Why do we need to unify around the customer journey?
I get this question quite a lot, and not in a passive-aggressive way; there's just a huge interest in it. And the answer is simple. Its strategic alignment.
Without strategic alignment around the customer experience and the customer journey, you get the classic multi-year throwing spaghetti at a wall. It gets really messy. In any large organization, such as Verizon, you end up with a lot of programs and initiatives tackling the same problem. Everybody is trying their best, but the risk here is that they're potentially going in different directions.
We need to find a way to align all of the different initiatives. To do this, we can use experience visions that are grounded in the voice of the customer derived from the insights from the UX research team. These can be an incredible unifying force for the entire company.
But enabling this requires a company that cares about, and listens to its users. I have adapted the Nielsen Norman model to track the maturity of UX in Verizon. The lowest level is where user experience is unrecognized and not important; putting lipstick on a pig UI. The highest level is embedded, where UX is central to every decision. Nielsen Norman state that this maturity can take from 4-20 years to achieve. I’m really proud to say that we achieved the embedded state in 3 years at Verizon.
But UX maturity isn’t enough. We have now transitioned into a lean enterprise and a customer-centered enterprise. What this means is really building these teams and models around the customer, their feedback, and direct channels with them. It means including marketing and hardware design and that entire experience, customer support, and more. So it really broadens that out.
You might be thinking “CX, UX, what's the difference”, but it has involved a real culture change to focus on customer outcomes at every level in the organization. We are now more focused on the behavior change for our internal teams and our customer-facing teams instead of being OKR-driven or target-driven.
Embedding the Customer
I was at an event and someone asked a speaker from the Mayo Clinic a question: “how did you become number one and so patient-centered or user-centered or customer-centered?” And they said it beautifully: “Put the customer at the center of every discussion AND decision throughout the company”. And that was a eureka moment for me because let's face it, there's a lot of talk and there's a lot of LinkedIn posts or Twitter posts about customer centricity, but it's talk. What matters is that all of the decisions in the company have to be around the customer and how it will affect their outcomes: finance decisions, legal decisions, product decisions, support decisions, etc.
So now our focus is on embedding the customer across the company, not just in the cross-functional squads, so that the voice of the customer is represented in each team.
This requires getting information from your customers with the goal of identifying amazing insights that lead to some great innovation as well. So we conduct a lot of research; 900 interviews, 1,500 prototypes, a huge amount of user testing, a huge amount of surveys, and so on. That's how you get your finger on the pulse of what is happening in the market.
Another key way of embedding the customer has been our personas. Personas have been hugely beneficial for that cultural change with engineering, with leadership, with the Executive Leadership Team, and more. We’ve created a set of personas based on thousands of elements and thousands of hours of research. And they're growing out really nicely. They're also growing out in a way that they're referencing internal personas like customer success and sales closers as well since they are critical customer touchpoints.
While it's OK to talk about embedding we really need to help it to get traction. Some options include posters, all hands, project kickoff, project retros, and research readouts for example. And then you need to track that it is happening. Is the customer beginning to be referenced and mentioned everywhere from our ELT sessions, recurring exec staff meetings, in standups, on Slack channels, and more? And that is going to take time, obviously, but it should be organic.
Strategic alignment happens at two levels: within teams and across teams.
Aligning with a team
To help us to align on the strategy for our products we leverage tools and techniques such as the Lean product playbook by Dan Olsen.
Who is the customer?
We use our personas, interviews, site visits and more.
What is their need?
We use observational studies, interviews, quantitative and qualitative surveys, etc.
We perform a competitive analysis, particularly around the experience.
Define the product
We iterate through prototypes and ensure to include the delighters.
Validate with customers
We test the prototypes, iterating based on feedback.
And based on all of our research we move to a decision to proceed.
Aligning across Teams
We have created what we call a mega map or a service design master map. If you zoom into the map you can see that there are individual customer journeys throughout the phases. Because this covers the entire company there are all kinds of functional areas going in and swarming on this. We are flushing out any inconsistencies or frictions or disconnects all within this map. It is a living, breathing monster that's used nearly at every single strategic session that we're having now at the wider executive level and all of the breakouts and all the sessions that we do now. It's been phenomenal.
There's so much in this. It looks complex, but it's hugely useful. In large organizations, you can end up with 40, 50, or 60 journey maps for all the widgets and products. But you have to align them. It's going to take a long time and it's going to be way beyond the service designer UX team. It takes a village to raise this map but I really recommend it.
Finally, you need an experience vision as a companion piece to your service design master map. The experience vision should have an as-is state as well as a to-be state of the experience that your customers will have when using your product. And this shouldn’t be based just on a gut feel but backed by real research. I really recommend you go three to five years out and where you're going, it should be a real stretch.
The benefits of customer-centricity
If we aren’t aligned we are going to end up with a spaghetti mess of different initiatives and we don’t even know if we're doing our best for the customer.
The key steps are to embed the experience. And this goes way beyond just having a UX team. You need to embed the experience everywhere. Share the user research to provide people with the insights and, frankly, the ammunition sometimes. Align the journey maps across the business and iterate on them with the customer and the user.
And be patient. It will take time to develop a multi-year experience vision but the benefit is that you can transform the company around the customer.
Head of UX & Product DesignVerizon Connect
Dónal is the Head of Experience & Service Design at Verizon Connect, leading product experience globally in the connected vehicles and mobile workforce space. He specialises in UX maturity acceleration, multi-year experience vision and strategy, lean transformation and design leadership. Dónal has over 20 years experience building world class UX and research teams.
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