What’s the most important thing you can do to make your business not only survive but thrive? Consider this. Really put the customer first and honestly assess the customer’s experience by looking for those touchpoints within your company that could be improved. Not addressing these could be driving customers away.
Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine in their book Outside In; The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business believe “attracting and retaining customers is how we make money, so a logical process to focus on for any company is to first improve customer experience then strengthen the brand and, as a result, generate cash.” They even provide a framework for taking that first step of determining where in the customer journey/experience they are making an exit. Manning and Bodine’s framework does what an ecologist does when a natural ecosystem isn’t functioning normally—find the problem element in the system and fix it! Because if you don’t, customers will walk.
When the butterfly population in Zion National Park plummeted in 1911, scientists studied the park’s natural ecosystem to determine the root cause. Their conclusion? Tourism. Tourists arrived, the threatened Cougars left, with no predator the deer thrived, their favorite lunch— sapling Cottonwood trees—declined, stream banks eroded, wildflowers died off, and ultimately butterflies disappeared. To bring back the butterflies, scientists suggested controlling tourism. Zion National Park did; the butterflies returned.
Here’s a summary of their framework for “the customer experience ecosystem.” No sophisticated tools are necessary—just poster paper, three packs of different colored sticky notes, several sheets of various colored stickers, some markers and a couple uninterrupted hours from key individuals.
First, pick an important target customer and think of a problematic point in their customer journey with your company—from the time they become aware of your product or service through purchase and even follow-up with customer service. Be sure that the journey you select is one you understand well and won’t need to research.
Next write down the series of actions that the customer takes as part of that problem journey. Take the billing process as an example. The process could be described as: opens bill and reads it, sees charge that looks wrong, calls customer service to get billing details, etc. Write each of these actions on a different colored sticky note and place the notes in a row across the top of the sheet of poster paper, like this.
Next write down all the people and groups that your customer interacts with at each step: the call center agent or someone in the billing department. Do the same thing for objects or systems that the customer touches like a mobile phone or a paper bill. Put the people or groups on pink sticky notes and the objects or systems on yellow sticky notes—you choose the colors. Then place both sets of notes on the poster paper lined up under the relevant steps in the process like this.
Now draw a horizontal line across the middle of the poster paper. Under this line will be what’s NOT visible to the customer. Now post the actions, people, groups, objects, and systems that support the above the line parts of the ecosystem. Things like your bill designer, bill printer, billing department, etc. See the example below.
Now the fun begins! Add colored dots to the sticky notes; green dots on what is working well from the perspective of the person who touches, yellow on parts that are making people unhappy, and red dots for elements in the system making people very unhappy.
In this example, you discover that customer interactions with company people, objects or systems turned red while employee or company partners interactions stayed green, even though they were a root cause of customer grief. The real surprise was the consistently repeated pattern of unhappy customers let down by happy oblivious employees and partners.
If you are at all uneasy with your customers’ experience with any part of their journey with your company, begin your discovery of potential problems with Manning and Bodine’s framework, “the customer experience ecosystem.” Don’t let your customer walk. By using this ecosystem map, you’ll take the first step to find and fix customer experience problems that may be threatening your company’s success. And if you need a guide in the process, give us a call.