Join up to stand apart: practical ways to improve your customer experience

Siloed ways of working and behaviours remain a major barrier to delivering outstanding customer experiences. Less than 30% of organisations are highly joined-up across strategies and activities and less than 25% effectively integrate cross-functional working practices around the real needs of customers and employees. [1]

These are findings from our new study ‘Join up to stand apart’, which provides fresh solutions for joining-up to create differentiated customer experiences that drive growth. The study is based on our experience with over 160 leading organisations, new research with companies such as Virgin, PepsiCo and First Direct, and in diverse fields such as Williams Martini Racing and the Royal Marines, and is supported by quantitative data from over 1,000 contributors.

Joined-up customer experiences are proven to drive advocacy, loyalty and growth – identified as a top hallmark of growing organisations in our 2016 report.[2] In this new study, we identify the current practices getting in the way, what growing organisations do differently to join up outstanding customer experiences, and how leaders can make this happen in practice. As Richard Marriott (Director roles at Amazon UK and British Gas) told us “as leaders, you need to start with a mindset that says we’re just going to get there”.

Co-invention – join-up differentiated customer experiences to drive growth

We explored what growing organisations do differently to join up outstanding customer experiences. These organisations don’t just fix current pain points and remain entrenched in today’s working parameters, they join up strategies, ways of working and execution using ‘co-invention’. 

“Bring together different groups to invent and iterate differentiated customer experiences that have never existed before – breaking down silos and creating new value for all.”

We identified 3i drivers required for ‘co-invention’, which distinguish growing organisations.  




Making it happen in practice – the 3i Drivers 

Invention in strategy and execution

Top barriers identified through the study include strategies too focused on today’s pain points vs future opportunities and rigid functional planning. Growing organisations inspire a customer experience movement, bringing together teams to invent differentiated customer experiences and continuously improve the micro-moments for customers using data-driven insights. In the report, we share practical case studies of invention in strategy and execution from M&S Food, Cleveland Clinic, Airbnb, Unilever, Virgin, as well as UN migration in Zimbabwe and Somalia.

Virgin America inspired a customer experience movement to make flying good again, using invention to drive differentiated customer experiences and join up ways of working between functions. Cross-functional teams collaborated to re-imagine all aspects of the ‘guest’ experience, such as social personalised in-flight entertainment systems, their ‘singing safety video', and the first ever responsive airline website. Virgin America continuously improves the micro-moments through ‘team mates’ (employees) who are empowered to act and by applying data-driven insights. For example, the personalised in-flight system not only suggests new entertainment and beverage choices based on preferences, but also enables passengers to converse with customer service teams on the ground in real-time to address issues, such as checking connecting flights. 

Integration of real working practices

The number one barrier to joining up customer experiences remains ‘Siloed behaviours and ways of working’. Rather than focusing on organograms and procedures, leaders need to join up structures, processes and ways of working around the real needs of their customers, employees and partners. In the report, we describe common principles for success with case studies from organisations including First Direct, Facebook, PepsiCo, and Aviva. Success factors include C-suite accountability for the end-to-end experience, networked teams organised around customer experience goals, and integration across teams through shared values, rewards and data.

First Direct has pioneered amazing service through customer-centred leaders at C-suite level and empowered networks of teams. For example, customer service teams are trusted to use their judgment with no scripts or requirement to refer issues upwards. Different functions are joined up through a culture that puts customers first – if there is a customer problem, every function and leader deals with this before anything else. Shared values (e.g. pride, always on) are integrated into rewards, with everyone evaluated on how they live the values, not sales targets.

Ingenuity of people

A failure to empower employees was also identified as a major barrier for organisations. Automation and artificial intelligence are increasingly important enablers of customer experiences, from big data algorithms to IBM’s Watson. Yet technology should not be seen as the only solution. Harnessing the ingenuity of people remains the key differentiator between standard solutions and truly differentiated experiences – as we describe in the report with case studies from Zappos, Linkedin, Barclays, the Royal Marines and Williams. Leaders must involve and equip teams to be constantly inquisitive, apply creativity to find solutions, enabled through technologies, and use resourcefulness to amplify solutions across the business.

There are valuable learnings from Williams in the world of Formula 1. Williams’ pit stops were amongst the slowest of all teams last year, but this season they set a new world record at a sensational 1.92 seconds [3]. This was achieved through finding creative solutions such as re-designing wheel guns, working with the drivers to ensure they stop exactly on the right marks, and adding a visual person to watch the pit lane so the chief mechanic can focus on the release. This ingenuity is reflective of the culture of the Williams’ organisation, committed to a shared purpose of winning on the race track and passionate about seeking new ways to deliver performance.

Learn how to apply the 3i drivers in your organisation, explore the full findings, in-depth case studies from over 20 leading organisations such as Amazon, Virgin, First Direct, and Airbnb, and practical step-by-step approaches, by downloading the full report now. If you would like us to come and present the report findings and discuss how your organisation could become more joined-up, please get in touch



[1] Brand Learning joined-up customer experience research 2016

[2] Brand Learning research 2016  

[3] Brand Learning joined-up customer experience research 2016 

BRAND LEARNING: Inspiring people. Lifting capabilities. Growing organisations.