June 23, 2016 | InBrief

Evolve customer experience from break fix to breakthrough

Evolve customer experience from break fix to breakthrough

As customer experience leaders, we live in remarkable times. Firms like Dyson, Apple, LocalMotors are turning often incredibly dull and commodity items into works of admiration that customers love to use…and for which they are willing to pay premiums. Others like Uber, AirBnB and Dollar Shave Club are reinventing industries with entirely new business, operational and technology models.

The financial success of these companies has put design thinking and customer experience on the front cover of the September issue of 2015’s Harvard Business Review and has elevated customer experience leaders into the C-suite of the biggest companies. Over 22% of Fortune 100 companies already have a “chief customer officer” or some other title whose mandate is to advocate for the customer’s needs across the company. While many firms have started laying fantastic foundations for getting better at CX (e.g. voice of the customer programs, journey mapping) and are enjoying unprecedented visibility, most companies deliver mediocre experiences. That’s because firms were designed and optimized for product fulfillment, not customer success. Building capabilities like listening to customers and mapping journeys are critical to get started and can identify low-hanging problems to fix immediately. But alone, they hit a wall when they fail to address the core issues stemming from organizational design.

To move beyond break-fix, firms need to look at their organizational design through a customer-focused lens. When I started this exercise, I simply turned to a very common organizational design model: the Galbraith Star. To begin getting a sense of what it starts looking like to rethink your organizational design for customer experience, consider a few examples:

  • Re-frame strategy to impress customers rather than shareholders.  Breakthrough experiences must have company strategies framed in terms that matter to customers, not the company. When Disney was re-thinking its retail store strategy, it settled on becoming “the best 30-minutes of a child’s day”, instead of growth or geographic expansion objectives that are typical of many strategies. The company realized the store was a portal to all of Disney’s other properties, not an island unto itself. Delivering on “the best 30-minutes” even allowed the company to reduce product count and retail space to ensure there was room for storytelling, shows and other things kids (and therefore parents) care about.

  • Re-align processes to customer journeys. At some point, companies like USAA have realized they can’t scale effectively when their operations operate counter to customer behavior. The ah-ha came when the firm mapped the “car buying journey” – the real objective a customer had when looking for insurance, which also included financing -- and realized the redundant capabilities, lost opportunities and poor experience to get both.  The company set course to begin aligning its business and technology architecture to customer life events, such as buying a car, buying a house, deploying, or coming home.

  • Engage the extended ecosystem. Breakthrough experiences require firms to think outside of the walls of their organizations and align the 3rd parties that are regularly part of delivering the experience. Audi engaged nearly 300 dealership executives around research it had done to identify key “moments of truth” for the customer experience to “craft every moment.” The field organization worked with individual dealerships on action plans to improve these moments that drove customer advocacy.


Every firm that embarks on transformation from a product-centric to a customer-centric company is on a voyage. Certainly starting out by building foundations and getting to the place where at least they are fixing the problems that create detractors is commendable. However, for those that after a few years of doing this work hit a wall, the place to look is at organizational design. It’s one thing to intentionally design a one-off experience…the next level is to intentionally design the organization for customer experience.

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