In recent articles I've been exploring the terminology, definitions and boundaries we apply to the individuals and organisations we connect with in our work. It's those connections which create the overall brand experience. Yet all too often there's one dimension that's either overlooked, or certainly doesn't receive the attention it deserves.
Let's start with the term user experience (UX). Very much associated with websites and web apps, the value of the UX perspective in helping better align the 'offer' (such as a web app) to the needs of the end-user has seen the concept taken up by many within the branding and marketing sector. It's evolved and morphed into numerous variants, including a favourite of mine, human experience (HX). Then there's the more traditional customer experience (CX), and you could easily add audience experience (AX) and brand experience (BX), not to be confused with BS...
But in most cases the focus when using such terms, and the methodologies that accompany them, is on various sections of the external audience. They look outwards.
With most organisations there is – to a greater or lesser degree – some acknowledgement of how staff are treated, whether employees feel engaged and what treatment contractors should expect when they visit. But how many are fully committed to delivering an exceptional level of what might be called organisation experience (OX) or internal experience (IX) or support experience (SX)? And yes, I did just make those up.
What I'm referring to here is much more than just a token gesture, or a hook to attract and hold better staff. Instead, I'm questioning whether organisations deliver a truly authentic and complete SX that's as compelling, engaging and fulfilling as they're aiming to achieve for their various external audiences. Or even better.
And if they're not, it's a massive missed opportunity. Not only to improve the productivity, retention and creative input received from what we could loosely term 'support personnel'. But also to generate new perspectives and insights that could expand the experience for everyone. We're not just talking about staff, whether employed full time or on short term contracts. I'm relating to every single individual or organisation (and the individuals within those organisations) that acts in support of your offering to the world.
Take a moment to consider the breadth of that statement.
Sure, there are some well-known organisations who deliver an amazing SX for the main body of staff. But what about the cleaners? The gardeners? The security guy who's called out at 3am on Christmas Day? What about the bootstrapped startup or solopreneur? How are their experiences of their own brand?
If a brand is to truly and compellingly and consistently represent their values, then checking that the resulting brand experience is the same for internal and third party audiences, as well as target external audiences, is vital. Brands need to go way beyond a new lick of paint, inspirational quotes on the walls, a change in office layout and some 'modern' meeting areas. It takes a lot more than a little window dressing to fully deliver a credible and memorable SX.
What's interesting is that some organisations are actually better at SX than they are at CX. Particularly amongst the purpose-driven startups, there are small teams of incredibly passionate and aligned individuals who are truly living what they hope to embody in their work. Yet that passion and vision is not always clearly conveyed in the external brand experience. In these situations, evaluating the SX can be of immense benefit in shining a light on what CX should look like, where it's missing the mark, and how to address the shortfall.
In the end it doesn't matter what you call it, as long as it's leading you to extend your perspective to every individual that your organisation touches, either directly or indirectly. Yes, it starts at the core of your organisation with a brand experience founded on authentic core values, vision and purpose. And yes, your target audience of customers, consumers, users, etc. is clearly a high priority. But don't forget the guy from the courier company dropping off that document you've been waiting for. His experience matters.
Not because he might be retraining as a front end developer and looking for places to work. Not because his brother's wife's cousin runs the biggest organisation within your target sector. But because he's part of the incredible team of support personnel that enable you to serve your audience in the best possible way. And he deserves to be served in the best possible way by you too.