I originally wrote today’s post for GetFeedback. It appeared on their site on July 19, 2020.

Designing and delivering a cohesive end-to-end customer experience is important for brands to do. To make this happen, your entire organization must be integrated and aligned to work toward that goal. In this article, I’ll address the gap between two important parts of your organization that must be bridged in order to achieve this goal.

Fact: More often than not, Product Teams and Customer Experience Teams work in silos. And while some may not immediately grasp the severity of this gap in the organization, it is glaringly obvious why they must work together. Instead, it seems that many companies prefer a product-centric culture over a customer-centric culture. I know this is a fact because I’ve heard it over and over again. Here are a couple of examples.

  • A question at the end of a recent webinar from an attendee: “But if I focus on the customer, won’t that take away from my focus on the product?
  • A comment on a LinkedIn post: “As in product development, the core product is the focal point. That is the same in customer experience; the customer is the focal point of customer-centricity and experience.

Now here’s that glaringly obvious part. I scratch my head as I hear and see these things because it really makes me wonder: “For whom are you designing the product?” Ah, well, I’ve heard the answer to that question many times, sadly: For themselves! I’ve lost count of how many startups have reached out to me for help with finding customers for their products. Instead, they should be solving problems – and finding products – for their customers!

So, how do we shift this thinking? How do we break down these silos? Unfortunately, it’s a systemic issue. In other words, culture and leadership are at the root of the problem. I’ll come back to that in a bit. Let’s start with some definitions.

Of all the definitions I’ll pose, ironically, the one for customer experience (CX) is the most straightforward. (It’s only ironic because some folks believe there is no clear definition for it, but just wait until I try to define the other terms!) Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has over the life of the relationship with a brand and, importantly, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions about those interactions.

Who owns the customer experience? The answer to this question oftentimes lies in the size of the organization. In small companies, typically it is (or it has to be) the CEO; occasionally there is a struggling team of one holding down the fort. In larger companies, there’s a VP of CX or a Chief Customer Officer who champions the customer within the organization and is assisted by a team of CX professionals. (Don’t miss my recent article on CX teams.)

Product experience is the sum of all the interactions a customer has with a product, perceptions about the product, i.e., its design, features, and functions, as well as the overall value the product delivers and drives for the customer. It’s actually part of the customer experience. How could it not be?! And, as such, makes it that much more important for these two teams to work closely together.

To define user experience (UX), it’s only right to go to the man who popularized the term, Don Norman, to get the original definition: “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

How does user experience differ from customer experience? User experience is a subset of customer experience, which takes a more holistic view. Despite Don’s definition or attempt to be all-encompassing, user experience is typically used to describe the experience with the product or service. In addition, user experience focuses on the end user, whereas customer experience focuses on the customer, who might or might not be the end user. Customer experience also includes emotions, feelings, and perceptions – a big part of what an “experience” is or elicits. User experience often focuses on usability (of the product). It also tends to focus on a specific channel (e.g., app, website), whereas customer experience looks across all channels, all interactions, all ways in which the customer touches the brand.

There are also differences in how they are both measured, which only serve to amplify how different they are overall. Key customer experience metrics are satisfaction, advocacy/loyalty/retention, net promoter score, customer effort score, ease of doing business, quality, value, and expectations. User experience is typically measured in terms of usability, abandonment, page views, task time, success rate, usage, error rate, and satisfaction. The beauty is that both use quantitative and qualitative feedback approaches to gauge these metrics.

Who owns the user experience and user research? Product teams are varied, as you can imagine; it seems like no two organizations have the same team composition. Teams are often comprised of product managers, product owners, product designers, UX designers, researchers, analysts, developers, engineers, and more.

Product managers do market research, helping to answer the question, “What problems are customers having that we must help them solve?” Product designers take into account both the market research and the business needs. And UX designers conduct user research that informs the user experience, focusing mainly on users’ needs. In reality, they all need to work together; it’s the only way the product will deliver on the problem it is supposed to solve and, therefore, actually be useful for the customer. To accomplish this, in the ideal world, the Head of Product (sometimes with a CPO, Chief Product Officer, title) ultimately owns the user experience.

Steve Jobs once said, “Making a product is hard, but making a team that can continually make products is even harder. The product I’m most proud of is Apple and the team I built at Apple.” To me, that speaks to the cross-functional requirements of designing and developing a great product and, hence, a great experience. The bottom line is this: if teams don’t work together, it leads to a bad experience overall for the customer. The outcome is then a natural one: the customer goes elsewhere to solve her problems.

That’s a great segue into how to bridge the gap between Product and CX teams and get them working together. I mentioned earlier that culture and leadership are at the root of the problem. The work to bring these teams together must begin there.

To learn how to bridge the gap, check out the rest of the article on GetFeedback’s site.

Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. -Alexander Graham Bell

Annette Franz, CCXP is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.