Here’s another version of this week’s ManagementSpeak:

“We are effectively a technology and marketing business that just so happens to be in the insurance space. It’s an important mindset to drive. When a consumer comes to our website, they don’t compare us to GEICO, Progressive or The Hartford. They compare us to Amazon, Zappos and Expedia in terms of their experience.”

– Kevin Kerridge, head of direct, Hiscox USA

Well, when you put it like that …

When you put it like that you’re still wrong, not because consumers aren’t comparing your website to Amazon, Zappos, and Expedia (they are) but because Amazon’s, Zappos’, and Expedia’s customers aren’t paying attention to the technology.

They’re paying attention to the experience.

And even that’s wrong, because if they’re paying attention to the experience you’re either delivering it through VR goggles and the novelty hasn’t worn off; you run a cruise line, theme park, or some other business where the experience is what customers are paying for; or they’re having an experience bad enough to notice.

But for your average business that’s just trying to make an honest buck, the whole shopping and buying experience should be close to subliminal — as natural as the sales associate at a clothing retailer asking, when you’ve chosen a suit, whether you also need shirts or a belt.

Very little of this belongs to IT. My own inclination is to place every customer touchpoint under Marketing’s purview, or, if that isn’t possible, under its influence.

But just because IT doesn’t own customer experience design, that doesn’t mean IT is free and clear. Quite the contrary, IT has everything to do with making sure customers enjoy (that is, can ignore) the best experience possible when interacting with your business no matter which interaction channel is involved. Here’s a terribly incomplete checklist of what IT should bring to the customer-experience potluck:


In any for-profit business, underneath all the complexity are customers, the products and services customers buy, and transactions through which customers buy products and services. IT had better provide solid support for these customer experience fundamentals:

  • CRM: Customer is semantically slippery. It includes the buyer, who makes or influences the decision to buy your products, consumers, who use them, and wallets, who pay for them; also there are both individual customers and composite entities they’re part of like households and business departments. CRM systems have customer data models designed to accommodate the complexity so you know who you’re talking with and in what capacity.
  • Product Information Management System (PIMS): Customers want to understand your products. Sure, general-purpose content management systems can handle product content, but why make life harder than it has to be? If your company sells a lot of SKUs and a PIMS isn’t part of your application portfolio, fix that.
  • Voice: Sure, digital stuff is fun and glitzy. But call centers and interactive voice response (IVR) are customer touchpoints too. Ignore them and the results are predictable and aren’t pretty.

Running with the pack

  • Analytics: Marketing needs a place to put its data and tools for analyzing it once it’s there. Not news. Not quite fundamental yet, but close: Companies that lack it are at a disadvantage more than companies that have it have an advantage.
  • Social media monitoring: Mining falls under analytics. But looking for individual messages that badmouth your company so you can respond in near-real time, before the message spreads too far? Not analytics, very important.
  • Customer Service monitoring: This should be a fundamental, except for how few companies do it. It’s low-tech, too. Your company’s customer service representatives know everything that’s wrong with every aspect of the customer experience, because Customer Service is where customers go to complain. Someone should listen to these folks, don’t you think?

Getting ahead … for now, at least

  • Chatbots: Sure, sure, right now chatbots are prone to smartphone spellcheck-caliber gaffes. But they’re going to be a big deal everywhere companies provide level-one support at scale for customers having problems, and not only to save a few bucks.
  • Less is more: Customer touchpoints aren’t for when a customer is lonely and wants company. They’re for when customers want to: Research a product; buy it; complain about it; return it, or complain about a different touchpoint. They want as few interactions as possible. Get rid of the ones that are annoyances if you possibly can.

I know there are more IT-driven get-ahead customer experience opportunities. I just can’t think of any right now.

How about you?

ManagementSpeak: We are careful about who we share our financial details with.

Translation: Our financials are awful. And they’re public knowledge but we hope you won’t take the time to track them down.

This week’s contributor is careful about who he shares his identity with.