I Need a Problem to Solve With My Omni-Channel Customer Experience Strategy


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A couple of times a year I guest-lecture for several Masters in Marketing/Customer Management programs in The Netherlands. Almost every time students approach me with a question regarding their master-thesis or other assignment. The most frequently asked question is to help them with the problem definition of their paper that addresses the issue of drafting/implementing/selling internally their multi/omni-channel/crm/customer experience strategy. Unfortunately. (Not that I mind them asking though. Always better to ask than not to).

I say unfortunately, because the same happens within companies all the time. It looks as if people do not to want to solve problems. It looks as if they want to find a problem for the solution they already have (in mind). They seem to try to justify the purchase of a shiny object without being able to clearly define the problem they are trying to solve.

But how come? Is it because they have seen “it” work in another company? Is it because they believe that it’s important to “not fall behind competition”? Is it because they’re lazy or dumb? Is it because they blindly follow analysts’ magic quadrants and blue-chip consultants’ advice? I don’t think so.

I think it is because they do not have a clear understanding of the problems they are trying to solve. And that is a direct consequence of not having a clear, and common, understanding of the problems their Customers are trying to solve. In other words: they do not understand the jobs their Customer are trying to get done, the outcomes they desire and – most importantly –  they do not understand their own role in it. And if you do not understand all that, you really do not have a clear picture of the capabilities you need to develop.

If you experience these challenges yourself or you see people around you struggle, here’s five questions I ask my students that may be of help to you.

  1. What (job) is your Customer trying to get done?
  2. How is she trying to get it done and what does she expect/want/desire from doing and completing it?
  3. What channels/products/services/touch-points is she “hiring” to get the job done?
  4. Where is she failing and why? How is she experiencing her journey and the outcomes from it?
  5. What could/should you be doing to prevent her from failing and improve her experience?

So, please tell me: what (Customers’) problems are you solving?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. I know from a 28 year career in manufacturing, including 8 years as a facilitator in supervisory and quality training, that your analysis is correct. It is not that people don’t want to solve problems. After all, everyone wants to make their jobs easier and increase profits. The issue is that there are few organizations that have an easy, enjoyable,and effective problem solving process available to them. It’s also common to have management think that they are the only ones who can solve problems, when it is really the people who are performing the job who know best.

    Most problem solving efforts involve a everyone talking at once, a flurry of thoughts , a lot of criticism of both people and ideas, all of which results in little or no progress in solving the actual problem. The level of frustration goes up–the problem remains or gets worse.

    So, what to do? First, find a problem solving process that involves the people on the job. Give it to them. Let them learn how to use the process; then find a leader who can also be an effective leader. Teach everyone about proper brainstorming rules and make sure the leader/facilitator is knows how to effectively enforce them.

    Choose a team of people who know the job and how it is supposed to function. Decide whether or not having a supervisor present would be a help or might be intimidating. Find a room with a chart pad or whiteboard and let let the team go through the problem-solving process step-by-step until a solution has been reached.

    The problem-solving process I have developed is unique, effective, and can be found in the web site listed above.

    Steve Royal
    Royal Associates

  2. Not having a clear understanding of the problem to solve creates tons of project headaches. So does getting mired in side issues. Jacqueline Novogratz’s book, The Blue Sweater, describes how this happens. A stickler for framing problems the right way, she describes her impatience sitting through meetings about funding projects in the developing world. As she tells it, people (not her) would endlessly debate whether access to water is a fundamental human right, and whether it’s ethical for companies to profit from providing it to those in need. Her frustration resulted from how much time was squandered on this unproductive debate. The real issue, she wrote, is “how do you get water to people who need it?”

    That connected with me – it characterizes the way businesses get hamstrung when chasing down answers to the wrong questions. Ones that I’ve experienced myself are “how do we get the desktop suite to every user?” and “how do we get our entire manufacturing operation on barcoding?” Getting the right answers begins with understanding the desired results, and why they matter.

    I like your list, but I suggest starting with “What outcomes are desired or required?”

  3. This is a great post, and it describes the challenge we often find in consulting assignments – irrespective of industry sector, company size, or location. Defining the objective to be gained, or the problem to be solved, takes internal discipline and focus, an effective SWOT analysis approach, and, above all, an understanding of customer behavior and the behavioral customer experience journey. Even when, with the best of intentions, cross-functional teams are formed to plan and execute a customer initiative, most of what they devise is closer to “boil the ocean” fairly ineffectual use of resources than the pinpoint actions these initiatives require.


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