We need to talk about silos.

Recent research by my firm shows that more than two thirds of digital managers (68 percent) believe their organization’s internal structures are having a negative influence on the business’s ability to deliver effective customer journeys. 

In another study, 42 percent of executives agreed that silos are the biggest internal barrier to digital transformation.

But while organizations seem aware of the negative influence internal structures can have on digital products and services, many are struggling to establish a legacy of the right structures and processes they need to transform customer experiences.

Digital frontrunners such as Amazon and Netflix have developed new structures that make it far easier to adopt and evolve digital products in line with changing customer expectations. But it’s a very different story for organizations that aren’t as digitally mature and are still grappling with the siloed nature in which they deliver digital products and services to consumers.

Touchpoints vs. Customer Journeys

Those businesses facing ‘organizational inertia’ are often looking at the wrong thing, with a focus on individual touchpoints, rather than on the task of delivering seamless, end-to-end customer journeys across multiple channels.

Eighty percent of digital heads in our research, for example, say their business does not organize teams around major customer journeys, and nearly a third (27 percent) measure the performance of their products and services around individual touchpoints, rather than entire customer journeys.

Even more telling is that almost half (45 percent) of digital heads say their organization doesn’t have a formalized system in place for measuring how their digital products and services perform against customer expectations.

And with 75 percent of consumers expecting a consistent experience wherever they engage with brands, it’s clear that businesses operating and measuring success in digital silos will struggle to improve customer experience in meaningful ways.

McKinsey has added substantial weight to this argument by demonstrating that measuring customer satisfaction based on holistic customer journeys is 30 percent more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness based on individual interactions and channels.

The Journey to Better CX

Becoming a customer-centric organization doesn’t happen overnight. It requires an operational and culture shift that can only be achieved by engaging stakeholders across the entire business.

What’s encouraging is that 60 percent of digital managers in our research say their organization is already bringing stakeholders together to review structures and governance yearly or twice yearly. Continually assessing internal structures in this way is key to creating lasting change, but this is only possible if those structures are revised in line with changing customer needs and business goals.

Digital innovators are proof that having the right internal structures and culture is key to becoming a truly customer-centric organization. But there are great lessons to be learnt from less digitally mature organizations that are actively pursuing a digital transformation agenda.

Think in Terms of User Mindset

An independent nursing agency in the UK recently recognized it needed to become far more customer-experience-orientated to remain relevant and grow its user base.

As part of a detailed discovery process, the agency conducted focus groups with its nurses and held experience mapping sessions.

Rather than just looking at what the nurses did and the services they needed, the workshops provided a look into what the nurses were thinking, hearing, feeling and doing, at every stage of the user journey.

Thinking in terms of user mindset, rather than age or demographics, was key to understanding how the organization could deliver better digital experiences. It provided a window into the motivations behind a user’s actions and allowed the agency to map the entire user journey in detail, a process that generated 72 potential opportunities to improve the customer experience. The organization then assessed these opportunities against their ability to affect the organization’s KPIs and make it more successful.

Develop a Digital Roadmap

It’s one thing to know where your business wants to go with digital. It’s another to have a coherent plan to get there. Having shortlisted 36 digital initiatives from the experience mapping sessions, the nursing organization used a simple assumptions map to prioritise those initiatives and decide on the best approach for pursuing them.

Learning Opportunities

As an example, opportunities that were found to be higher risk to the business were identified as suitable candidates for small digital experiments and prototypes to test assumptions and measure their performance against strategic goals. Others were identified as potential quick-wins that were easy to define and get started with.

In this way, they were able to develop a service blueprint or digital roadmap to become digitally fit for the future, deliver more meaningful customer experiences, and to make its business goals a reality.

A digital roadmap is a high-level document that outlines what the organization wants to achieve and identifies some digital initiatives to help it get there. As with internal structures, the digital roadmap needs to be reviewed on a frequent basis and updated where relevant.

With its digital roadmap in place, the nursing organization now owns its digital transformation and has a constant reference point to keep its digital strategy on track and aligned with your business goals.

Use prototypes to test ideas

Being a market leader depends on an organization’s ability to deliver great digital experiences, quickly.

The nursing organization learned that making it easier for nurses to find and book shifts was key to delivering better customer experiences. To test this hypothesis, the agency tested a new proof-of-concept app which enabled nurses to book shifts from their mobile device. The app was tested with a focus group to observe real user behaviors and gather insight to inform further development.

The prototype enabled the organization to test an idea, measure the response it received with the target audience, and base any further development on evidence, rather than assumptions.

For higher-risk, or potentially high-cost initiatives in particular, digital prototypes are a great way to prove hypotheses and get internal buy-in. When you consider that the ‘lack of internal agreement on where to focus efforts and resource’ is the number-one obstacle to achieving powerful customer experiences, the value of prototyping becomes clear.

By quickly and simply testing the smallest element possible, and then learning about customers’ responses, you can base further development of your products and services on evidence and real-time customer feedback, rather than assumptions.

Think Big, Start Small

Legacy internal structures can prevent organizations from understanding product performance in terms of end-to-end customer journeys. By encouraging a siloed approach to service delivery, they prevent organizations from understanding how they can meaningfully improve customer experience.

Those that fail to overcome these limitations will ultimately lose in today’s era of the customer. But as the example of the UK nursing agency shows, you don’t have to be an Amazon to introduce the right structures and processes to get closer to your customers and drive innovation.

Any organization is capable of digital transformation, and that transformation begins with agile teams, cross-departmental collaboration, and the mandate to start with small, measured experiments.

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