A clear target customer experience creates purpose that colleagues can share

Estelle Ricoux

3 minute read

Politics, infighting, and organisational complexities all seem to shrink when there’s clear purpose.

At Friday, we have developed a model for assessing digital maturity based on patterns we identified talking to and working with people who bear responsibility for driving strategic change in large organisations. We bring the people together in peer-roundtables. Beforehand, we meet with each of the attendees to assess the relative digital maturity of their organisation and benchmark their business against the 50+ organisations across sectors that we have worked with before.

This is a summary of our roundtable discussion in February, which was attended by representatives of Betfair, First Utility, GRAZE.com and Moneysupermarket.com.

The need for a clear and shared vision

In most organisations the vision for a Target Customer Experience isn’t well shared across the business. Alignment only exists in pockets and silos. This leads to departments and teams competing for limited resources, pursuing divergent ambitions or operating in opposition rather than union. Obviously, this hinders the development of a consistent and consistently better customer experience.

In this roundtable session participants came from a selection of relatively “new” organisations — less than 20 years old, all (still) struggling to some extent with growing pains, moving from founder-run organisations to medium-sized businesses. All attendees had stories to share about the fundamental culture and behaviour changes that are needed to “play” in new spaces and compete, and were adjusting at different speeds. All agreed that a shared vision for the direction of the business and the Target Customer Experience, owned and communicated from the top, was necessary to succeed.

What we are missing is clear communication. This is what we are doing. And this is how we all are going to work together. These are the goals we are going to aim for along the way. And this is how we are going to meet them.

One of our attendees talked about the value clear, shared leadership principles can offer: bringing teams together, focusing everyone on the “big picture”, helping to prioritise and organise. The example highlighted was Amazon with its well known tenets that are used as guiding principles in everyday business decisions throughout the organisation. A principle like “Customer Obsession” gives everyone in the organisation direction to keep the focus of every project and task on earning and keeping customer trust.

Alignment of technology, marketing and commercial teams

In most organisation that we talk to the relationship between technology, marketing and commercial teams is at best described as “tense”. At its worst it’s a full on turf war. Ownership over products and services is neither clearly defined nor ever truly shared. To make matters worse there is distrust between teams and not enough back-up from the top — sometimes with hostilities increasing proportionally with seniority.

If I’d ask on any given current project “Who’s the product owner?”, probably about ten people would put their hand up. I’d describe our relationship at tense. It’s not quite a turf war, but it’s close.

Everyone in our discussion identified this as a challenge that needed to be addressed in order to deliver a better Target Customer Experience. And every organisation was experimenting with a different approach to bring the needed alignment and balance. After all, the customer doesn’t care about the internal organisational struggles behind a product or service.

Approaches included:

  • Co-departmental committees with technology, marketing an commercial representatives
  • New peer-relationships between the different representatives to encourage collaboration
  • Entirely new overarching product management functions with unified responsibility for technology, commercial and marketing decisions

No clear winning formula was apparent, and all of these were running as the latest experiment.

Commercial goals vs. putting the customer first

Building lasting competitive advantage through an exceptional customer experience needs long term thinking. But transforming a culture of short term quick fixes takes time and brings fundamental changes. Thinking long term means putting the customers first and acting on behalf of the entire organisation, not just as a team or an individual.

Our direction as an organisation is at the minute based around commercial targets, like “increase conversion to sale”. That’s what’s driving the change in the organisation, not “give customers a better experience”. There’s still the hardcore commercial scepticism which keeps the focus on the outcome.

With all good intentions, in the day-to-day, long term thinking is often diluted by, or even “paused” to make room to focus on, short term needs like reactions to financial results. But thinking and acting quarter to quarter limits the room and focus to develop and build better future experiences. All organisations were running a balancing act here — and many were envious of the organisations whose focus on clear long-term outcomes prevented them being buffeted by near-term commercial imperatives.

It’s a continuous conflict. Short term vs. long term goals. We start off with a long term vision and it gets diluted because of short term course corrections. It stops us delivering on our long term strategy.

To those in the room, the degree of short-term buffeting seemed inversely proportional to the clarity of focus on a meaningful strategic outcome.

We’d love to talk to you about whether your digital services give you the competitive advantage they should. Get in touch to join one of our regular roundtable sessions.

Estelle Ricoux

Head of Strategy
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