/Tag: Customer 2.0

Is Enterprise Architecture accountable for improving customer experience?

By |2012-10-02T00:18:15+00:00October 2nd, 2012|Enterprise Architecture|

A recent experience with poor customer service has got me thinking about the role of EA in addressing customer experience issues. 

One of the last things I was working on, while still in Microsoft IT, was working on an initiative to systematically help improve customer experience.  With that experience fresh in mind, I was dealing with an issue with my Tivo DVR today where the Tivo box started to misbehave.  I began a chat with their representative and the experience was less than ideal.  (If someone from Tivo wants to chat, just drop me a line for details).

That got me thinking.  Can EA help?  In general, can EA be part of the solution to problems caused by poor customer experiences? 

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Customer Services is important to the success of any organization

First off, I’d like to say that customer experience is one of the most important elements of the highly competitive online world.  The Web has made it very easy for customers to abandon their existing relationships and switch to new ones.  Even the slightest provocation can send a customer in search of a competitor, and the features of a product are not as “sticky” as they once were.  It is increasingly easy for new small companies to appear that copy all of the key features of a technology and release a competing product, sometimes within a few months of the first one.  The results can be fierce competition that, unfortunately, is often addressed in courtrooms instead of the marketplace (Samsung vs. Apple, Google vs. Microsoft, Apple vs. Microsoft, etc.).

Some companies will not pay proper attention to their customer’s experience.  This is fairly common, especially in manufacturing companies where there are both software and hardware components involved.  For some reason, the fact that two different engineering teams are involved often produces a disjointed experience.  (Apple has been leading the way in addressing these kinds of problems.  The rest of us need to do so as well).

What are the questions you must always be ready to answer?  (The Ten Strategic Questions)

In general, an Enterprise Architect assists with the development of strategic alignment, not by deciding what is important, but making sure that executives don’t miss the important stuff while they are overwhelmed with the mundane.  One way to anchor your analysis to ensure that YOU don’t miss the important stuff is to consider some of the high level tools suggested in traditional strategic analysis… tools like SWOT analysis, Five Forces analysis, and partner accountability mapping.  However, most of those tools do a poor job of considering the importance of customer experience to enterprise success.

The model that I use is the EA metamodel behind business models.  In a prior post, I created a rationalized ontology for the business model canvas that addressed the gaps left by Osterwalder in his analysis.  However, in keeping with the effort to make that kind of model useful, I followed the pattern of Osterwalder and created a visual table that represented the corrected business model ontology.

image

The guidance that you can get from this is to look at each of the blocks in the canvas and consider the possibility that you have not missed anything important in that block.  Therefore, if you use this model, you would ask the following ten questions:

  • Are we targeting the right customers for the growth that we need?  (Customer Profile)
  • Do we have a good understanding of what our customers want and need? (VOC)
  • Do we have a compelling value proposition to address the needs and demands of those customers? (Value Proposition)
  • Are we developing products and services that deliver on our value proposition, or is there a gap in our products and/or services that we need to address? (Products and Services)
  • Have we considered all of the channels we should be using, or are we using too many channels, to distribute our products and services to our customers? (Channels)
  • Do we have a good idea of the resources we need to deliver on our value proposition? (Resources)
  • Do we know how to use our resources sufficiently well to produce the results that customers expect? (Required Competencies)
  • Have we addressed all the cost and revenue implications of the resources, competencies, and channels that we’ve selected? (Cost and Revenue Models)
  • Are we reaching our customers in the geographies and locales in which they live and work, and if not, why not? (Geographies and Locales)
  • Have we relied on partners in the right way, leveraging their strengths and the cost implications of using them without opening ourselves to problems of key dependencies? (partner profiles)

This list of questions includes the core questions that we need to be asking in order to address customer experience issues at the strategic level.  This is a far more comprehensive list that “5 forces” or “SWOT” and will help you to ensure that you are not missing anything. 

How does Enterprise Architecture address customer experience?

The actual experience of a customer is a function of their needs and your products.  If a customer needs to drive a nail, a hammer will do.  If the customer needs to drive their car to an unfamiliar place, then a Global Positioning System with turn-by-turn directions would be more compelling.  If you offer the customer a product that does NOT meet their needs (like a GPS that only shows maps, but doesn’t tell the driver where and when to turn), then they will not be loyal to the product.  Their experience will be poor and they will quickly find better products.

Customers don’t want ten inch drills.  They want ten inch holes.

When doing a strategy workshop, it is best for the Enterprise Architect to walk in to the workshop with all their preparation in place.  Walking in unprepared will produce really poor results.  To be prepared, the Enterprise Architect will have already collected the list of “proposed strategies” for the coming period and will have analyzed those strategies from the standpoint of the organization’s business model(s).  In other words, for each of the questions above, which ones are being answered by strategy.  Now, f
or the kicker, which ones are not? 

Customer experience may already be covered by a strategy, and if it is, you have to do very little.  Simply make sure that everyone sees the relative value of that strategy when compared to others (like reducing costs or negotiating new boundaries with existing partners).  That is not simple, but not as difficult as the alternative: no strategy for customer experience.

On the other hand, let’s assume that there are goals, or objectives, or themes (rarely actual strategies) already articulated that address the other areas of business model considerations, like costs, or products, or partners.  Address the lack of customer focus in your interviews PRIOR to the strategic workshop.  Ask your key stakeholders what their customers need.  Specifically don’t ask for how those needs are being met… ask what the needs are!  Make sure that you plant, in the minds of your stakeholders, the seeds of doubt: do we KNOW what our customers want and need?  Is it written down?  Would our customers agree with what we wrote down?

During the workshop, propose an initiative to capture the needs of the customers (of each business model) and to map the products and services to those needs.  This will let you answer the question: are our products and services meeting the needs of customers?  This may involve the development of user personas, scenarios, and competitive surveys.  This initiative, when complete, will provide the ammunition that you will need later to propose initiatives to address customer experience gaps. 

Note that gaps can exist in many places… not just in the products themselves, but also in the customer service experience that occurs when customers are not happy with their products or have an issue with them. 

Conclusion

Enterprise Architecture is a strategic planning function that uses a methodical scientific approach to address the gaps between the goals of a business and the execution of strategy needed to reach them.  Using the TEN STRATEGIC QUESTIONS above, Enterprise Architects can capture opportunities and oversights that senior executives may miss.  One of those key questions addresses customer experience issues. 

Therefore, when an organization fails to deliver good customer experiences, Enterprise Architecture, when used properly, can help to address the situation.

Customer 2.0 Strikes

By |2011-12-28T01:52:56+00:00December 28th, 2011|Enterprise Architecture|

For those folks who don’t normally track the events of the Gamer community, I’d like to share a lesson that every consumer facing business should heed.  Social Media has changed the consumer landscape in an irrevocable way.  This incident demonstrates what happens to companies that don’t understand the new power of the customer.

In short, a small manufacturer hired a marketing company to promote it’s novel product.  Unfortunately, the marketing company failed to correctly handle the import paperwork, and the product was stuck in customs.  Customers who ordered the product for Christmas were not going to get their product in time. 

As you’d expect, some customers complained.  One in particular known only as “Dave.”  The marketing company made a couple of rather typical mistakes in handling the complaint.  The customer threatened to get the press and social media involved.  At that point, the company blew it.  Instead of taking a contrite and apologetic tone, offering to reduce the stress of the customer or even offering a discount on the order, the company representative sent a profane and inflammatory e-mail directly to the customer telling him, basically, to “get over it.”

That customer shared his e-mail with social media, and the storm started.  Within hours, the manufacturer has fired the marketing company.  The marketing company has been banned from at least one influential show (and my guess, the fallout won’t stop there).  The company’s image is in the toilet.  If they are still in business in a year, I will be amazed.

The business world has changed.  Customers have the power of community, and can act in groups in a way that they could never act before, at a speed that will make your head spin.  Companies who do not understand this fact will be left behind. 

Want the Software Quality Attributes of a service? — ask the customer!

By |2008-02-13T19:26:00+00:00February 13th, 2008|Enterprise Architecture|

Nilesh starts blogging, and his first post is of such high quality that I have to rave about it here.  Nilesh Bhide, a trusted colleague of mine and a terrific architect, brings forth a tidbit of information too often overlooked: we can learn a great deal about the expectations, and therefore requirements, for our online services by referring to the knowledge, experience, and research that has been created for existing service businesses.

Nilesh rocks.

 

All bloggers are Customer 2.0, but not every Customer 2.0 is a blogger

By |2007-11-27T03:51:00+00:00November 27th, 2007|Enterprise Architecture|

I’d like to draw a distinction that I should have drawn before.  I had an interesting discussion in e-mail after my previous blog post on EA and Customer 2.0.  I suggested that Kai, our persona for Customer 2.0, learned how to write code and develop mashups in school, but she doesn’t need to use that skill because we would have to provide her with a beautiful experience…

That created an unintended perception in the mind of one reader: that only mashup artists and bloggers would qualify for my definition of Customer 2.0.  That is certainly not my intent.  My definition is not so narrow.

I do believe that Customer 2.0 is far more ‘internet literate’ than I was at the age of 20.  That said, she is not a geek.  On the contrary.  She is a digital native, and has no tolerance for poor quality services or navigational dead ends or any of the things we overlooked when HTML was cool. 

She will not decide where to put her hard-earned micro-transactions and ad-clicks on the basis of geekiness.  She will choose largely based on unique interests, self-defined identity, and membership in one or more communities. 

Therefore, while the early adopters, bloggers, and mashup artists who help to build the communities are clearly included in the definition of Customer 2.0, so are the men and women who use twitter to keep up with their friends, or write quick notes on other people’s Facebook pages.  They will listen to new music that their friends are listening to, and will visit restaurants and clubs that their extended community recommends. 

Customer 2.0 is motivated by community.  Mass marketing is not as effective, but word-of-mouth advertising is more effective than ever before.  Acquisition is difficult.  Retention is everything.  Brand matters.  Cool matters.  Trust matters.

Geekiness is OK, but not required.

Focusing on Customer 2.0

By |2007-11-23T13:19:00+00:00November 23rd, 2007|Enterprise Architecture|

There’s been talk, for years now, about concepts like Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0.  We are all so enamored with technology, we sometimes forget that it is about the customer.  There is a Customer 2.0 in here, and I’d like to speak to her.

Have you met Kai?  Kai is the name that we (the MS IT EA Team) are thinking of giving to Customer 2.0.  She is young and lively and one of the most demanding customers we’ve had to deal with on the web.  Know why?  Because she expects us all to grow up.

Geeks and Nerds: Kai is calling to you.  She is calling to you to make her internet experience Fun, Social, and Engaging.  If she uses your services today, that does not mean she will use them tomorrow.  She is brand loyal, but your site will hold her attention primarily if it holds the attention of her community.  Her group.  Her peeps.  Welcome to the fad.

No more expecting Kai to live with badly designed sites.  She learned about programming in high school (or middle school) and is unafraid of making her own mashups.  That said, she doesn’t need to.  You will provide something beautiful to her.  She is outright offended when she sees a site or service that she feels is not professional or trustworthy.  She’d never hand her friends over to something klunky. 

A few demographics will bring this into focus.  Kai may live in a western country… or not.  She is as likely to be speaking Mandarin Chinese or Hindi as she is to be speaking Spanish or English.  Gabriel Morgan put up a good post on the facts surrounding this interesting new person.  (link fixed –nm)

In Enterprise Architecture, we are innovators.  We talk about, and hopefully practice, the fine are of alignment.  We want the business and IT investments to align.  But we cannot possible do that unless the IT team is drawn towards the same destination as the business is.  We have to understand the aspirations of the business, and then understand the needs of the customer.  Only then can we look at where her needs coincide with the services we offer.  Only then can we justify the investments we are making.  That is alignment.

In order to go after a customer like Kai, we need to be a different company, and we need our IT department to change.  This is the crux of Enterprise Architecture.  It is not just about aligning to the business… it is about aligning with the business to the same end goal: the customer.

The first step towards building a new Enterprise Architecture is understanding how different we need to be in order to meet Kai’s needs.  So we wrote down Kai’s needs.  (Marketing to validate).  From that, we looked at how the business will need to react to meet Kai’s needs.  Then we looked at how that will create or exacerbate the forces on IT. 

Honestly, unless we change, we will snap into pieces.  IT cannot possible hope to deliver to a rapidly innovating business model without changing the way we do business.  And that is where EA comes in.  If we are to change… how do we do it?  Change without a goal is chaos.  It is up to EA to envision not only the application infrastructure, but also the organizational roles and responsibilities within IT, that will make IT successful as we work, as a company, to win over Kai.

This new customer, and our desire to chase her, is the compelling event that drives SOA, and that pushes us towards a coordination model.  That understanding lives in EA.  And honestly, no where else.