When talking about his motivation to write his book, How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explained: “I’ve come to see institutional decline like a disease: harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages; easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside, dangerously on the cusp of precipitous fall.”
There are, of course, many complex factors involved in why companies fail, but one that they don’t often monitor as effectively as they should is their customer experience. In my last blog post I dove into the importance of capturing qualitative data in order to better understand your customers, and how it’s not enough to just capture quantitative data. Your customers’ journey changes over time and is something that should be consistently monitored and adapted to. Knowing how your business serves your customers along their journey is how you stay relevant, and should be a key part of a company’s strategy.
When talking with clients, we’ve found that antiquated systems and processes are one of the biggest obstacles to delivering a great customer experience. Maybe this is a problem you’re aware of at your own company. Maybe it’s an old ERP system or some other backend technology that prevents you from building something to serve the customer better. Maybe sales and revenue are so good today that the business isn’t feeling any pain from these outdated systems or experiences. Great sales and revenue today can effectively hide a deeper problem that threatens the future of the business.
Whatever reason you might have for leaving these old systems in place, if you wait until you see customer attrition, it will be too late. By kicking the can down the road, you’re risking:
As you know, it takes time to act in between planning and execution, but the longer you wait the more time your competitors have to gain ground and take more market share away from you. In addition to staying relevant to your customers, providing a better customer experience also provides ample opportunity for more revenue. And the good news is, according to Salesforce, 67% of customers are willing to pay higher prices for it. The desire and the will are there, you just need to deliver it.
Our client Herff Jones, who publishes printed yearbooks for thousands of high schools nationwide annually, came to us looking to create new business advantages by reimagining the yearbook production process. This was the perfect opportunity for us to help them dive deep into their current customer journey – in this case, high school yearbook staff. In our research phase, we found that while each school had a different system to manage the process, they all shared one thing in common: they were analog and archaic. While this antiquated process was their legacy, it was also their opportunity to create better experiences for their customers and meet them where they were on their journey. Uncovering these insights enabled them to see the risks and costs associated with this old clunky process and see clearly what they, and their customers, stood to gain by redesigning the system.
Creating this new process—in this case, a web-enabled project management system—was a win-win for both Herff Jones and for the students. The managers at the Herff Jones printing facility would be able to anticipate production challenges by gaining real-time visibility into the progress and quality of work by students, while the faculty advisors and students would be able to meet printing deadlines more readily and streamline workflows through file sharing and collaborative processes. This new process will empower students—and Herff Jones—for years to come.
Going back to How the Mighty Fall, Collins says, “When the rhetoric of success (‘We’re successful because we do these specific things’) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (‘We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work’), decline will very likely follow.” An essential aspect of understanding why, is understanding your customer’s journey and how your product/service/company meets and serves their needs. Additionally, understanding where in their journey your antiquated systems or processes are hindering the best customer experience is imperative to knowing what needs to change.
While there are many ways a company can fail, a bad customer experience doesn’t have to be one of them. Every day, customers leave companies with outdated processes and systems in search of better experiences. The best way to protect your business against this is to pay attention to your customer’s experience and remove obstacles to a great customer experience. That involves diving deep, researching, reiterating, making sure the right things are being measured, and yes, sometimes making the necessary investments to make big changes. By understanding the cost and risks associated with your legacy processes and systems, you’ll have a clearer picture of when it’s time to invest in making a change.