Successfully managing complexity in the customer journey

Marketeers describe the growing complexity as a major obstacle to successful market cultivation. A few tips show how the hurdle can be systematically overcome.


Most companies today are undergoing a transformation process toward a digitized business model. Everything has to become faster and more efficient, and also better aligned to customer requirements. After all, it's not just a matter of being a little more or less competitive, but rather a matter of survival.

Digital transformation at risk

If the study "Accelerating the Pace and Impact of Digital Transformation" published in the Harvard Review (2016) is to be believed, only one in five companies succeed in getting their digital strategy off the ground. A good 40 percent of executives say they have problems with change management. The same number of bosses see departmental silos and risk aversion as insurmountable obstacles. Not even half are able to quickly launch digital experimentation projects. Not surprisingly, the central factor that has been shown to have a negative impact on the success of market development is complexity.


Do not forget performance

As is well known, complexity can be caused by many different circumstances, for example by the organization, processes or products. Complexity is not negative per se. The challenge is rather to find the right degree of complexity. In market development - i.e. in sales, marketing, communication and service - it is above all the inflation of the various touchpoints that generates complexity. New opportunities to interact with (potential) customers arise almost weekly. Being present at every conceivable contact point with an "as much as possible" strategy is not effective. This is well known. It's also a fact that companies are rapidly managing over 200 touchpoints around the customer journey. That's too much and overwhelms any organization. 

Complexity needs change

Effective change management is geared towards holistic recording, control and reduction of complexity. Central points for a successful outcome are: 

  • Corporate culture before technology: For a long time, the focus of digitization projects was predominantly on technology. In the meantime, it has been recognized that a successful change process depends to a large extent on the involvement of employees. Change comes through cultural rethinking and the discarding of old thought patterns.
  • Clear goals and measurability: Successful change management begins with the formulation of clear and verifiable goals. Accordingly, reliable decision-making bases are a prerequisite for efficient target and success management.
  • Customer as a point of reference: A concrete point of orientation is extremely helpful for all those involved: What or whom do we want to focus on? Processes, costs or the customer? In market-oriented corporate management, this point of orientation should be the customer. Looking through the customer's glasses helps to better understand how products or even communication are received by the customer. Since the process is primarily about directional decisions, it is only advantageous that this perspective provides a holistic picture and is validated by means of customer research. Working from such a customer perspective is also extremely inspiring and many fresh ideas with potential can be generated quickly.
  • Mutual coordination or alignment describes the consistent orientation of the actions of the individual departments and employees to a common customer image. Persona, target groups and market segments are proven management tools in this context. As central bases for decision-making, these tools should also be underpinned by empirical customer research.
  • Entrepreneurship: We live in times of upheaval, radical change and many new opportunities. Changing is only possible if justifiable risks are taken and there is courage to take gaps. Entrepreneurship should be widely promoted.
  • Simplicity as the key to implementation success: Complicated strategies and campaigns with many touchpoints and messages have a difficult starting point. The famous Einstein saying sums it up: "You should make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." 

Managing complexity and shaping change are permanent tasks. Companies can be much more successful if employees are closely involved in the process and the customer voice is heard without distortion.

The Author: Christoph Spengler* is founder and Managing Director of Accelerom, an internationally active consulting and research company based in Zurich. For more than ten years, Accelerom has been combining management practice and innovative research and supporting clients from analysis to implementation. Everything revolves around the customer's perspective and his customer journey in marketing, sales, communication and services - always holistic, always measurable, always with impact and profitability in focus.

This article was previously published in Werbewoche 20/21 2018.

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