Customer experience, quantum physics and the big picture

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Have we got our approach to CX wrong? I’ve got a concern that CX practitioners get marginalised when what they do is massively important for the businesses in which they work. Quantum physics can help here too…

I had the great pleasure of seeing a new play – Mosquitoes – at the National Theatre earlier this week. It’s set in Geneva in 2008 where one of two sisters is a physicist working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) as it goes live. The other sister leads a very different and somewhat chaotic life and the play deals with the collision between them, and their different beliefs and attitudes. It’s witty, emotional, very well acted and worth seeing – if you can get a ticket. It also has quite a lot of science in it which, for someone who over 40 years ago got most excited as a chemistry undergraduate by a brief study of quantum mechanics, was a great illustration of how much I had managed to forget.

Nonetheless, what little I do know is that the LHC seeks to understand subatomic particles and forces in order to understand the forces that govern the universe and it’s this aspect that’s resonated with me this week.

The problem with CX

CX has a problem of recognition and credibility: it occupies much the same space that IT occupies in many organisations – a specialised ‘dark art’ that has something to do with business success but we’re not quite sure what or how. The problem is that understanding customer journeys and identifying and fixing key touch points is vital to any organisation’s success, but CX practitioners don’t always do a good job of making the value clear.

And this is where the LHC comes in.

Let’s start with customer journeys. I’m of the view that customer journeys should be much wider in scope than they are and should address customer outcomes. Say, for example, that I want to buy a new bike. From a bike provider viewpoint my customer journey can be viewed as a transactional one where I want to buy a bike and the outcome is I either buy one from the site or shop or I don’t.

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However, buying a bike could be one stage on a journey from a state of unfitnesss to an improved, healthier lifestyle or to find a cheaper, less polluting way of getting to and from work. And these journeys could exist within even broader lifestyle plans and outcomes that I might have. Bike vendors taking a less transactional view of the journey can identify more opportunities to engage with the customer – lifestyle advice and help through to ongoing bike maintenance – and more touch points.

Within this extended version of the customer journey, the key touch points become critically important. In a recent article, Jeanne Bliss relates how Peloton – an exercise bike supplier in the US – identified delivery as the key area to get right for customers, including details such as taking shoes off on entering customers’ premises.

The problem for CX practitioners is that these tiny details are important but are just that: details. And senior executives, rightly, don’t concern themselves overmuch with details. Moreover, senior executives are sometimes guilty or transactional thinking about their business model – making the current model (and its customer journeys and outcomes) work harder rather than looking to extend the model to customer outcomes that the business could be delivering.

The challenge for CX, therefore, is to make that astrophysics-to-quantum-physics connection between the big journeys and the touch-point detail in a way that makes business sense and to help the business think creatively about the customer outcomes it is or could be delivering. In the case of the bike example, better delivery experience might drive increased sales through customer recommendation – all these things are trackable given the right set of voice of the customer measures.

Until then, CX practitioners, like the hapless scientist in the play I saw, face the prospect of being unable to communicate their true value.

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