Recently, an expressive amount of articles about customer experience have been relaying a statistic saying that marketers will own the customer journey in the near future.

However, owning the customer experience implies that the organisation has the power to own the entire experience. Unfortunately, this isn’t completely true. No one owns the end-to-end experience. Here we highlight the various impacts on customer experience design.

Dependency on third parties

For many industries, the product or service is not delivered solely by your organisation. If you manufacture consumer electronics products or fast moving consumer goods, you have a wide network of distributors that will represent your brand which you need to account for in your customer experience design.

For airlines, the airport acts as the main base of operations and delivers a consequent part of the experience – especially if people have connecting flights. And a poor airport experience could certainly have a negative impact on a customer, which really had nothing to do with the airline, who got them from A to B on time and in comfort.

However, it might not be practical (both financially and operationally) to own the end-to-end customer experience. How these partners perform is a key element of what customers’ experience. These relationships will be more critical than ever for companies to stand out from the crowd.

The influence of others

When you don’t depend on partners, many aspects can still go wrong; and the guilty party could be your very own customers. If you are in the restaurant industry, other guests will directly impact your experience – yes, that large table of 20 people talking loudly might not necessarily be a welcomed addition to everyone’s dining experience. Taking the airline example again, remember the last time you spent hours with a baby crying next to you or when the child sitting right behind you was going all Rocky Balboa on your seat. The impact of such experiences are often outside of the organisations (and the parents) control.

For now, let us just agree that customers can not only ruin each other’s experiences, they could put them off returning. Organisations unfortunately have no fool proof technique to ensure all customers behave as the perfect experience facilitators or ambassadors – this is a clear example of how your business model brings risk and external impact to your customer experience design.

What does this mean for my brand?

This clearly demonstrates that you are not immune to the external impact when building state-of-the-art customer experience design. Although you will likely be responsible for implementing customer experience strategy, you will still need to rely on key partnerships, both inside and outside the organisation, and not focus solely on the parts of the experience it directly manages.

To make it work, organisations will need to take a holistic approach to customer experience. It is therefore critical to ensure you map your customer journey and understand what variables are at play. Understanding what elements of your design are internal – and how to manage them – or external – and how to influence these, are what will set leaders apart from the rest of the crowd.

Leading organisations have learned to embrace this fact: American Airlines recently partnered with Uber to ensure they would take care of one of the weak links of the travel experience. Other companies have kick-started entrepreneurial ventures that directly lead to improving the customer experience through journey redesign and product improvement (companies like Apple, LinkedIn, 3M or Google). We’ll discuss the latter in an upcoming post.

So let’s face it: you can’t fully control your customer experience design, but it doesn’t mean you cannot take it into account and manage it.

Acknowledgements: Gustavo Imhof