Part 6: Making Changes To The Customer Experience

by | Nov 14, 2015

Once the customer experience is in the market and you are actively managing it (everyday) there will come a time when making a change to is warranted, demanded, or desired.

Making a change is different than managing the experience.  Managing the customer experience keeps it going. It provides you with tools and data to make sure it runs optimally based on how it was designed. It helps you identify problems and get ahead of them, hopefully. You may need to fine tune a few things but you wouldn’t make a material change as part of everyday management (because it would take a lot of resource to do well).

Making a change is different than fixing a break. When part of the customer experience breaks it implies that you had an intentional design in the first place and part of it isn’t running as designed. This is usually caused by an internal issues and can be identified by active management of the experience and repaired.

Making a change is different from a redesign. A redesign usually involves lots of pieces of the experience at the same time and lots of resources. It looks like a brand new design except you have a base to work from (the experience you have in the market already). Organizations typically redesign customer experiences because they believe they can find an innovation that will change the game for them, an operational efficiency, or because they never initially designed the experience in the first place.

Making a change is just that: you need to make a change to something you intentionally designed. You can’t do that casually after all the effort you put in to design it and execute it for your customers and for your business. You also can’t do it casually because the customer experience is ultimately a system with interdependencies both inside your organization and in your customers’ world. Changes need to be orchestrated.

At a high level, here is how we look at the making a change step:

  1. Listen + research on a schedule
  2. Get a team together
  3. Design, prioritize, develop, and launch


1. Listen + research on a schedule

In part 3, Choosing the Right Experience (For Your Customers), we discussed the critical step of understanding what matters. You can’t design the right experience if you can’t define “right” and in order to define right you need to know a lot about the customers’ current state experience, the customers’ needs and expectations, the organization’s business strategy and goals, the organization’s capabilities, and the competitive landscape.

This applies to this step too except you need to do it in an ongoing, real time way. You might be thinking “yesterday you talked about metrics, is that the same thing?” – great question. No, it isn’t. Metrics are a part of your customer experience research plan but they won’t help you much when you want to make a change. Management metrics, just like satisfaction scores, measure something that has occurred already. These are important data but it won’t give you much insight into what could happen or what should be happening. You need to use other types of research and listening methodologies for that.

Every customer experience strategy should have a research plan attached to it.  This research plan answers the questions: what do we need to learn, when do we need to learn it, from whom do we need to learn it, and what will we apply it to.  We would recommend building an 6-18 month plan that covers: day to day metrics, feature and process level insights, and innovation research. Innovation research occurs least frequently and looks at big open ended questions in the hopes of garnering latent needs and observational data that will contribute to bigger changes and redesigns. The feature and process level insight may happen annual and contributes most to the changes we are making in this step. It looks for latent and known needs, opportunities, new technologies, and competitive changes in the elements of the customer experience. Research can be primary, secondary, or from existing sources inside the organization.

Recently we talked briefly about Enterprise Research Plans – this is the 18-36 month enterprise-wide research plan and calendar that enables your organization to conduct great research, leverage studies to serve multiple departments, and respect your customers’ time. We’d advocate for your customer experience research plan to be integrated into the enterprise plan whenever possible because, really, any research with customers and prospects could be an opportunity to collect insight about the experience.You may need to seek out new insights – either in existing research or in new research – in order to fully understand what matters to make these changes but the hope is that you can roll that into an upcoming study already in the works.

2. Get a team together

The team that is managing the customer experience may not be the team that makes the chances. First, they may not have the time in their day job(s) to actively take on a project like this. Secondly, they likely don’t have the complete set of skills needed to do this project. When you designed the customer experience and developed it the cross functional team had people on it that then went on to another project or back to their day job because they weren’t the right people to manage the customer experience. You likely need to bring them back together. You will also need to bring in people with specific expertise in the portion of the customer experience you are trying to change. And you will likely include people that are managing the experience as well.

The team you form to make a change is a temporary team who will be tasked with a mini-customer-experience-design project. You might keep them on ice until you need to make a change or you might form a new team each time the need arises.

3. Design, prioritize, develop, and launch

This is the bulk of the work right here. Why have we grouped them together? Because we covered it  here and here earlier this week. This is the reminder that the effort of making changes to an experience is just like designing the new experience but on a smaller scale. The one thing that is a bit different, and we mentioned it above, is that your experience is up and running while you are doing all this work. This means that you have to cross check all of the interdependencies, you have to test, test, test all the bits and parts, and you have to prepare your customers and staff for any material changes. Additionally you need to adjust management steps and metrics to reflect the changes and re-train that team.

We encourage organizations not to make changes to their customer experience too often. Most organizations can’t allocate the resources necessary to do these kinds of changes well very often. Things get a little glitchy if it is done too casually because of the interdependencies in the customer experience system. Organizations do better when they manage customer experience changes in the same way they do a product change: it is a big deal and it needs to be done well. 

6 Part Blog Series: What Does It Take To Actually Make a Great Customer Experience Happen

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