Lights… camera… action!

13 December 2022 Martin Cheetham

I recently engaged with a bank to apply for a credit card. The online experience was great… applied, completed the forms, and submitted via my mobile device in minutes.

And that’s where the great experience ended.

Followed up via secure chat to find out when the card would be activated, only to find out that they hadn’t received the forms. Even the supporting docs sent via secure chat hadn’t been received/processed. They now needed to email the forms, which I had to print, sign and send back.

So what started as a seamless digital experience ended up in an archaic paper-based process and took more time than if it had just been paper-based from the start.

No matter how slick the user interface is, or how tech is leveraged to make the customer’s life easier, if the employee, processes, and systems behind the scenes don’t (or can’t) reinforce the customer-facing experience, it all falls flat. This actually makes the experience even more frustrating, as the expectation is established upfront, that this is going to be an efficient, simple experience that saves time, but actually ends up taking twice as long and costing the customer double the time.

User (or customer) experience is divided into two stages, frontstage and backstage:

  • Frontstage = Everything customers can see (e.g., hotel reception staff, online interface)
  • Backstage = Everything past the point of what customers can see (e.g., kitchen staff, supply-ordering systems)

In order to ensure a great user experience, both frontstage and backstage processes and systems need to operate in harmony. These stages are separated by lines of interaction and lines of visibility. Mapping out these touchpoints is crucial to designing a great experience throughout.

“What you don’t see backstage, is what really controls the show.” – Sarah Sutton

The first step is to create a customer journey map. This is based on assumptions and must be validated through research. Once the journey is validated and an ideal experience has been designed, a service design blueprint must be created. This facilitates the understanding of how to deliver this ideal experience in a sustainable way. After all, if it can’t be scaled, there’s no point in doing it.

It’s vitality important to understand the limitations of the current tech stack and how employees are going to engage with a system or process. So it’s one thing to understand exactly what customers want, it’s another thing entirely to understand why/how it may fail behind the scenes. If an employee is restricted by a certain process (the dreaded red tape) or the technology they’re using, and can’t meet the customer’s expected objective, it’s all for naught.

So many organisations have designed a great customer-facing interface, but when it comes to actually delivering a great experience, the backstage processes or systems fail and end up reverting to the ‘old ways’.

If lights represent the interface, the camera is the engagement and the action is everything that happens in the background, they all need to be in sync. Or the outcome is a box office flop.