Enterprise Software optimize

Does your IT department create an "experience"?


I recently spent a few days with my family at Disney World. I had lived near the park and visited hundreds of times, but I am still amazed by the care and effort that is put into creating an "experience" around visiting. The details each guest participates in are perhaps the most obvious incarnation of the experience: a boat ride is required to get to the Magic Kingdom to reinforce the feeling you are going to a far-away place, to the reference to employees as "cast members."

While we in the IT leadership community might consider much of this as form over function, Disney is a well-known and effective user of technology and disciplined student of management. A smiling, costumed "cast member" works in concert with systems and processes that ensure the plush Mickey doll has just the right amount of stock on the shelf next to him, and ridership reporting and analysis systems direct guests to a disused ride rather than requiring they wait in a long queue.

Similarly, if you have visited the Apple store you will notice there are no cash registers. A costumed sales rep explains products and pulls an iPod with a credit card reader out of his pocket when it comes time to make a purchase. For a more IT-oriented example, Cisco separates problem capture from problem resolution. Rather than forcing someone who is contacting their service desk to answer rudimentary questions, then be transferred around the company and spend time on-hold, calls are rapidly answered by someone whose sole function is to record the problem and provide an identifying number. While this is nothing new, with Cisco the problem is quickly and competently routed to the right party, and a knowledgeable technician from the right department calls back literally in minutes, rather than forcing the caller through a gauntlet of voice prompts and long hold times. In short, thought was clearly put into how to make these processes deliver the best possible customer experience, using technology and humans in the functions each does best.

Where these companies are interacting with their customers, they offer high-touch, seemingly old-fashioned customer service. What moves this into an experience is that the high-touch front-end is supported by technologies that increase customer service, rather than getting in the way of its delivery. In management, many of us may see this as an either-or choice: spend money on inefficient "high-touch" services or deploy a cheap and efficient, but less friendly, solution. This need not be the case, and often the most effective services are those where the technology melts into the background, becoming the "special sauce" that builds an experience, rather than the star of the show.

Considering the human touch points in any process, be it your helpdesk call center or a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system rollout, will shift your objectives from how to feed a system, to how to build a customer-focused experience. The most unwieldy processes and systems, and usually the least successful and most expensive to implement and maintain, are often designed with little or no regard to how someone would actually interact with the process in order to do their job.

While the work of an internal IT organization may not place as much value on the experience as Disney or Apple, experience should not be completely ignored. Pondering how each function of your organization helps an end-customer experience or makes the job of internal personnel easier or quicker has an obvious financial benefit that might not be apparent when you are considering only technology and data. This may be as easy as having IT staff catalog new enhancement requests personally, since they can clarify a diffuse requirement into something that can more readily be analyzed and dispositioned. Or, it could be providing pushback to the VP who wants the new CRM system to require 87 categorizations and data fields for a new lead, a task that is obviously detrimental to the experience of the poor salesperson who will have to use the system.

While experience is hard to create, it can build undying loyalty and immense value to what might otherwise be a commodity. An IT department that delivers compelling experiences can't simple be outsourced and lessen budget pressure since it delivers much more than just an OK service at the cheapest cost.

There are lots of amusement parks, but only one Disney. While building an authentic steam engine to transport employees around HQ while wearing a mouse costume is probably overkill, creating an experience need not be that complex.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company, and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. Patrick has...

7 comments
trapper
trapper

Yes, our IT department creates an experience - excruciating pain! Not sure who they think their customers are, but certainly not any end users.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

When we opened, we did something similar. Our competition was two companies, one screened calls using an answering machine so he could work (one man band), while the other was always out of the office (presumably on service calls). One of our main claims to fame is that you talk to a live person when you call us within business hours. The difference is staggering. We spend less than half of what either competitor does on advertising, but people call us. We are known for having the solution to any issue (not *quite* true, but we'll go with it), while the first competitor has to work for the same reputation. My second competitor has the reputation of being a surly bungling idiot, with deep pockets, and has worked equally hard for this reputation. The take away is that good will is a measurable business asset, one which you can capitalize on and take to the bank.

adornoe
adornoe

While the Disney parks are visually quite appealing, their service is something that, if it were to be copied in the business world, businesses would fail all over the place. I'm not as young as I used to be, but, visiting Disney parks and other amusement parks, was always an experience which left me and my family exhausted, and if wasn't just because of all the walking to get to all the rides and attractions. It was the standing and the waiting that left a lot to be desired from the experience. Having to wait an hour or more, sometimes 2 hours, was something that always detracted from the visit to the park(s). Service is not just about being polite and shaking hands with customers, and it's not just about making it easy for people to make their purchases. It's about the "entire" experience, including from the time one decides to visit the park, the purchasing of tickets, the ride to the park (which sometimes took 1/2 to an hour to park and enter the park after you got to the premises), the service inside the park, the hassle that comes from waiting and standing around to get on the rides, the hassle that comes from exiting the parks where one has to wait for monorail or boats to get to your parked car, and then the traffic jams getting out entirely. The overall experience, after one adds it all up, leaves one feeling that "you've been had" and you paid, for a family of four, more than $500 or more for the "experience". Bottom line, looks can be deceiving, and, though the kids might have enjoyed the overall experience, the adults still feel that things could've been much better. Hey, I know that the discussion is not particularly about the amusement parks, but, if "the experience" is what matters, then the "total experience" should be examined. When I purchase a computer, I want the "total experience", from marketing (why should I purchase your product) to purchasing (price, store service, courtesy) to usage (does the product perform according to my expectations and the promises made), to service, after I take the product home (repairs, exchanges, customer service via the phone). Disney is not a good example for the discussion.

melbert09
melbert09

I do think that the example of turning the IT department into a Disney or Apple store is a bit extreme. But I do think that any IT department should deliver a service with a smile to all its customers both internal and external. The department should be a place where people either want to go or are not afraid to go and get help. The customer, even if they are internal are the reason why the department is there.

info
info

...the reference to the Disney and Cisco 'experiences' both have to do with CUSTOMER relations. PAYING customers. The next argument would be that you ARE servicing a customer, and as a consultant, this is completely true. But when was the last time you met a client that was willing to pay that much extra for better service over a cheaper alternative? When was the last time you saw a company devote more resources to something that is meant solely to make their employees happier and improve morale? (Think HR depts., that are meant to get employees THINKING they're being treated better while they're actually being treated worse...)

jggolf@gmail.com
jggolf@gmail.com

Well said - and some of us have been doing that for a long time. Starting from the customer's (or recipient's) experience is really the only way to delivery anything... whether it's a product, service, speech, or even personal interactions. It emphasizes that _all_ aspects of the interaction contribute to it's ultimate success (or otherwise.)

jggolf@gmail.com
jggolf@gmail.com

Creating an experience, at least to me, is more about attitude and approach than costs. Apple is an extreme example. Many companies can improve their customers' experience simply by paying attention to the whole experience, and possibly improving one or two more touch points, to improve the overall experience - even if it isn't perfect. One of the great advantages of creating an experience is that many times it's the small things - the smile, or double-checking a ship date, or care to mention someone's name - that are meaningful to a customer. Many times they just want you to do what you do well, and care about it from a-z. It's not rocket science, and it doesn't have to add cost, it's just a matter of paying a little more attention to detail. Apple happens to take this to an extreme, but even small improvements can build brand loyalty. It shows you care not only about the product or service you deliver, but how it's received.