Should companies develop their own CX solutions?

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Very often I have meetings and discussions with customers who have developed their own flavour of CX software and ask if and why should they change to a vendor’s standard solution. Depending on the size of the company, I see a trend with moving to standardized software rather than keeping the customized developments. Developing a home-grown application has the initial and great advantage of starting with few targeted capabilities that are critical and specific to the company; also, it bears a smaller commercial footprint, and last but not least the ability to add features as the business users ask, step by step and independently from any product market trend.

So my answer to those customer is: it depends. What is as good as a tailored suit today, may not fit tomorrow.

What happens when the company evolves and increases in complexity, typically leads to many issues with the home-grown application:

  • Maintenance: as the application was originally based on functionality requests coming from the internal users, at some point of the complexity curve it may become very difficult to keep up with the pace of the new requests, so when the deployment cycle has just finished for one set of features, the developers’ team is already late for the new batch.
  • Features: when the new application has a very basic set of capabilities, it’s kind of difficult to realize what would be needed and what can be achieved outside the narrow targeted scope, which makes it difficult to plan upgrades and developments.
  • Timing: in order to reach 100% of feature availability, this could really take months of development, moving the return of investment to a wider time-frame.
  • Trust in the software algorithm: if the developed solution at some point starts to seem weak, this risks mining the entire project and any future evolution: better having less safe features than risk the users trust.
  • Scalability and  performance: tools that were originally intended for a specific number of users sometimes cannot simply scale or provide adequate performances when running on larger users groups.

So there is, in my experience, a sweet spot when a customer is tired of maintaining the home-grown solution and eager for more standardized products, but at the same time with a fully expert team of developers who can really use the new solution at 100%. Swapping to a vendor’s solution at the right time will have the effect of letting the internal team specialize on customizations and small developments, while focusing on the company’s core business. Precious and high skilled resources can then be used to focus on new ways of using the technology, rather than spend lot of time with Q&A and application maintenance.

When digital gives you privacy

The other day I was on public transportation and obviously everyone was tapping on their smartphone, included myself, when I realized someone was loudly talking on their phone. In a place packed with people, a middle aged lady, presumably a psychologist, was discussing a clynic case with lots of detailed information about some poor guy. Then after a few moments, a young lady was making a couple of private appointments, with loads of information we really did not want to hear.

The reaction of the whole audience was:

1. heads up from the smartphone

2. show indifferent/annoyed/amused stare to the loud-talking people

3. a guy actually swapped place fuming as evidently realized he really did not want to hear the conversation.

This made me think that I usually tend to make my phone conversations with sensitive information very private, as in “home-office-when-nobody-else-is-at-home” privacy, and otherwise any other information exchange with other people happens on other media. And I kind of like that so much, that I was in the annoyed/amused reaction while listening to stuff that now I cannot un-hear.

Whenever you need to communicate you often have the choice to define the context, and based on this, to decide what channel best suits the interaction. Digital helps people keep their privacy, sometimes. (yes I know that it defies privacy in other ways, but still) Companies should be able to understand the psychology that is behind every channel choice and this kind of information is highly useful to plan the CX journey, as you are able to get the most out of every media, for what the media is actually and beneficially used for.

Context is key to correctly mapping the journey and the business drivers related to it, and should be considered first when planning a CX optimization process.

The random customer journey

When talking to customers and partners about digital channels, I rarely hear composed expressions like “Oh sure we have those, there is a strategy and a plan, and a complete map of the customer journey, and all is perfect, thanks”.

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In fact, the answers I get most of the times are more like “we have no clue on what to do, and our customer journey is completely random”. Which, you guys, is good news! A random customer journey means that your customers are still willing to spend time browsing through your available channels, despite sometimes being stuck somewhere, or getting the wrong answers. They believe in your company, and in the fact that at some point you will see that they are using all of the digital channels (for the engineers, more about naming convention in one of my latest posts), and improve their service following their choices.

Obviously, the target of any company is to drive the journey, and guide customers through it, by completely mastering their jumping from one channel to the other, while measuring impact and effectiveness with smart dashboards and stats. But in real life, there are very few customers at this stage, and also, you need to know that this stage is not final. It is just a step, in a cyclic process of optimization of the CX, that at some point will need to dynamically adapt, according to the many variables that move, in real time, within the company’s and the customers’ fast environments.

If the good news is you have a random journey, or call it a window of opportunity, the bad news is there is a lot of work to do, and usually it has little technology involved (although with the right technology the mapping is a lot easier and faster). Most of the work is, in fact, related to internal and external processes that have an impact on the journey, and to putting together all the departments that are not willing to talk to each other because, historically, they were never related. Today, all your communication-driven processes, internal and external to the company (I would dare to say all of them: is there any part of your business still without communication?) need to be integrated and consistent because this is the image reflected through an omni-channel customer care. So if you have offered multiple channel access to your customers in a random way and still have people browsing through it, it’s time to plan for a thoughtful and thorough assessment and re-design of your CX, before they change their mind and go to the competition’s random journey.

“He had found a Nutri-matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed, it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this, because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.” (Douglas Adams, The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

The unbearable lightness of a good customer experience (Einmal ist keinmal)

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One occurrence is not significant. This really sums up our feelings towards customer experience. If we happen to find the unicorn of CX, where everything runs smoothly and is fabulous and neat, we will still rant about the other 99% of occasions which left us sour-mouthed.

And why is that? I mean why can’t we brag about one nice experience and make it up for the other fails? I guess the answer is bordering philosophy and the fact that there is an intrinsic lightness to our experiences with companies and providers.

Or is it just that companies and providers are not making the effort and don’t deserve our feelings nor to be considered meaningful?

For now on, my resolve will be to spot any good CX and post it here, so it is no longer non-significant, at least for a few bytes. 🙂