Two managers, one from the contact center and another from the mobile team, are standing at the water cooler (impossible, you say, but stick with me). The mobile manager sighs and says, “We’re swamped with x32 flim flam requests.” Staring blankly but eager to keep up this engaging small talk, the contact center manager sighs and says, “Yeah, we’re seeing a real uptick in XY321s.” After a moment’s awkward silence, the two part ways, each wondering what was just said.
Meanwhile, a thousand miles away, customer Mary Smith bangs her head against her desk and mutters, “I just want to pay my bill.”
Language can be one of the great impediments to even the most devoted efforts at digital transformation. Without a common nomenclature that spans channels, it can be all but impossible to gauge whether something that occurs in the call center channel is the same as something in the web channel. When different channels don’t recognize activity in other channels as being the same as their own, it is impossible to develop a cohesive narrative of the customer journey. Vital knowledge is locked away in separate silos and cannot be shared. It is, quite literally, a corporate Tower of Babel.
It’s tragic to see to this barrier to progress repeated at so many companies because, to be frank, it is one of the easiest steps to take. The process can be as easy as bringing together data SMEs, explaining the journey(s) the company would like to be able to explore, and having them map their unique terminology to a single shared set of terms. So “x32 flim flam” and “XY321” share the term “mortgage payment” in the company’s new common dictionary.
With this simple step, distinct channels can share the water cooler conversation. Most important, it sets the foundation for describing end-to-end, journey-centric narratives. The process needn’t be expensive either. In my experience, with the right people in the room, organizations regularly get 80 to 90 percent of the way there in just a couple of weeks.
So who is going to make this happen? The chief data officers at many companies interface with the right SMEs and can bring them together. It’s also possible that someone in customer experience recognizes the opportunity. In some cases, high level product line owners might be convinced of the need to bring together their data experts for this conversation.
The first step is to think about things from the customer perspective. It’s starting from the outside (the customer) in, rather than the inside (channel) out. What are they trying to do? This is fundamentally different from “What is this person doing on the website?” or “why is this person in the branch?” The latter questions tend to lead to questions of functionality within the channel and those steps tend not to align neatly when compared with other channels. The goal is to have one conversation, where everyone can recognize what can be done in the other channels.
Once created, the common language must persist. As journey analytics takes hold, you do not want to have to write hundreds of lines of code align different channels. The common language needs to sit above the fray within the channels. Its value comes from persisting on top of whatever is happening in the separate channels and allowing analytics to take place regardless of changes within the channels.
When things do change within a channel, an effective governance structure is required so that common language adapts and remains beneficial to the entire organization. There is a shared responsibility across the channels to constantly feed and maintain that common valuable resource. This hard-wiring of the common language into the organization is a defining characteristic of a journey-focused company.
As long as each channel respects its commitment to the shared nomenclature, they actually don’t need to change what they do or how they “speak” within their channel. This process doesn’t require change; only that participants map what they do to the company’s Rosetta stone.
Once there, companies can start thinking in a coherent way about all the things a customer experiences. It’s possible to identify the piece of data from the branch that says “Mary Smith came in to make a payment” and find the same data from the call center and digital channels. The common language across an enterprise that taking a journey-centric approach creates does more to break down organizational silos and enable Digital Transformation successes than any technology or program can.