I have always been convinced that there is a lot to be gained by looking at what works in other sectors and applying it to one’s own (at least its principles) and that looking at what works elsewhere has at least the merit of making one think “out of the box”.
I am also convinced that a relevant idea or concept must be made intelligible to everyone. Depending on one’s profession, sector of activity and (especially) one’s thought pattern, one will be either totally open or totally closed to the ideas presented to him.
Experience: everyone talks about it, no one knows what they are talking about
The notion of experience is nothing new. If for many it’s a concept for marketers that came out of nowhere in the mid 2010s, let’s remember that “The Experience Economy” by Joe Pine came out in 1998 and that it was initially a new approach to the value created for the customer.
Customer experience, employee experience, everyone has heard about it in the last few years but I would be curious to know how many have a clear idea of what we are talking about. Even those who are supposed to be in charge of it.
If one were to ask all the professionals who keep saying that their central issue is the experience of their customers/employees what exactly they are talking about, I think that most of them would be able to cite tangible examples of the manifestation of a good experience but few of them would be able to explain in a synthetic way and with the necessary level of abstraction what an experience is.
“An experience is what people live”. But irony aside, it’s hollow and doesn’t move us forward.
This reminds me of the latest employee experience barometer which tells us that 78% of “practitioners” know employee experience well or very well. So 22% don’t understand anything about what they do on a daily basis. Reassuring.
But the barometer goes further: “The growing awareness and implementation of the employee experience does not go hand in hand with a better understanding“.
Is it really better for the customer experience? Not necessarily when you see how, just as employee experience is often used to promote QWL under another name, customer experience is used as a pretext for all kinds of practices, even the most anti-experiential ones, or even just a hollow marketing discourse without anything tangible behind it.
When you don’t know what you want to do, what you’re talking about, it allows you to do everything but mostly anything.
Experience: an unintelligible concept for many
Today, experience is the preserve of designers (who know what they’re talking about) and many digital professionals (outside of design) for whom it’s a catch-all word. But at least they know it’s important.
That would be enough if they were the only stakeholders in the subject. But if we consider that experience is almost a business model and, as we shall see, a change in the operational model, it is not enough when it comes to convincing and involving other professions so that large-scale and often cross-functional projects can be launched.
Go and propose a major, and therefore costly, transformation program to support an experience-based strategy to a financier and you will see that it is complicated. Get out of digital and services and talk to people in manufacturing, and it will be far from easy as well.
Back to basics to talk to everyone
My conviction is that most of the time we use new words to talk about logic already known elsewhere. It’s a question of marketing. Of course they come with their own nuances, biases and specificities, but basically, in the spirit, we are on known grounds.
The advantage of returning to familiar ground is twofold.
First of all, we get out of the marketing effect and the “hype”. We go back to the basics of economics and management. We go back to the basics that are part of the common core and that reassures even those who are not experts in the field.
Secondly, because as well as reassuring, it gives credibility to the approach.
Experience for dummies
Several months ago, during a chance meeting, I was talking about these topics with a senior executive who, without insulting him, I would describe as a bit old school and not necessarily receptive to all the new concepts of the so-called digital economy. Not because he is not capable of understanding but because he is skeptical by nature, suspicious of fads and allergic to hollow concepts.
At one point, even if it means shocking the purists, I was voluntarily reductive by telling him:
“But this is nothing new and your company already has the methods to do it. Consider that experience is a bit like quality, a new way of defining it but basically it’s the same logic. As for the means to achieve it, it’s not complicated, it’s the result of an operational excellence approach.
Of course it’s my own bias that I’ve defended many times here, especially regarding the employee experience:
- The employee experience is not (only) an HR subject, it is experienced when the employee “produces”, and therefore depends to a large extent on operations.
- We must therefore bring the employee experience back into the flow of work and not make it a subject peripheral to the productive activity.
- Hence the importance of making the difference between what happens “at work” and “in work”. When you are just at the office or when you are working there.
In any case, the answer of my interlocutor was “Oh, now it’s clearer. I see a little better what we are talking about and especially what it implies if we want to succeed“.
And it was some months after this discussion that I stumbled upon this article.
Experience is the new quality
An article that has nothing to do with the subject (or not much) but if we know how to take a step back and grasp the spirit it tells us a lot, it is up to us to translate the principles to apply them elsewhere.
It is this scheme that initially attracted my attention.
If we look at the components of a good experience, we find the product, the service, the working conditions of the employees who produce it (and therefore the employee experience if we are talking about customer experience, or the experience of managers and HR for employee experience), the consideration of the omnichannel nature of the experience (physical and digital), the fact that it is not off the ground but attached to the resolution of a problem or the satisfaction of a need…. )…in short, everything that people who are not in marketing or HR call quality.
In order to achieve this, the industrial world goes through a certain number of activities that have more or less obvious counterparts in the world of knowledge work and services. Engineering becomes design, sourcing becomes recruitment, operations are always valid as long as they become people centric, etc. The optimization of all this is called operational excellence. Well, once again in the industry, because it’s another dirty word that we don’t like to use elsewhere.
So, without digging further and entering into a really specific logic, the convergence is quite obvious.
Data, operations and excellence
Moreover, let’s go further in the logic that the experience is only the result for the customer/employee of an operational excellence approach.
I refer you here to an article that describes an initiative led by SAP Signavio using Qualtrics. But in the end the “who” doesn’t matter, what matters is the logic.
It tells us how data was used to improve operations in order to improve both the employee experience and performance in a logic of employee retention. I can’t hide my satisfaction to finally read someone who totally shares my opinion on the subject.
“Becoming process-centric requires the right tools, which is why we partnered with Qualtrics to offer an experience-driven journey to process analytics tool that reveals how an organization’s underlying operations impact employee sentiment.
It does this by automatically finding the intersection points between employee experience and operations, enabling organizations to explore their overall impact on business KPIs much more effectively.
By taking process insights discovered through these tools and predicting the operational challenges their employees may be facing day-to-day, the C-Suite can catch pinch points faster, work on internal improvements, and prevent their staff from setting eyes elsewhere.
The correlation of operational processes with employee sentiment, engagement insight, and data is a ground-breaking step towards creating a culture that truly values employees as whole human beings and making it easier for them to get their work done.”
As simple as that.
If we go beyond catch-all concepts, good customer/employee excellence is only the result of a quality approach based on operational excellence.
It demystifies and puts many things in their place. But it also forces us to become aware of the extent of a project that we don’t want to see, cosmetics being a less sensitive approach.