But these jobs aren’t made for us. We’re not even considered because UX isn’t a business discipline like sales, marketing, and operations. Those disciplines are tied to profit-and-loss much more than we ever have been. They also produce people who can maneuver through complex organizations much more easily than the typical UXer can.
Indeed, how many UXers can hold their own in a board room, or in front of the CEO alone making the (expensive) case for revamping the CX? Read The Customer Experience Fiasco and honestly ask yourself if you can imagine the typical UX designer in the role of the fictional Dana Chase. Her job is to find all the organizational problems that are leading her company to create a bad CX. She has to make a complex business case to senior management and ask for $80M as a starting point, and better UI’s don’t come into it. We’re not equipped for this. We’re not trained to look at our organizations this way and make these kinds of business cases.
Why? UX design has done a great job in the last decade of redefining (for the better) how we define requirements for products with digital UIs. There is no doubt about this. But this has come at a cost of upward mobility in our organizations. We’re functional players that make tactical work more efficient. We’re not strategic players that help our organizations transform themselves. The closer we look at UIs, the more pigeonholed we’re likely to be.
I agree with Leisa Reichelt when she writes, “Given the choice of having a Chief Experience Officer (CXO from a UX background) or a Chief Customer Office (CCO from a marketing/CX background), I’d probably choose the latter – for the more comprehensive, well rounded view of the organisation and all its working parts than the interface obsessed UXer is likely to be.”
(This is, of course, different if you’re a UX professional in a tech product company that values UX as a core part of the products they sell. In this post, I’m focused on the vast majority of other companies.)
Whether or not these jobs should be ours is one way to think about the issue. Another way to look at this is honestly understanding what we bring to the CX initiative. What can we do to get a seat at this table and move up the organizational food chain?
Samantha Starmer addressed this about a year ago: “We need to act now to be part of the broader CX solution. If we don’t proactively collaborate across divisions and organizational structures, we will be stuck playing in the corner by ourselves. If we don’t figure out how to manage partnerships with other departments in a collaborative, creative, customer focused way, the discipline of UX as we know it is at risk.”
Where do you look for these alliances? It depends on your organization. I recommend looking into Jeanne Bliss’s discussion of the Power Core in The Chief Customer Officer. The Power Core is “the strongest skillset in the company or the most comfortable to senior executives…. [it] is one of the biggest determinants of how success, metrics, recognition, and company growth are defined inside the corporate machine.” Aligning with the groups that make up the core competencies of your organization gives you the best chance of success.
That said, for the UX designer, a promising place to look is in the relationship between the CCO and CIO. Even though CCO’s tend to come from outside of IT, the scope of their work inevitably affects the way technology is used to transform customer experiences. Take a call center for example. The agents may have incentives to achieve “one call resolution,” but this doesn’t happen unless technology makes this possible. When the issue is integrating a coherent CX across multiple channels and devices, then the relationship between CCO and CIO is filled with opportunity for UX practitioners willing to step up to the strategic challenge.
But stepping up may mean stepping out of our comfort zones. Whatever alliances we build, we can’t go in waving deliverables – our standard bulwark. We have to step out from behind our wireframes and prototypes and think strategically.
Call it UX strategy or digital strategy or whatever you want. The basic idea is this:
From the CCO’s perspective, a strategy-oriented UXer has the ability to understand the organization’s desired customer experience and can translate that into appropriate product and service concepts and designs that occur at each customer touch point.
Focusing on the Touch Points
The term “touch points” (as CXers and Service Designers use it) is important and can help shift the way we UXers think about what we can do. This is how The Customer Experience Fiasco defines them: “any interaction between the company and a customer, whether face-to-face, over the phone, on TV, or otherwise.” The touch points are going to be a mixture of people, processes, and technologies.
To be effective, we have to set aside our penchant for finding solutions in UIs and embrace the “experience design” part of what we do. (Is this starting to sound like “Service Design”?) Again, Samantha Starmer: “I view [CX] as an extension of UX, where non-digital experiences and services are just as important as screen interactions, and the full range of touchpoints with a brand across time has to be explicitly designed.”
To be sure, technology will almost certainly play a role in any high priority touch point, but the UI will not always be the primary consideration. We need to free ourselves from the bias of fixing things with UIs so that we can see more effective CX solutions.
For example, a common CX problem occurs when a technician is dispatched without the right equipment to fix the customer’s problem. This happened to me recently when my stovetop stopped working. When I called the company (otherwise known for good CX), the rep knew which model it was without me having to tell her. I described the problem in enough detail that the company should have known what the likely problem was. (The technician confirmed this when he told me that there only only two things that can go wrong with this stovetop.) So, armed with their knowledge of what stovetop I own and what the symptoms were, first-time-resolution should have been a slam dunk. But it wasn’t. Two trips were required — one to figure out the problem (which could have been diagnosed over the phone) and another after the part was ordered and in stock a week later.
Diagnosing the root of this CX problem and designing a solution is not likely to be UI intensive. More likely the issue is related to a communication process or poorly integrated trouble ticketing, inventory, and dispatching systems, not to mention training. The UI perspective that we typically bring to the table narrows our focus to the point where we can only think about and design one channel at a time. But the CX specialist has to be a multi-channel thinker. The CX specialist needs to see how touch points interact. The CX specialist is a business person who has to prioritize solutions according to budgets, cultures, and politics — and present the multimillion dollar price tag to senior management for approval.
Making the Transition
If UXers want to play in the CX world, we need to lift our heads up from our desks and step out from behind our clickable prototypes (“lean” or otherwise) from time to time. To finish this, I’ll discuss two different ways to begin the self-transformation: seeing CX problems that are often disguised as UX problems, and embracing the emerging discipline of Service Design.
Seeing CX Problems Disguised as UX Problems
UXers need to cultivate their ability to understand when we are dealing with CX problems disguised as UX problems — or even as a usability problem. This happens all the time. We just need to learn how to see it, and when we see it, call it out.
For example, I was asked recently to do a “usability” evaluation of a proposed new system for a financial services company. The system hinged upon two key assumptions about the customer. If either assumption proved wrong, the system would fail no matter how well-designed the screens were. Those assumptions cut to the heart of the CX that the company wanted to create.They were also out of alignment with the new brand image the customer was pursuing. I talked with executives, who expressed some trepidation about betting success on these assumptions. The project needed a CX strategy defined at the highest levels of the company before my project could or should become a UX project. We adjusted the work to focus on validating these assumptions.
How many times does this happen to us — we see a situation where the fundamental assumptions about “the user” are obviously flawed, but we plow ahead trying to design our way through these flaws? If you find yourself asking for personas and scenarios that don’t exist, chances are good that there is a larger CX problem, not just a UX problem. If you are designing a customer-facing system and you can’t get a straight answer about how it relates to other customer-facing systems from the customers’ perspective, then you have a CX challenge. Call it out.
The Career Case for Service Design
It seems to me that Service Design is another place for interested UXers to start looking for career growth in CX-oriented organizations. I’m no expert, but Service Design is so closely related to Customer Experience that at times I think of Service Design as a tactical extension of strategic CX. Service Design is about designing experiences that are appropriate to the larger CX strategy, which itself should be aligned to the company’s brand promise.
This discipline stretches our strategic thinking abilities more so than exclusively UI-focused methods. Being able to assess the customer’s experience across multiple touch points and understand the full scope of operational challenges in making this a good experience will bring you face-to-face with some sticky challenges that will stretch your skills significantly.
The closer UXers can get to customer touch points in their organizations, the closer they get to where the strategy lives. Getting there will mean fine tuning our sense of profit and loss, improving our abilities to maneuver within complex organizations, and build alliances where we haven’t had to do so before. There’s nothing but upside in doing so.