“Hi, Welcome, would you like a cupcake with your cup of tea?”
When direct selling took off in the 60s with housewives coming over for tea and presenting their products, it did so because we enjoy a personal interaction. By interacting at a personal level over time you build a close personal relationship. When you visit the neighbor for tea, you feel welcome and you are being listened to. When you are then offered a product the seller can easily offer personal advice and service based on the understanding of you. All large organisations tend to be strongly divided into departments and functions. For the fraud department to talk to customer service can seem to require a formal meeting. The IT department to discuss with traders or sales people is something that may happen a couple of times per year and it will be between senior people in a meeting room, not on point where things really happen.
If you aim to provide a great customer experience this is going to be a big challenge. In the past the way we made a “great” website, mobile app or medical device was to hire a “Leading Design Agency” where magic elves would work in a hippie community to come up with a “Great Design” to “woo” the masses. It was always bull shit, and we all knew it. Hey, It sounds great. Ok, the new website needs to look nice, it does need to look geometrically pleasing, balanced in the use of colours, and the symbols need to make sense. First impressions are 94% design driven.
Beyond the look and feel, there is also how things work. I’m sure that I’m not alone in judging a website on how easy it is to stay logged in and move between the 5 computers that I use daily. Many might also share my aversion against waiting to talk to a “Service Representative” to fix a problem that shouldn’t exist. Some might even agree that interacting with most of the services that we use on a normal day should be possible to do with a couple of button presses or instructions on a mobile phone.
After working with technology projects for big organisations for several decades I know how much money is spent to pay for projects to move the needle, and yet the needle doesn’t move. I can categorically say that the challenges have little to do with the technology(apart from being held back by legacy tech) and everything to do with the people. You might conclude that you should hire better managers or pay the ones you have more. I tend to think that the problem lies with the organisation being too navel gazing. If you want your customers to love your service, then measure your success on how much they love it and work towards maximising that. Align the incentives around it. Reward people for their collaboration and punish managers creating fiefdoms inside the company. Mitigate points where big failure can happen, because if you want to improve you have to learn by trying something new. If failing is catastrophic, nobody will want to try.
Entrenched enterprises get away with terrible service every day, but if your customers only reason to use your product is that they are not sure the alternatives are any better it is just a question of time before they do. Consider for instance the German fintech startup Number 26. They introduced one feature that would be enough to make me switch bank (I can’t because I don’t live in Germany). When you use your credit card a message pops up on your phone for you to confirm the payment. The concept is as simple as you can make it. No confirmation on the phone, no money going out of my account. For the bank it means that they need a much smaller fraud department. For the customers it means less hassle. Banking in the UK has cost me between 2-3 hours per year of frustrating waiting on the line and trying to recall when I last used my card. If a typical customer has this sort of experience, I imagine that they would be happy to switch credit card provider, and if that works well, why not switch bank.
Danske Bank introduced a new mobile banking service in 2013 and saw an adoption rate that was 10 times of what they expected. They realised that while it was a great success it showed that a competitor could come in and push them out of a market by providing the right service.
We see the way forward as taking advantage of technology across your organisation to establish a direct conversation with your end User or Customer. To do so you should gather people across many departments and Design for Conversation (my talk at Google DevFest).
So if you’re among the few that have to power to initiate something great at your company I hope you will consider engaging in a broader conversation between Sales, Customer Service, IT and Experience Design. Ask why a lot. Make every project focus on creating things that people are passionate about, and keep releasing significant improvements.