire to switch.
In a typical organization today, most employees have no clue what sort of experience the customer is having interacting with them. There is no more important role of the digital professional than to bring this customer experience into the organization. It would be ideal if employees could experience the customer in a live situation by listening to them on a support call, for example, or watching them as they are tested, but that’s not really practical or scalable.
Video is the most powerful way we have found to expose as many employees as possible to the experience of customers. We run Task Performance Indicators with customers where we give them about 10 top tasks to complete. Most of our effort goes into the analysis of the test participant videos. We carefully look for trends and then we create video sequences of participants failing or having trouble. When you can show a short video of three or four customers failing at a particular point, and then back that up with data, that’s very powerful.
Whatever the method you choose, you must find a way to bridge the empathy gap that is widening into a chasm between many organizations and customers. In the age of Big Data the irony is that more and more organizations know less and less about their customers.
Equally so within organizations. There is a growing management-employee disconnect. You only have to look at the appalling state of the average intranet to see it. These intranets and internal systems are the result of decisions by managers, most of whom never actually use them, and who have never given any real consideration to the employees who do use of them.
We need to move away from the old culture that sees technology almost wholly as a replacement for people and a reducer of human-to-human interactions. Because if we bring this view to its logical extreme we arrive at a cold, sterile place with no relationships and no loyalty.
The transformation begins with the customer. The customer is the meme — the idea that we need to spread as widely and deeply as possible within the organization.