What happens to work when you try to integrate customer experience across the business:
Managing the customer experience is making management work more complex
In the organization of ten years ago, it was okay for different lines of business to treat the customer in a non-integrated way. If marketing and operations didn't see eye-to-eye, it was sub-optimal, but perhaps not essential. There was no need to co-ordinate the online and offline experience, because there was no online experience in most businesses.
Today, the need to co-ordinate the customer experience smoothly across several lines of business has increased the complexity of work. More factors need to be taken into account in making decisions. More people and points of view need to be taken into account. Roles that required Senior Manager skills and capability a decade ago now require Director level skills and capability. Roles that used to be competently handled by a Director now require a Vice-President. This is not title inflation, and it's not about a lack of good people...it is a real phenomenon.
The New Orleans Example
A real life example will help to illustrate what I'm talking about.
When New Orleans was having its Katrina crisis, a few unfavorable comparisons were made between how New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was handling things, compared to how Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York City during the 9/11 crisis handled things.
These comparisons were completely unfair to start with, of course. New Orleans was a city of about 500,000 people, and the greater New Orleans metropolitan area had about 1.4 million people. New York, on the other hand, has about 8 million people in the city proper, and 18.3 million in the metropolitan area, and is the largest city in the USA, and among the largest in the world. New York is a driver of the global economy; New Orleans is not.
It's safe to say that the job of mayor is more complex in NYC than in NO, even when everything is working more or less fine. In fact, we might suspect that being mayor of NYC is as complex as the CEO role in a major corporation. And we might suspect that being mayor of NO is as complex as being the Vice-President of a function in a major corporation -- such as the head of sales for a region. Indeed, before Mr. Nagin became a mayor, he was vice-president and general manager at Cox Communications.
What happened to Ray Nagin's job when Katrina hit
Ray Nagin's job became massively more complicated overnight. And so did the jobs of many of the people who were supposed to be helping him. Suddenly, he needed to coordinate many more lines of information than he was likely used to coordinating. He had to consider decisions with extremely long range impact, making trade-offs that affected whether people lived or died, and would affect the local economy for decades to come. And he had to make many of these decisions very rapidly in an atmosphere of very little hard information and tremendous uncertainty.
Mayor Nagin's job went from a VP level job to a CEO level overnight. Looking at the chart above, Katrina was the precipitating event that occurred at the arrow.
Rudy Giuliani was either already operating at this high level, or he was "ready for a promotion". And he himself has argued that the 9/11 situation was more manageable than New Orleans after Katrina, because it was contained. He may not have known that at the time, of course.
A merger is like a hurricane
A merger is a lot like a hurricane or a flood -- suddenly there is a lot less certainty and a lot more information to deal with. People who were functioning at a high level in their role pre-merger may find themselves swimming over their depth after. Did they suddenly become incompetent? Not likely. More likely is that the work suddenly became a lot more complex. Not just more of it, but qualitatively different in substantive ways.
How Customer Experience fits in
The advent of cross-functional teams were the first big organizational effort to find a way to manage work that requires integration across lines of business. Here's the problem: it isn't about teamwork, it's about information complexity.
When the operations people can't deliver the brand promise that the marketing people think is needed, you need to go up a level in the organization to address this issue. The thing is, this kind of issue is no longer isolated, it is ongoing and pervasive.
Customer experience is the internal response of an individual to their interactions with an organization's products, people, processes and environments.
Integrating across these dimensions is much more complex than managing within one dimension. And we need to integrate more often and more effectively to compete successfully. This is the real reason that many managers' work lives are a parade of meetings sandwiched between marathons of e-mail reading. It's not because they are terrible at time management -- it's that a tremedouns amount of coordination is required to create a differentiated customer experience that feels integrated and seamless to customers.
Take a look at who is thinking about customer experience in highly successful businesses. You'll often find that it is placed very, very high in the organization. Steve Jobs at Apple is a fine example. He's apparently leaving the financial engineering to someone else, and focusing on integrated brand experience.
Maybe you think I'm stretching a point here. Perhaps you'll believe AG Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, who says that the way work is organized has changed. It used to be organized along functional lines, but now, the importance of design has created a need for greater coordination.
On the one hand, design is simple. On the other hand, it didn't fit in the way branded consumer products companies work and are organized. I've been in this business for almost 30 years, and it's always been sort of functionally organized, you know, marketing, product development, manufacturing, and sales. Where's design? The answer is, in all of the above. [Fast Company, "Designing Innovation"]
To create products that provide a really great customer experience, leading organizations are turning to design. But design is pervasive: it is part of process, it is part of environment, it is part of product, it is part of the way people behave when they interact with customers. Design is an essential skill in creating customer experiences that drive results. But you can't put it neatly into a functional department.
If you feel like your work is a lot more complicated than it used to be, you're right. It's not about bureaucracy. It's because the work itself has become more complex. Start to accept that, and your life will be a lot less stressful.
The work of coordination across functions is executive level work. Managing an integrated customer experience is not a marketing function, an operations function or a sales function -- it touches all of those functions.
Senior executives need to understand that customer experience and brand experience cannot be delegated very far down the organization chart. You need to pay as much attention to this stuff as you do to compliance. Fortunately, managing customer experience is a heckuva lot more interesting than compliance.
Examples of Comparisons of Nagin to Giuliani: