Toward an Object-Oriented Customer Experience Architecture (Part 1)
Customer experience has become a strategic focus for most organisations as a competitive differentiator but the actual implementation of customer experience initiatives is complex and difficult to accomplish.
This series of articles propose a customer experience architecture built on object-oriented principles borrowed from the software engineering domain.The objective of an object-oriented customer experience architecture is to address the complexities associated with operationalising customer experience management.
Part one of this series will focus on creating a context for customer experience management (CEM) and the challenges associated with operationalising customer experience management. In this part; we will first discuss the definition of customer experience, followed by an exploration of customer experience management challenges, after which a motivation for an architectural approach is outlined.
Part two of the series will introduce the object-orientation concept and draw parallels to customer experience concepts.
Customer Experience Definition
The concept of customer experience carries several definitions; we are anchoring our discussion on two specific definitions.
The first definition is from Adam Richardson who in his article titled “Understanding Customer Experience”, defines customer experience as “the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire life cycle of being a customer”. The second definition is from a SAS article titled “customer experience management – what it is and why it matters” defines customer experience as “customers’ perceptions – both conscious and subconscious – of their relationship with a brand resulting from all their interactions with a brand during the customer lifecycle”.
From these definitions we can deduce that customer experience is first, a customer’s perception that is formed through an interaction with a brand, and second, a sum-totality of these perceptions over the length of the customer’s relationship with a brand.
This makes the customer experience a complex concept to operationalise since one has to keep tabs on not only each and every interaction a customer has with a brand but also the summation of all those interactions throughout the customer’s relationship with that brand. Advancements in technology and connectedness of customers have further compounded the challenges associated with customer experience management.
Customer Experience Management Challenges
Customers have claimed their rightful position at the helm of the throne, demanding their prerogatives as kings and brands must hail to them or risk being shunned. That is the reality brands have to deal with in these times and this has been partly driven by advancements in technology and the connectedness of customers.
Advancements in technology specifically the internet and smartphones have created an ecosystem where brands are expected to deliver value to customers in more ways than before. The internet has disrupted traditional business models and enabled the creation of new value propositions and new channels through which these can be delivered to the customer.
The smartphone is an example of such a channel and it has become ubiquitous in the customer’s lives. Due to its omnipresence in the customer’s life; the smartphone presents a convenient channel through which brands can engage with their customers who are also demanding this kind of convenience. The customer affinity for the smartphone as a customer engagement channel has led to a proliferation of digital customer touchpoints which further complicate customer experience management.
Customers are more connected now than ever before and this has led to a higher level customer consciousness since customers are much more empowered to readily share their experiences and perceptions with their communities through social media platforms. If a customer has had a bad experience with a brand; they can easily share that sentiment on social media which can then be virally shared to potentially millions of people on these platforms. The connectedness of customers through social media further complicates customer experience management since brands have to be mindful of the ripple effect of customer experience perceptions.
To put it differently, the operationalisation of customer experience management is compounded by the proliferation of digital customer touchpoints and the connectedness of customers through social media.
Motivation for an Architectural Approach
As outlined in this article above, operationalising customer experience management is no easy feat in terms of managing the transactional information associated with customer interactions as well information that can influence customer experience perceptions. Customer experience management requires the understanding of every customer interaction in terms of customer experience as well as the cumulative understanding of these interactions over the life of the customer relationship with a brand.
To successfully operationalise customer experience management brands need to have persistent data on all ‘customer experience moments’.
In other words, the customer experience perception data associated with every customer interaction needs to be maintained after the interaction. If this data is not maintained; it will not be possible to understand the cumulative aspect of a customer’s experience with a specific brand.
We define a customer experience moment as a moment through which a customer experience perception towards a brand is created in the customer’s mind; this is how customer experience perceptions come to exist. Through the customer experience moment concept, we can analyse and understand how specific customer experience perceptions are created and identify variables that we can manage in order to consistently deliver unique and differentiated customer experiences.
We argue that this level of operationalisation can only be achieved through an architectural approach: all channels must be aligned with this goal in mind.
In part two of this series, I will discuss object-orientation concepts borrowed from the software engineering domain and draw parallels to customer experience concepts as a foundation for object-oriented customer experience architecture.
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About the author:
Victor is a business process management and information systems professional with over 10 years of experience covering industries such as transportation, mining and financial services. Victor was chosen to speak at the APQC 2015 Process Conference where hepresented a paper on “Business Process Management in Financial Services: a Critical Foundation for Customer-Centric Initiatives”. Victor is currently head of customer experience management at Bank Windhoek Holdings.
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