“Time to Weed the Garden” – How CIOs Can Improve Customer Experience (CX)

Posted by Rick Davidson on August 9, 2020

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Are companies making it difficult for our customers to use our products or consume the services we offer? Have they put business rules in place over time that now serve as barriers to delivering great customer experiences? As a consumer, you know the rules – the ones that constrain our options when we dare to redeem loyalty points or when companies coerce us into using one channel (web) over another (a live contact center agent) to lower customer support costs. These are just a couple of examples, but the list is endless.

These rules might have made sense at one point in time, but they have become “weeds in the garden.” The rules, at best confuse and, at worst, antagonize us as customers. Most customers have no patience for rules based on what’s best for companies and not what is in our interests as customers. Call this today’s “consumer narcissism,” but we are all too busy to tolerate rules that assume we are either clever criminals scheming to exploit some vulnerability or mindless consumers that can be manipulated.

If instructions are required, the product
or service is already broken.

CX at Sub-Zero case

Successful customer experiences are about a positive exchange of value between a customer and a company’s products and services. Anything that gets in the way of this value exchange needs to be weeded out. Additionally, the processes for buying and using a product or service need to be efficient and customer-centered. These processes, and the rules they incorporate, should be intuitive. If instructions are required, the product or service is already broken. Smart, simple and fast are the “fresh flowers” that customers expect today. Anything less and customers will find an alternative.

How Did We Get Here?

To answer that question, let’s spend a moment to review several factors. First, in the continual quest to differentiate products and services, companies have layered on more and more features and functions as a way to stay a step ahead of the competition. Eventually, these features and functions create more and more complexity, resulting in confusion and frustration for customers. The product or service then collapses under its own weight. The process starts all over again with a new product or service.

Ask your customers. They will tell you what
detracts from a great experience.

Second, and more damaging, are the business rules that companies develop to protect against financial losses. The unfortunate assumption made by many companies is that customers, if left to their own devices, will find ways to exploit weaknesses in products and services to their financial advantage and to the company’s disadvantage. The inevitable response: assume that some of their customers have nefarious intentions and put in place rules that prevent the exploitation of product or service vulnerabilities. Punish 98% of the customers for the 2% that would take advantage of these weaknesses. Is that a good business model? Actually, it falls apart when competitors find a clever way to sort out and manage the 2% and not punish the 98%. How? One way is by using sophisticated data analytics. Credit card companies have been doing this for years to detect fraudulent card activity.

What Can CIOs Do Right Now to Weed the Garden?

First, CIOs need to understand that they, in fact, have a significant role in improving CX. Developing, configuring and delivering CX-related systems and solutions, as well as providing metrics on CX performance, are just two examples. CIOs, with their business colleagues, should set a goal of reaching continually higher levels of customer experience maturity. Here are ten ideas for CIOs to consider:

  1. Ensure that your CEO sponsors the CX initiative. Get CEO approval to lead the effort. Nearly all business operations and support functions will be involved and should share similar goals and incentives. The CEO can make this happen.
  2. Engage a business partner to co-lead the effort. This will explicitly make the point that the focus is on improving CX and not about implementing new technology. The Customer Service function is a good place to look for a co-leader.
  3. Become a customer of your own organization. Getting first-hand experience with your company’s product and service offerings from the outside in will give you both the insights and credibility to lead a CX initiative.
  4. Assume that most of your customers want to do the right thing. Don’t develop business processes and rules that punish the 98% in order to prevent the 2% from fraudulently exploiting an opportunity. Be clever and innovative in dealing with the 2%.
  5. Explicitly solicit the voice-of-the-customer (VOC). It’s important to understand which business processes and rules create roadblocks to a positive CX. Ask your customers – they will tell you what is broken.
  6. Based on Voice of the Customer (VOC) feedback, create a list of offensive CX rules. Triage the list of rules and broken processes into three categories – candidates for elimination, simplification and automation.
  7. Eliminate, simplify and then automate complex processes and business rules. Streamline your processes and rules before any discussion of information technology.
  8. Address complex issues through collaboration. Bring in mid-level leaders with CX responsibilities to capture a diversity of ideas and solutions. Directors and Managers are the best positioned to identify and make CX changes.
  9. Avoid codifying complexity into software. It is difficult and costly to undo. Address complexity by empowering people with information, enabling them the latitude to address customer issues and then holding them accountable for CX results.
  10. Weigh the economic value of a rule versus the impact on CX. A simple formula – the benefit of complexity minus the cost of complexity equals CX value (ideally a positive result) – can help you prioritize which rules to eliminate.

If you are interested in learning more about how to “weed the garden,” our experienced CIOs at Cimphoni can guide you and your team through the necessary steps. We can start with a “SnapShot” assessment across the business to discover and prioritize improvement opportunities. Or, if you have a specific area of the business that needs attention, we can start there as well. For CIOs, this is an area where you can truly impact your company’s customer experience by leading your business peers in a garden weeding exercise.