Today’s customers are a new beast. They have more choices than ever and are used to everything being delivered to them when, where and how they choose. 

This means that your customer experience needs to be as good as, if not better than, the product itself. 

The consequences of a lackluster CX are brutal—over half of millennials would be indifferent if the brands they use disappeared, according to research from Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. Put another way: Your brand’s very survival depends on your ability to deliver a superior CX. 

Over half of millennials would be indifferent if the brands they use disappeared.

To succeed in the new environment, marketers must view every customer touchpoint through the lens of the larger experience.

But success goes beyond simply having a customer experience vision and design. It also requires a focus on the employee experience and devotion to the underlying organizational structure needed to support it. Together, these three pillars are the foundation of transformation for the experience economy. Miss one and the whole thing crumbles.

Done right, the benefits of this kind of experience transformation are enormous. Well over half (58%) of consumers feel a bond with brands that help them save time and money and make their lives more enjoyable, according to the Center for the Future of Work. That’s why the experience you deliver has become your most important competitive advantage.

So here’s an in-depth look at the three imperatives of transforming your organization for the experience economy: customers, employees and internal organization structure.

Marketers have a habit of creating content and reusing it in all the channels in which it can be distributed. Because consumers have different expectations of content in different channels, this strategy is likely to fail.

Think about it like this: How would you feel if you paid $20 for a movie only to watch a cat video that was filmed on an iPhone? More likely than not, you’d be disappointed because you expected booming surround sound and a stimulating plot line.

Consumers feel similarly when they encounter a 30-second TV spot on your brand’s YouTube channel, for example. They sought out the channel because they were looking for consistently fresh instructional or entertaining content. Instead, they got a one-off promotional message.

For brands this means that any new customer experience must begin with a deep dive to understand what exactly customers expect from the channel. Start by thinking about your audience. How do you want them to respond to the experience? What’s their motivation for interacting with your brand in the first place? 

To answer those questions, you need to research how your customers engage with your brand and your competitors in different channels.

A U.S. fast-food chain faced this challenge when it realized it needed to redefine “convenience” for the digitally enabled consumer. It landed on a mobile loyalty-program app as the solution. Loyalty programs are hardly new in this arena—but the idea of rewarding frequent customers with a free meal has been supplanted by digital apps that can help provide real insights into each customer’s unique needs and tastes. 

The QSR embarked on a journey with its strategic partner to understand what consumers would want when they engaged with the brand on an app. They learned that consumers expect restaurant mobile apps to do more than house loyalty points or promotions for half-off burgers—they expect real functional value. 

In the chain’s case, this meant that customers needed to be able to order food from it, so it built an experience that aligned with that expectation. 

What had started as a marketing tactic ended up as a new sales channel that increased check size and opened up significant new revenue potential. 

The lesson?

The success of the program hinged on the brand stepping back to evaluate what customers expected from a mobile app.

Any new content should start with the medium. Think of the channel from a tactical perspective. What is the consumer looking for when they go to Instagram, for example? Messages should be brought to life in a manner that reflects the medium.

Failing to keep customer expectations top of mind can lead to a lack of interest, or worse, disdain.

No matter your industry, your employees likely interact with your customers on some level. If you want to update and improve the customer experience consider examining the pain points in the employee experience—you might be surprised to find that changing the employee experience can dramatically change the customer experience.

A global airline saw this play out when it revamped and modernized its customer experience after finding that customers were dissatisfied with service at the airport. Research revealed that it stemmed from issues with the employee-customer interaction.

Frontline employees were stuck behind a counter kiosk toggling between applications which made it difficult to smoothly interact with harried travelers. To solve the problem, a mobile app was developed so that reps could interact directly with travelers to check in, rebook and assign seats via one easy-to-use interface.

The success of the new experience also hinged on the work the leadership team did to educate the frontline employees. Without their buy-in—ensuring these teams understood not only what the benefits of the app were, but also how to execute tasks using the app —the shift to being more experience-driven would never have succeeded.

The solution to the airline’s problem might seem obvious, but it is surprising how many companies fail to examine the role of the employee when solving for customer pain points.  

The lesson?

Before rolling out new programs to improve customer experience, it’s critical that you study the employee experience. You might be astonished to see how much customer experience improves once the employees’ does.

When exploring a new customer experience, be sure to look at the role frontline employees play. Set up channels and processes to educate employees on how their day-to-day responsibilities will change. It’s critical that they have a solid grasp of what new tasks will be expected of them and why their role is changing. Failure to do so could result in confusion, reluctance to adopt new processes and systems and an overall poor experience for both the employee and the customer.

Customers now expect that all interactions they have with your brand are part of a larger interconnected experience. You may have different internal teams managing the digital experience and the in-store experience. But from the customer’s point of view, they are all part of the same experience—they are your brand. Whether they walk into your store, shop on your website or interact with your Instagram feed, customers expect their journey to be seamless.

For this to work, the larger organization needs to be structured to support all aspects of the new customer journey.

A leading insurance company needed to revamp its business model to stay competitive in a market disrupted by startups. To meet consumers where they were—online—it needed to build an organization that could sell insurance directly to consumers and service their claims digitally.

The company initially thought it could solve the problem by creating a web portal that could sell insurance online, but after working with its strategic partner, the brand realized that a new digital platform would not be enough to move the business forward if it was still organizationally set up to support the old way of doing things.

To back up the new digital experience, nearly every department had to rethink its role. The marketing team had to shift from corporate branding in mass channels to direct marketing in targeted channels to drive sales. The IT team had to go from supporting agent transactions to enabling personalized offers, quoting and binding policies and servicing claims. And customer data, which was previously not shared between sales and servicing, would need to be brought together into a single view.

Designing this kind of seamless approach is critical as customers now expect to buy insurance with the same ease with which they buy batteries or shoes. And when all was said and done, the new structure supported an experience that put the company on track to deliver net new revenue at lower cost.

In the end, it didn’t matter how flawless the customer interface was. If the company hadn’t restructured itself internally, it wouldn’t have been successful in the long run.

The lesson?

A commitment to customer experience requires you to take stock of your internal organization and honestly assess if your current teams have the processes in place to perform their new roles successfully.

This means examining every division to see if they have the processes and people needed to support their particular piece of the new experience. You also need to take stock of how different divisions collaborate. Break down barriers between departments and make sure that the new internal structure is crystal clear.

. . .

About the Author:
Deepthi Prakash is the head of Cognizant Interactive strategy and design. Cognizant Interactive designs and builds well-crafted experiences for customers and employees by aligning a company’s systems and stories. Its process is grounded in the philosophy that any human experience must be informed by what people feel, what they need—beyond what they want—and what it takes to make it happen.