In this age of rampant digitisation, there is a heavy focus on the Customer Experience (CX): Omni-channel strategies; customer-centric design; Single Customer View; frictionless customer experiences - just some of the concepts we read and hear so much about. And yes, these are all essential elements of a successful customer engagement strategy. But what about experiences that fall ‘below the line’? That is, the User Experience (UX) encountered by the people and teams that are responsible for delivering those very same delightful customer moments. The UX may be unseen by customers, but if ignored, it is certainly felt by them: A poor UX will undermine all the work that goes into crafting positive CX.
A well-defined Customer Experience will revolve around a coherent set of products or services; navigation through these will be clear and easy, and the customer will be inclined (or incentivised) to return with repeat business… or recommend it to friends and colleagues. The business grows through the power of virality. By no means easy to achieve, a delightful CX is a walk in the park compared with an optimised UX.
Why is this?
- System Complexity & Access
More often than not, a single customer journey will depend upon multiple underlying systems. Systems that are administered by Developers, DBAs, Systems Engineers, Network Engineers, Testers; each of whom require privileged access. Technology limitations or security protocols might preclude the availability of simple account verification (e.g. Single Sign On), which means the UX is degraded by having to enter multiple access credentials.
Microservices architecture and API gateways have emerged as the middleman between legacy monoliths and modern architecture. When implemented well, they enable the harmonious co-existence of mainframes with apps. But this is technical trickery; architectural sleight of hand; the reality of awkward UX persists and, in the worst-case scenario, worsens. Nirvana is an entirely modern architecture, but that’s a pipe dream: today’s modern is tomorrow’s legacy.
For large enterprises whose core business is B2B, the concept of ‘customer’ is an abstraction. The vast majority of users will never interact directly with paying customers, so first-hand insight is hard to come by. More enlightened organisations will extoll the virtues of treating ‘users as customers’. Instilling this mind-set tirelessly, and in the long-term, is an essential part of improving UX through empathy.
Balanced scorecards, KPI-based targets and the like are the bedrock of continuous improvement frameworks. The intent is laudable, but challenges emerge as the status quo evolves. The technology landscape of any large organisation is constantly changing; be it people, functionality, structure, systems, vendors… the list is endless. The integrity of the KPI framework comes under pressure as teams focus on meeting their specific targets, siloes emerge, and the underlying intent is compromised.
So, what to do?
In short, give UX the same attention as CX. Your internal customers are the ones who deliver the experience that customers pay for; the revenue that drives your business; the salaries that sustain your workforce. If their effectiveness is hampered by poor UX, the inevitable outcome is inefficient working practices, reduced productivity, frustrated people… and impaired CX.
Practical Steps to an improved UX
- Start with a conversation. Understanding the challenge is the first step towards an improved UX. Speaking with people and hearing them describe their day-to-day challenges is the simplest and most powerful way of getting insight into the quality of their UX. The more people you speak with, the more empathy you’ll build by feeling their pain.
- Seek feedback. While there’s no substitute for a face-to-face conversation, you have to be mindful of scale and geography. You simply cannot speak to everyone in every part of your organisation. Survey and questionnaire tools are useful for capturing feedback in a format that can subsequently be analysed and trended.
- Map Key User Journeys. Based on analysis of the insights from your conversations and user surveys, you should be able to identify a top-10 (or top-whatever...!) of user journeys to prioritise for improvement. Customer, or User Journey maps, can then be developed to document points of view, mind-sets, hand-offs between teams/people, key system challenges, etc. Customer Journey Maps are a visual means of telling your users’ stories… and provide the basis for an improved UX.
- Start small, build momentum and iterate. The scale of the challenge in large organisations cannot be overstated (especially if UX has never been a priority). Cynicism and resistance to change is likely to be a significant factor. And there may be some challenging technical roadblocks to overcome. The potential to be overwhelmed is significant; identifying some quick wins to prove the concept will help overcome any inertia and generate support for the initiative.