Does your company need a Chief Experience Officer?
Most businesses strive for efficiency. But what if efficiency comes at the price of customer experience? Companies can create highly efficient processes customers hate. Laate Olukotun, a designer of user-centered processes, has seen that happen more than once.
Recently, Olukotun had his car serviced at a dealership that had two brands of automobile. In the interest of efficiency, the company created different customer service desks for the two brands. Olukotun, not knowing the company’s system, went to the wrong desk at first and was directed to the right one. A week later, Olukotun called back to check on his car, and the employee asked him if he remembered who had checked it in initially. He didn’t have a clue.
Eventually, Olukotun got his car back, but what he did not get was a good customer experience. “They had become so focused on operational efficiency that they missed out on providing great service,” says Olukotun, who has spent his career helping companies avoid missing that chance.
Olukotun will present a workshop on designing a customer-centered experience at the Princeton Public Library’s community room on Tuesday, October 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event costs $50 for members of the Princeton Merchants Association and $65 for nonmembers. Visit www.princetonmerchants.org.
Olukotun owns a design company, Lollygig, and an offshoot consulting company called MomentumPunch, which operate from a virtual office at 66 Witherspoon Street in Princeton (www.lollygig.com). Previously, he worked for office furniture maker Steelcase, where he launched Workspring, MyTurnstone BoomMaster, and a coworking space called 654 Croswell. Olukotun has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale and a master’s of design from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Olukotun grew up on a farm in Hopewell. His father was a cardiologist and his mother was a nurse. Both trained at the Mayo Clinic, and years later, Olukotun found himself in the clinic’s Sparc Innovation Lab while he completed an internship in design.
The love of design has driven Olukotun throughout his career. He believes good customer-centered design starts with seeing your company from the point of view of a customer (or an employee.)
“When companies start out as a single person or a few people, they have a really good sense of some need they are fulfilling. They are connected with it very closely. They have this great sense that they are trying to solve some problem with its product or service,” he says. “When they start to evolve, they add teammates, or add employees, and it starts to lose that focus on the customer. They start to focus a lot of effort on developing systems.”
As those systems become more and more sophisticated, Olukotun says, the company no longer focuses on the customer. Companies get swept up in making incremental improvements to those systems, only to find that another company brushes them aside because they meet customers’ needs better.
“I help organizations turn that around and get back to focusing on those unmet needs of the customers they were trying to address in the first place,” he says.
Olukotun believes the way to do that is by research: not just doing focus groups, but finding out exactly how customers engage with your company and improving the experience every step of the way, all the way from when someone finds out about it to the way they will remember it afterwards.
Olukotun says an example of a company that does this really well is Small World Coffee, which has locations on Nassau and Witherspoon streets. The coffee shop, which is run by a friend of Olukotun’s, has a strong focus on customer service, as well as branding with consistent logos and colors between the two locations. “They’re a small brand, but they have done a nice job of making sure that you are catered to very carefully,” he says.
Another example, and one that is constantly referenced as a role model of good design, is the Apple iPhone. Olukotun says the iPhone gives users a good experience because it gets better as time goes on. It starts off a generic phone, but over time it becomes more useful as the user adds apps and changes settings to suit his or her needs. “It’s almost like leather shoes or a wallet. It becomes more valuable because you’ve worn it and it fits you better,” he says.
The workshop will focus less on the details of creating a framework for how to create good customer experience, and more on the strategy, which is Olukotun area of expertise. A key part of the strategy is balance. If one part of the company — say the COO — is focused on incremental improvements, and the other — perhaps a Chief Experience Officer — is focused on innovation, both halves will be better. “If you can find that balance, you will be able to maximize your return and you will become much more effective doing both pieces of it,” Olukotun says.