Organizational complexity is necessary to differentiate in the competitive marketplace. But such complexities (and the ensuing disconnects), if exposed to end-customers, can have disastrous results– with rapid decline in customer satisfaction and revenue and margin erosion.

Enterprises strive to mitigate this, inter alia, through the creation of organizational silos that cater to specific customer segments, and appoint single point of contacts for key customers.

With the recent push to “digital”, enterprises risk transferring the effort to deal with these complexities to end-customers unwittingly – and in striving to enhance user experience, may actually undermine it. More information and more features do not necessarily drive customer satisfaction or revenue. (Pink)

To understand some of the pitfalls, and design to improve customer experience, we can take lessons from highway interchange design.

Consider the picture on the left – it is a rather simple circle where two roads cross. As anyone with a bit of driving experience knows, at peak hours, this can result in a grid-lock leading to frayed tempers, road rage and lost time.

If a similar approach is taken in designing the user experience (or customer journey), as part of a move to digital, enterprises can end up with customers who have similar reactions to using the app to transact business.

Simplicity of user experience design is often mistakenly equated to simplicity of architecture. A front-end with pipes to monolithic systems at the back are no longer sufficient to ensure end-user simplicity. Enterprise architecture needs to be complex in the right places – for tracking customer behavior, establishing a presence in social media and monitoring it for feedback, having a single version of the truth, integrating the supply chain to provide visibility to service personnel as well as the customer, measuring team performance and customer satisfaction, and having control over data.

In contrast to the previous simple interchange design, consider the complexity
of the interchange (Judge Harry Pregerson interchange in LA, California), shown here.

The result is a relatively smoother flow of traffic – and the user (driver) does not have to comprehend the entire complexity of the structure. She has to choose a lane that will take her to her desired route. The sign boards progressively shift to the left, the closer one gets to the desired exit ramps enabling the driver to choose a particular lane. The simplicity of her experience is delivered by the complexity of the underlying architecture, which also allows for unambiguous communication that helps her.

Highway interchange designs teach us three things that would help architect and design user experience and customer journey while going digital:

  1. Consider ALL the options that the user needs. An example of insufficient design can be seen in some taxi-hailing applications. Once you book a car and confirm, you will not be able to book another taxi till the first journey is complete. The underlying assumption is that a person will not call more than one cab for his journey. However, I recently faced a situation when I had to hail two cabs as two groups had to go in different directions. I could not! Designing for all options means introducing complexities in business logic– and can lead to additional architectural elements. Avoiding such complexities for the sake of simplicity will reduce the competitive advantage that can be derived from providing such options to the customer.
  2. Design information flows that inform enterprise employees to provision resources needed to service the end customer. This sounds simple, but in reality, quite a challenge when there are multiple divisions (and applications) needed to deliver a resource (like a room). Gaps in information delivery to employees can lead to missed opportunities to upsell and cross-sell, besides leading to severe customer dissatisfaction. For example, the most frequent issue I have faced is in booking hotels, only to find that the room is not available when I reach the front-desk.
  3. Design progressively focused communication, limiting the information to cater to specific choices. No highway sign informs you of all the exits you have missed. Likewise, there is no point in showing all previous purchases made, when someone browses an online store!

Good design principles tend to place an overwhelming emphasis on simplicity – but simple user experience design is not antithetical to needed complexity in enterprise architecture to enable simplicity for an individual using the enterprise’s service. This applies to Digital as well.

Ramesh Dorairaj

Ramesh Dorairaj is consultant, coach and an author. He has 27+ Years of Experience consulting for Fortune 500 companies worldwide. He has groomed 50+ leaders. Has participated in 2.5 Billion $ worth of successful deals.  He is a Certified Executive Coach at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, Certified Sales Coach and a Certified Proposal Coach.

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