Organizations like to talk about how important they consider the customer experience. Yet, according to recent research from Forrester, most fail to deliver really good ones. Why?

One of my closest work friends is a customer experience consultant. This is a role that is highly demanded by many organizations, so it's surprising on some levels that many of these organizations fail so miserably at delivering optimal customer experiences.

Forrester Research, Inc. -- June, 2011

Despite the fact that the customer experience is considered a strategic priority and that many organizations have an entire team dedicated to it, there are still major issues with delivery, including:

  • Failure to consider all touchpoints in the customer's journey
  • Failure to understand the impact of the actions of all its employees and partners in that experience

Essentially, organizations need to take a much more holistic view of the customer experience and they need to recognize that at any step in the decision making process there are a lot of factors that can affect the customer's decision -- and not all of them are entirely under their control.

Understanding the Customer Experience Ecosystem

Forrester says that in order to deliver a successful customer experience, organizations need to consider the entire customer experience ecosystem:

The complex set of relationships among a company’s employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions.

It's important to note that there may be competing interests here as every party has its owns needs and desires. And mapping out this ecosystem isn't exactly easy to do. To get started Forrester suggests picking a particular customer journey and document it in its entirety. The focus should be on an experience that is very painful, yet important to the customer.

Complete in depth research with all players, including employees, partners and the actual customers and create visualizations of the problem. Once you have done that, figure out what the underlying root cause is and determine if there are people in the ecosystem who aren't getting appropriate value.

Learning from Service Design

To learn how to map out a complete customer experience ecosystem, Forrester suggests learning from the field of service design. Some suggestions to do this include brings different ecosystem participants into the creation process, trying different prototyping approaches and creating solutions that are unfinished to allow room for the experience to evolve.

Forrester's research report, The Customer Experience Ecosystem offers a lot of examples of how it has been done by a number of different organizations and departments such as financial, marketing, legal, IT and more.

Keep in mind that you aren't done once you map the ecosystem, you need to ensure that your employees and partners clearly understand their role in the customer experience and create incentives to encourage them to improve how they work to deliver that experience (in the case of employees, Forrester suggests tying it to performance metrics).

Things will change in your organization if you make a concentrated effort to truly deliver what the customer needs. It's likely a long road, but one that should yield positive benefits at the end.