Harnessing the Power of Strategic Relationships for Innovation

Harnessing the Power of Strategic Relationships for Innovation

What happens when companies or brands unite in the service of better customer experience?
By Brad Zabroski — frog

Now more than ever, customer experience (CX) is an imperative part of any winning brand strategy. But in order to truly realize a meaningful CX strategy, brands cannot just depend on strong customer service or rockstar products anymore. With rapid advancements by technology behemoths and growing customer expectations, brands need a perfect choreography of people, processes, tools, technology, environments and data, all working together in the service of creating seamless experiences that eliminate pain points while eliciting joy from their customers.

We know that transformative change often requires companies to think outside of boundaries and across industries—meaning sometimes you need to get out of your normal headspace or routine to validate (or invalidate) what you already know. However, this can be difficult when you are a part of a vast organization with siloed or distributed teams. At frog, we work across a varied array of different industries, so we thought it would be a great idea to bring together friends and clients from ExxonMobil, the NFL and SiriusXM for an ideation session around the topic of developing more strategic relationships to enable better customer experience. In the workshop, we asked our participants to suspend reality for a given prompt: work together to design a subscription model that can bundle different products and services across brands to best serve all of their customers.

Although these clients are all from distinct and varied industries, what brings them together is that they are all passionate about serving their customers, and are open to new ways of figuring out how to do so. Many of the participants quickly understood that their product or service could be even more powerful when combined with, or enabled by elements belonging to other companies. “Customers don’t care who does it, they just want a seamless experience,” we heard from Jei Gort, Partnership & Digital Integration, Consumer Marketing ExxonMobil, “so we’re eager to build better relationships with partners to show we care about the same things.”

But in reality, while many are committed to building great CX strategies and deepening customer relationships, companies are too often handcuffed because the customers’ journey is owned by many different platforms or entities. Trying to navigate the complexities of connecting assets that are outside a company’s domain is daunting and can feel prohibitive to teams working within these large organizations.

What we realized from this workshop is that the only reality that needs to be suspended is that of corporate politics and silos. If those are broken down, entire industries can change. It is through conversations like these, facilitated by a strategic partner, that we begin to break down those barriers. By uncovering common problems and looking at the challenge from the outside, we can help reframe the question and present solutions in a different light. And by identifying common goals and facilitating these relationships across industries or traditional markets, we know these initiatives will prosper from great initial partnerships to entire dynamic and seamless platforms that deliver unparalleled customer experiences.

From our experience, we’ve found that there are two common ways to achieve a more meaningful approach to CX. On the one hand, individual companies can attempt to broaden their scale, expertise and capabilities to better serve customers. And on the other hand, we see passionate, open-minded companies understanding that by innovating and working together, they can better leverage each other’s expertise and capabilities to create more powerful customer experiences.

While there are great brands out there successfully employing the former, this approach often results in wanting to “own” their customers’ experiences—sometimes at the detriment of the customer. Customers live across brands, often leveraging several different ecosystems of products simultaneously in their daily lives. We understand that sometimes, in order to truly gain loyalty and growth from customers, companies need to branch out and embrace collaboration with other brands—even those that seem like unlikely bedfellows.

Today, nearly every company understands the short and long tail benefits of caring for their customers at every point of contact, of curating their experiences, of making it right when things go wrong. But still, embarking on new relationships can be daunting. The challenge is to protect the unique value, ethos and purpose of each brand across a seamless experience. But it’s a challenge that can certainly be overcome with the right strategic partners leading the way.

Author
Brad Zabroski
Creative director and UX director, frog
Brad Zabroski
Brad Zabroski
Creative director and UX director, frog

Brad is a hybrid thinker and design practitioner with the inherent ability to maximize the potential of experience design across domains. As an innovative, award-winning creative director and UX director, Brad brings 18+ years’ experience engaging consumers of global brands and devising next-generation product design in digital and physical environments.