Share this article
I am joined this week in writing by my young colleague Dan Lovero who knows how to turn ideas in value-creating service!
Yesterday began one of the longest waits in the gardening cycle. Every step is slow, begging an abundance of patience. Even the recent weather catapult from snow to 80+F in two short weeks does little to accelerate this ponderous process of waiting. It is a journey that starts late, goes so slowly, finishes long after the party is over, but for the aficionados of this humble vegetable, the wait is worth it. For the gardener that first November taste of a well-frosted parsnip, freshly roasted from the oven, makes the painfully long horticultural journey worthwhile.
Parsnips do everything slowly. They germinate slower than every weed that longs to steal their reserved space. Their seedlings do not like to be disturbed. They mature late and get forgotten in the fall harvest because they are not ready. The killing frost of fall that wipes everything out, is relished by this noble root that promptly turns its starches into sugars. Sugars that may caramelize to delicious effect when roasted with a little of the season's maple syrup for added good measure.
There is something almost counter-cultural about the parsnip, which has long been perhaps my favourite of all the root vegetables. It marries a painstakingly precise journey to maturity with the enormous value of arrival. Parsnips, like few others in the garden, make the journey eminently worthwhile, and in that almost plodding persistence, they teach us valuable lessons.
One solid, immovable connection remains amid all the enthusiasm of business pivots, collapsed cycle times, and reinvented business delivery systems. The journey for our customers, their experience of our brands, must still bring them to arrive, with delight, at our purpose. When the time finally comes to enjoy my parsnips, they had better taste like their promise—only a parsnip tastes like a parsnip. As surely as the journey to maturity for the humble vegetable makes it all worthwhile, so too must the customer journey--fraught now as it is with more digital interventions than we thought possible--bring your customers to what they value-your purpose. As has so often been said, "people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it!"
The participants of a healthy human company intuitively know the purpose of a business does not lie in the dusty plaque on the wall or in the rolling images on the website. It comes to life in the customer experience, it flourishes or not, on the customer journey. Jan Carlson taught us decades ago about "moments of truth." Sadly, we see disconnects appearing too often between a purpose – rich in meaning as it addresses a vital social need, perhaps one or more of the UN's sustainable development goals - and the way customers are invited to experience the brand. A noble end may be in sight, but expedience precludes its realization as necessary steps and components of customer experience are short-changed or often compromised. One cannot deliver a "white glove" promise in ersatz fashion. "Slow food" is not "fast food," though the calorie counts may be identical. As I have written earlier, the one stable platform for every business amidst this ocean of uncertainty is its purpose and core identity. Those are our granite foundations, our bedrock. Like the steel forming that holds our businesses on the ground, the customer experience that we promise with our brands and create with our people and technology, and often an ecosystem of suppliers, is the vital mechanism by which our purpose comes to life. In our recently vaporized analogue world, when much customer experience involved personal contact, many of us began a different journey, perhaps disorienting, but to the same destination, to the fulfillment of our business purpose. As we get our bearings, maybe the flashing seed that becomes such a wondrous root can guide us well.
1. Above all, be patient and ruthlessly methodical in holding purpose firm and re-thinking each step of the customer experience of your brand. Their needs may well remain the same, but the mechanism for that journey is now in massive flux. An "analogue" user conference may now become the start of a continuous community of knowledge sharing!
Dan says: “For practical application, turn Chris’ sage theory into a real experience by explicitly linking your business purpose with a visual map and framework of your primary customer journey. This includes building steps into the journey that allows you to be agile and flexible through effective measurement."
2. Weed often and ruthlessly! Over time, activities and tasks, artifacts and associated inconvenience show up in the delivery of our branded experience that detract, confuse, delay gratification or even impose an unwanted burden (often to lower cost) on our customers. Weed them out.
Dan says: “To identify the hot spots or more simply the effective components of your customer journey, gather your best customer feedback data, engage a few of your most thoughtful, practical and creative employees and turn them loose on an overhaul of your online customer experiences. Mine your website for data by looking at how customers interact or not with your content."
3. Embrace digital wisely. As we move nearly everything we can into a digital interface, two consequences are inevitable: overcrowding and too much junk. Our customers' lives are being disrupted at every turn. When the airline industry saved a lot of money by turning us all into travel agents sold the drug of "personalization," they conveniently forgot that everyone else was doing the same thing. Consumers are choking on personalization! Second, digitizing analogue steps in a customer journey without asking, "do we need this?" is like those moving boxed you never opened from the last move. Leave them behind!
Dan says: Choose one or two of your key groups of customers and ask, "In what ways are their lives being severely disrupted and how might we alleviate that disruption? This becomes the foundation of your journey and a measurement tool for you to assess your journey. Are you fulfilling what your customers actually want and in a meaningful way?”
If you have been thinking about your customer journey or want to explore what it looks like to realize the fullest potential of your brand, send an email us at [email protected]
Here at The Telosity Company our motto is to “Do Good Work”. We are passionate about helping leaders build healthy human companies. For us, Purpose comes before Profit. We need a lot of the first. There will be enough of the second. If we can help, please ask. Find us at www.telositycompany.com.
Chris Houston writes from his farm in Moffat, Ontario, where the ordered natural world and the chaotic human world get close enough so the former can teach the latter.