Matt Holt, Digitas UK Chief Strategy Officer, welcomed a bumper audience to the event at London’s Soho Hotel, kicking- off proceedings by outlining “The Experience Problem”.
Recent research from Digitas UK showed that 9 out of every 10 people in the UK agreed that we are more disconnected as a society than ever before (November 2019). To set the scene for the experience problem, Holt described a context that, despite all our interlocked customer systems, has seen the world become “divided by screens, borders, politics, and religion.”
That disconnection is also seen in businesses as they struggle with silos, meaning the customer experience is often disconnected. The problem is that people are demanding connected experiences like never before. However, according to the same Digitas research, 81% of them agree that brands are not making meaningful connections.
To address these challenges, Digitas UK has launched a new experience model taking into account three pillars (“total”, “brand” and “experience”) that includes a total of nine dimensions that contribute to a connected customer experience for customers.
This service is driven, in part, by Digitas UK’s Connected Experience (CoEx) Audit Tool, delivered in partnership with research and planning experts The Nursery. Early application of the tool has focused on the hospitality and utility industries. Holt then handed over to Valeria Corna, Strategy Director within Digitas’ Experience Consultancy team, to talk through the results of this research and to show the CoEx tool in action.
A new experience model
Corna revealed how the insights highlighted that the primary drivers of customer satisfaction when it comes to experience are the same in the hospitality sector as in the energy category – emotion, coherence, ease, and usefulness.
She outlined how emotion – “the capability of a brand to trigger positive feeling in its customers at every interaction” – involves considering customers’ emotional responses along a spectrum including: your employees, your digital properties and, finally, intelligent agents.
Turning to the importance of providing coherence and consistently delivering on a brand’s promise, Corna focused in on the hospitality industry. She revealed that the worst performer in this specific dimension, amongst the brands researched, was Airbnb. The company’s brand promise, “belonging anywhere”, is bold and distinctive but not backed up by an equally relevant experience, according to the customers surveyed. Airbnb performance resulted below those of other hotel brands along a number of experience dimensions including usefulness, ease, and empathy. “Clearly, handing over control of a guest’s say comes with a price.”
Hotels should definitely keep adapting to the relevant changes that disruptors like Airbnb are bringing to the industry, but they should also re-focus on their core assets and competences starting from the experience they offer in room.
Connected experiences, need connected organisations
Dave Lowe, Strategy Partner at Digitas UK, followed on with a talk about the importance of connecting organisations to deliver these connected experiences. Using the analogy of the cinema and filmmaking, he said: “I’m not talking about what’s onscreen, what the audience sees, but what going on behind the camera, what the audience doesn’t see.”
Lowe focused on the need for organisations to solve issues behind the scenes in order to improve the experiences delivered to customers. He concentrated on issues in 4 overlapping areas Data; Platforms & Tools; Knowledge & Ways of Working; and Organisation & Culture. These are all areas of your business that your customers care about, they just don’t know it!
Data: Themes outlined included the profusion of data created across the customer journey, and the skill involved in “identifying what you’ll collect, analyse and apply to enhance the experience.” Data can even be used to provide empathy and understand customer pain points before they become bigger issues, for example using hearing aid data to understand issues with adoption”.
Platforms & Tools: Platforms and tools can provide obvious utility to make life quicker and easier for both customers and the organisation providing the service. This could be a case of providing, via an app, the ability to submit a meter reading through a camera/screen shot facility. More surprising is the role that technology infrastructure can enhance positive emotions within an experience.
Knowledge & Ways of Working: Lowe outlined how delivering experiences across channels requires people in a greater number of teams to work together, consider the example of launching a click and collect service in a department store – not only does the onsite experience need to be slick, the in-store team have to be trained to be aware of the steps in the process that are completed in store. Furthermore, ways of working can improve the effectiveness of what the customers sees and hears, particularly where alignment amongst diverse stakeholders is important. It’s possible to drive this by putting a greater emphasis on co-developing and reviewing a plan of action with the resulting priorities providing a clearer experience for customers, a better use of limited resources and less infighting!
Organisation & Culture – Coherence is enabled by organisation and cultural factors. For instance, a brand’s ability to speak in the same voice across channels requires “different teams to be involved in shaping and delivering the experience, and that doesn’t happen by accident.” In terms of differentiation versus the competition, Lowe explained, “culture can be critical, organisations known to innovate have built a culture that rewards collaboration, failing fast and learning from mistakes. This is not quick or easy to achieve and depends upon leadership demonstrating and acknowledging the desired behaviours”.
Lowe’s points about organisational challenges that must be surmounted, and the idea that “on the other side of any screen, there’s a customer who wants a connected experience” segued neatly into the keynote speech from Gillian Tett, the Chair of the FT Editorial Board and author of The Silo Effect.
Breaking down silos
Tett’s talk, drawing on her training in anthropology, 20 years as a journalist, and the experience of writing The Silo Effect, looked at Silos and silences, the 21st century paradox.
The paradox exists, she said, because “we think our phones connect us more than at any other time, but then we know that we live in a fragmented, disconnected, world.”
Opening with the story of how Sony failed to capitalise on the success of its Walkman to own digital music in the 21st century, Tett described that this was down to the fragmentation and silos that existed within the Japanese corporation: “Sony achieved success by creating teams of brilliant experts, each of these teams thought they were incredibly clever and successful but in no shape or form did they collaborate. Infact, they competed for glory within the company.”
Tett built her argument by describing how the majority of big scandals and disasters in both the corporate and government spheres – the financial crash of 2008, the success of the 9/11 terrorists – were “not because people were evil, or guilty, but because they’re haunted by silos… these make bright people stupid, and make organisations not just miss big opportunities but face terrible risks and dangers.”
What can we learn from Facebook?
Silos are unavoidable because humans are “hardwired to classify the world and put it into buckets,” said Tett. Therefore the task is to manage them, rather than attempt to eradicate their presence completely.
In her research Tett studied Facebook, which she explained, “is interesting because it’s good at creating a consistent culture inside, bringing people in, putting them in teams, and making sure teams keep collaborating.” It achieves this by rotating people internally, creating relationships across departments with its Bootcamp training that each new employee receives, and by running regular big forums involving people in different teams.
Lessons in managing silos can also be learned from Cleveland Clinic in the US – which reinvented its whole structure by creating new silos “based around consumers and how they see the world, then working backwards.” This put the emphasis on new functions based around body parts – such as the Brain Institute and the Heart Institute as opposed to those based on the needs and training of their clinicians.
Removing the silos around data can also have a positive impact, as shown by firefighting in New York. City Hall there moved from predicting fire outbreaks based on fire department data alone to pooling lots of other data that indicated neglect of property and risk of fire – vermin infestations, mortgage defaults etc. – from across departments. The result? A five-fold rise in the accuracy of predicting fire outbreaks with no extra cost.
Tett concluded with a checklist on how organisations can best break down silos:
- First, notice that silos exist
- Re-imagine taxonomy
- Look at social silences
- Keep boundaries flexible
- Give multiple affiliations to groups
- Use technology (carefully)
- And think about silos… again
Following the panel session, Dave Lowe concluded the session with two main points:
- Experience matters. That’s why Digitas has developed the Connected Experience framework, but we also need to think about organisation. What’s going on, and how people work, because changes are needed across data, platforms and tools, and knowledge and ways of working to enable a connected experience
- Experience Consulting from Digitas has been set up to, help organisations and brands to architect their experience ambition, and enable the change to bring this to life for their customers. When considering this, think about what’s going on other side of the camera the next time you are at the cinema, as well as what’s projected on screen.