Sean Quinn: Hello, everyone. I’m Sean Quinn. Today, I’m really lucky to be joined once again by the co-executive producer of the UX Advantage Conference Jared Spool who along with Karen McGrane, has been working really hard on putting together this incredible conference that focuses on UX Strategy issues no one else is talking about.
In this podcast, we’re going to be exploring the exceptionally interesting UX Advantage topic of reinventing corporate structures. First, I want to say, hi, Jared.
Jared Spool: Hey there.
Sean: I’m really excited to discuss this topic with you. It’s actually the one that I find most intriguing of all of the ones that will be covered at the UX Advantage Conference. Let’s get started with reinventing corporate structures.
Traditional organizational silos are the nemesis of delivering great experiences. How do you scale multidisciplinary teams to enterprise size within the current corporate structures?
Jared: This is the key thing. This is re-shifting the way things work inside large organizations. One of the things that’s interesting is, we’ve always had this idea that in the industrial age, there’s a group of people who make the product. There’s a group of people who sell the product. There’s a group of people who bring awareness that the product exists, so that the people who sell it can sell the product that was made. Then there’s another group of people who support the product and maintain it.
You think of a car company. You’ve got the folks who buy the Super Bowl ads, or separate from the folks who train the salespeople to sell this thing. Then the people who actually sell it not only are separate but they don’t even work for the same company. They work for little organizations.
You’ve got the people who engineer and design the car. You got a different group of people who build the car. You’ve got another group of people who service the cars.
They’re all separate groups. They hardly ever meet. They probably don’t know people in the other groups. There’s probably some product manager type who traditionally has needled the groups together in this very loose network, and been the one who is responsible for communicating, but other than that there’s really no connection between these groups.
That doesn’t work anymore, because if we’re building great experiences, suddenly, every one of those things is a design problem. If the product’s fantastic, but it’s really difficult to buy. Or if the salesmen are really slick, but what they’re selling isn’t the actual product—you’ve got these problems.
If the product is great but the service sucks, if the marketing doesn’t really talk about what the product’s about, or it pitches something different, or it’s not coordinated with the changes in the product—you’ve got all these issues.
Organizations are realizing that they have to rethink the silos. They have to rethink these different issues. This has come about. We’ve seen this poke its head up in interesting ways, because the marketing people created this thing called customer experience, which is basically taking satisfaction metrics and other feedback and saying, “What is the net promoter? Is it a common thing? What is the satisfaction that people have? Would they recommend this product to someone else?”
That information doesn’t help you build a better product. You can’t tell from a net promoter’s score dropping from a 7.4 to a 6.8 what to do differently in the product. You don’t know. The product people have their own research, their own efforts to understand how to make the product better.
Then there’s this whole idea of service design where all the touch points are dealt with. We’ve got this customer experience, user experience, service design all basically promising the same thing but they were invented by different groups and assets. They were brought into the organization by different groups because the silos needed their own solution for those things.
What we’re seeing now is that in the organizations that are really pulling this off, they’re breaking those silos down. Service design, and customer experience, and user experience are starting to blend. Designers and marketers, and legal people, and everybody is working together to produce the product.
Suddenly you have a different type of group—multidisciplinary group—that goes across functional boundaries that is no longer thinking in terms of “I work for the marketing department,” or “I work for product,” or “I work in service.” In fact, they’re just about creating a great experience no matter where they are.
That shift is a big shift for a lot of organizations.
Sean: It sounds like what you’re saying is that it’s actually a fundamental shift.
Sean: One of the most difficult to make of any shifts.
Jared: Imagine being a bank. One of the greatest examples of this is that for some reason, back in the ’70s and ’80s, banking got into this group-think exercise, where the entire industry decided that they were no longer service, but were now making products. A mortgage is a product. A savings account is a product. A checking account is a product. A credit card is a product.
Everybody in the industry thinks this, everybody except for their customers. Their customers still think they’re getting a service. The industry keeps fighting that idea. Part of this came from the ability to sell things. I could sell you the mortgage, but then I can sell your mortgage to another service organization and they’ll service the mortgage. It’ll still have my name on the top of the stationery, but I actually don’t know what’s going on with your mortgage anymore.
This third-party company that bought the mortgage from you is now collecting the interest off the mortgage as part of the deal. They provide customer service to you. In fact, they may decide that they don’t want to provide customer service to you, so they’ve hired a company that will actually do the customer service while they collect the interest off the mortgage with my logo on the top of the page.
I actually have no idea what’s going on with the mortgage I sold you because I got other business. That was what the product thinking got us. From the customer’s experience, this was miserable.
I was in the process of refinancing, and a bank had come to me with a great deal. My mortgage wasn’t with that bank. I decided to go with the bank that the mortgage was with, and actually asked them what would it take for them to refinance it, figuring since they already have the mortgage, they’d be happy to refinance.
The hoops I had to go through, which included in the same phone call, telling a machine and two different people my account number, my outstanding balance, which they should have had, both of those things in front of them, and my address and my other details.
It was just incredible how many times I had to repeat information, because I kept getting transferred from one person to the next because I was trying to figure out if they would give me a good rate on re-financing.
It was just this siloed organization. For me as a customer, it was a horrible experience. I don’t care whether they gave me a good rate. Just because of how much hassle it was to talk to a computer, and two separate people who were looking at the computer, but not getting information from each other. I had to keep repeating things. This is not a company I wanted to do business with.
Sean: I think another great example, if you’re willing to speak to it, is the experience you recently had trying to get a receipt from an airline you did business with, if you wouldn’t mind speaking to that as an example of this siloing.
Jared: I was trying to get a receipt out of American Airlines, and went to the website to just look up my past trips. Past trips are not on the website. You can go to the loyalty program. You can see how many points you got from them, but you can’t see any details of the past trip.
Where are my past trips? I call the reservation person. First, I don’t get through to the reservation people. They tell me it’s going to be a 20-minute wait, but I can be called back. I leave my phone number, and they call me back. I was OK. I’d rather not be on hold, listening to bad airline hold music, so that was OK.
Then I got this call back from this woman who is completely unprepared to help me, because she knew nothing about my past trips. I gave her the six-letter code off my ticket, she couldn’t see the past trips in her history either—even though I’m a loyal person. I got points from them, the points are there, but no, she couldn’t see those, I have to give her the six-letter code, which I happen to have, that goes with it.
Then she said to me, she said outright, “I actually can’t get you this. You have to do it yourself.” It was completely bizarre. She’s like, “I’m going to walk you through how to do it on the website.” Then she proceeded to tell me things on the website that didn’t actually exist.
Finally, she had to bring up the website not on her system, because she can’t bring up the website on her system, she said to me, she says, “I have to boot this up on my personal computer, and bring up the website so I can see it.” She’s like, “Oh, you’re right. There is no receipt function. I have to call my help desk.”
Then she puts me on hold. Now I get to listen to the bad hold music. She puts me on hold for about five minutes while she talks to them, and turns out to get a receipt, you have to go to a website that’s not the airline website, but in fact a special URL that’s for refunds for the airline, Refundamericanairlines.com or something like that.
You’re now at the refund. It turns out there’s a little tab that says, “Print the receipt,” on the refund site, not on the main site. Then it wants a 16-digit ticket number. I didn’t have a 16-digit ticket number. All I had was the six-letter code. She’s like, “You need the 16-digit ticket number. You can’t get a receipt.” This is crazy. She said, “Go to your credit card bill and get the 16-digit ticket number.” What?
It was just nutty. This is what happens when you have silos in the organization, and people aren’t thinking about the customer journey. They’re not thinking about the total experience. They’re not thinking about what that’s really about. That’s what creates these issues.
If you’re really going to have a large organization with a great user experience that’s infused throughout, the silos have to be busted, because customers should not see what Tamara Adlin refers to as your corporate underpants, where ticket receipts are somehow part of refunds. That doesn’t make any sense, whatsoever. I didn’t ask for a refund, I just want a receipt so I can get reimbursed.
Sean: In your estimation, who are the folks who are successfully navigating this fundamental shift at this point?
Jared: I think that this is something that Fidelity is making huge weaves and bounds with. I think that we’re seeing great results out of PayPal. Though Scott will talk about this at the conference. Steve Turbek from Fidelity will talk about it. I think this is exactly what Capital One is working on. Scott Seymour from Capital One will talk to this.
I think this is a big deal and organizations are dealing with this. There’s a lot of legacy heritage that has to be dealt with when you start to break down these boundaries, and people start having to work together, and understand everybody else’s work schedule, and the milestones they have to have and all those things.
Sean: I’ve had the unique privilege and pleasure of being able to speak with you in all of these podcasts. I suggest anyone who is only listening to this one to go back and listen to the others, because it seems like all of these topics for the UX Advantage Conference are not standalone issues that you’re going to need to deal with many—if not all of these—in concert. Is that a fair estimation?
Jared: Oh, yeah. It is definitely the case that these things are all interrelated. You can’t think about restructuring the silos without executive support. The rewards and incentives that are put through the organization have to be in alignment, because if one group of people of marketing is rewarded for the promotion for getting something shipped by a certain date.
The design isn’t ready or the work that needs to be done, they’re going to push to generate a result for the reward system that’s going to not be optimal for the outcome of the design.
There’s all sorts of interrelationships that these topics have. Karen and I didn’t pick them by accident. These were all things that we realized we need to dive in and talk about both independently and together. What’s going to be cool about the conference is, we’re doing these interviews. We get to have these conversations about what each of these folks are doing.
As they’re putting these great organizations on the road to better competitive UX, we get to have these conversations about what have you done, and what are the challenges, and what are the elements? Because we’re doing it as interview format, we can refer to what other people are doing. We don’t have to rely on the fact that they pre-prepared a deck to make this work.
It’s going to be a lot of fun for us to have these conversations. It’s like having the panel of our dream that goes on for a day and a half. We’re really going to get in deep into these topics.
Sean: It’s going to be amazing, I know. I can’t wait to hear about these things. They’re interesting, they’re intriguing. The way you guys present this, it’s exciting. Once again, thank you for your time, Jared.
Jared: Thank you.
Sean: To all of you out there listening, I couldn’t recommend more going to uxadvantage.com to see all the topics, all of the speakers, the location, the venue, it’s going to be great. That’s in Baltimore on August 18th and 19th. I’m going to be there and I think you should be as well. Thank you. Bye for now.