When you design a website for a company, you are just a cog in the overall machinery of a business. This machinery is what I’ve been trying to get my head around of late, as the opportunities for ‘digital’ driving customer experience improvements start to impact on all customer-facing areas of the organisation. I’ve rationalised my thinking into my understanding of the Customer Experience Value Chain.
Being part of the team who designs a company’s website, you are likely to be working for the marketing group within the business. This puts you right in the middle of two competing areas of value for the organisation – moving down the chain to drive short term revenues from Sales, and moving up the chain to the long term strategy focus of brand and business model. As a web designer, it’s likely you can’t have any influence on what product or service the organisation is selling. But you can ‘position’ that product or service in a way that makes it more attractive to people – by leveraging the brand (which is usually already defined for you).
You can make the sales process slicker and remove the obstacles to conversion. You can help customers self-serve their support requirements and give them more transparent access to the Customer Service team.
But still, you’re still just a pawn in the organisation’s game. This is no excuse though. Being unmotivated and doing a bad job won’t give you greater influence.
To have more influence you need to move up the value chain. By reaching beyond the traditional Marketing sphere and focussing on the Experience, you can take a holistic view of all of the interactions and touchpoints your customers have with your company. You can look to optimise those interactions and have a positive impact on customer perceptions of the Brand.
This, in my view, should be what Marketing is tasked with delivering, but in my experience too often Marketing is too closely linked with more commercial functions like Product or Sales, which diminishes its impact and value.
Being involved in defining a brand is possibly the holy grail of marketing. In an ideal world Brand drives internal culture which in turn drives the ways in which the company’s staff behave when dealing with customers and how the company listens and communicates. No self-respecting UXer would deny that Brand is a key input to defining Experience.
But possibly an even more influential role in defining and supporting the experience is Organisation Design. Management consultants and UX people the world over are often heard bemoaning how the siloed nature of our traditional ‘factory-minded’ company structures effectively prevent the collaboration and innovation required to deliver great customer experiences.
It’s a CEO’s role to shape the organisation’s reason to exist, how staff are organised and how departments work with each other to produce the outputs required to deliver profitable growth. Business Model and Organisation Design go hand in hand.
What to take from all of this? Building great customer experiences starts with the Business Model. Asking the CEO “what business do you think we’re in?” may lead to some interesting conversations. So I think UX people need to think bigger – don’t moan about the organisational design or the business your company is in. Go and find out from the CEO how you can start having an influence higher up the Customer Experience Value Chain.