Launching the Customer Experience Rocket – How the most successful companies help their customers reach for the stars

Why do some companies achieve astronomical success in the market by delivering outstanding customer experiences, whilst other companies struggle so mightily to even get their customer experience efforts off the ground?

To help answer this question, I like to equate a company to a rocket, and their customers to the astronauts inside the rocket.

What makes any company successful is its ability to help customers achieve their goals, in the same way that a rocket is successful if it delivers its astronauts to space, and beyond!

Now, the important thing to keep in mind is that any large rocket is made up of multiple components all of which have to work together to ultimately deliver a successful take off and journey.

In this analogy, I like to split the rocket into three key components, a) the command module b) the main body, and c) the engine. And, extending the analogy, I split a company the same way into a) Experience, b) Capability and c) Culture. This can be seen in the diagram below.

Figure 1: The Customer Experience Rocket

Figure 1: The Customer Experience Rocket

So, how does this analogy work? Well, lets look at each component.

Customer Experience Rocket - Astronaut.PNG

A)      The Astronauts / Customers – In any space flight, the most important goal is to maintain the health and wellbeing of the astronauts, both mentally and physically, and to deliver them where they are trying to go. In order to do this, the manufacturers of the rocket need to understand the astronauts needs and wants and do as much as possible to ensure they are met and hopefully exceeded.

The same applies for a company. The most important goal for any company in relation to its customers is to understand their needs and wants, and do as much as possible to meet and hopefully exceed their expectations.

B)      Command Module / Experience – The Command Module in a spaceship is where the rubber hits the road. It consists of everything the astronauts see, hear, feel and interact with in the spaceship, and turns everything into reality. If the command module doesn’t help the astronauts achieve their goals whilst keeping them happy and healthy, then everything else on the spaceship is useless.

Similarly, in business, everything that customers see, hear, feel and interact with is part of the overall Experience delivered by a company. The overall set of experiences can be delivered through any number of channels, and delivered by software, people or the product itself, but all are critical to overall success. If these experiences don’t at least initially meet the expectations of the customers, and at the moments that matter actually "wow" the customers, then everything else is a failure.

C)      Main Body / Capability – The main body of a spaceship is where everything “under the hood” is housed. These are all the parts and functions that make the command module function correctly, such as life support, computers, mechanical components and other critical capabilities. Without these all working correctly and in alignment, having a great command module that meets the needs of its astronauts is not possible.

The same applies in business. Having the right capabilities “under the hood” is critical to delivering experiences that customers value. These will include people, process and system capabilities, and will be created through the training and support given to customer facing team members, the knowledge management and process design activities undertaken, and the IT and other system that are provided to support the experiences of staff and customers. As with a spaceship, if these do not work well together and in alignment to deliver the Experiences expected by customers than everything else will fail.

D)      Engine / Culture – A spaceship is not going to get anywhere without an engine and the fuel that it needs to break through the atmosphere and reach space and beyond. The engine needs to be powerful and focussed on delivering as much power as possible to the rocket as it takes off and accelerates. Without this engine pushing everything along, the rocket will stall at the launchpad.

The same applies in a company. The “engine” of any company is its corporate culture. Without a culture that is customer-centric, and which aligns everyone in the company behind a common set of goals and principles, the capabilities of the company will fail to meet the experience goals of the company or its customers. Having the right culture is critical to success, or everything will come crashing down.

So, how do you apply the Customer Experience Rocket model to your business? Well, the rocket model can be applied either to a new business, or to one wishing to revisit and improve the experiences they are delivering to their customers. The important thing is to start at the top and move down the model to design an overall system that will function correctly.

1. Astronauts / Customers - The first thing to understand is that you have to start with the most important piece in the whole thing, the astronaut (a.k.a. your customer). It is critical to gain insights into what customers’ value, what experiences they are after, and what they expect from your business when they deal with you. This should be done through talking directly to customers through surveys, interviews, observations, analysis and other Voice of Customer insight gathering methodologies.

2. Command Module / Experiences - Once it is understood what the astronauts (customers) expect, then the rest of the rocket can be designed. This should begin with the command module (experiences), which need to be designed to meet the needs of the astronauts (customers). In the business context, this means ensuring that everything the customers sees, hears, fells or touches in relation to the business aligns and meets (or exceeds) expectations, and that at the right time customers experience those "wow" moments. This experience design can be done through journey mapping, or a number of other design methodologies.

3. Main Body / Capability – To ensure the Command Module / Experience meets and expectations, the rocket or business needs to be capable of delivering what is required. It is no good to design Experiences that the business is just not capable of delivering. Thus, the Capability component in the model is critical, and the design of this component and its associated activities (e.g. training, process design, feedback loops, governance, systems development, IT) must support the delivery of Experiences that deliver value to customers.

4. Engine / Culture – Underpinning the success of the whole rocket / business is the engine in the case of the rocket, or the engine-room of the business which is the corporate culture. Once the customer needs, experiences and required capabilities have been identified, the company culture needs to be designed and implemented so that it is customer-centric and supports the capability development and experience delivery as required. To do this, it is important to first of all understand the current company culture (if the company is already in place), and then identify any gaps, and close these gaps through a series of cultural interventions.

It is useful to think of a company as a rocket aiming to deliver its customers to the stars, as it makes it easy to understand why everything in a company needs to work together an in alignment in order to succeed.

Note: This is the first in a series of posts which will deconstruct each component of the Customer Experience Rocket. Look out for further posts shortly.