Customer experience begins with the empowering of people to affect outcomes – Interview with Ian Fitzpatrick of Almighty


Today’s interview is with Ian Fitzpatrick, Chief Strategy Officer and founding partner at Almighty, a Boston-based digital agency that helps its clients reimagine what it means to be their customer, and build tools, systems and experiences that support those relationships. They recently published a new report called Hearts, then Charts: a framework for meaningful approaches to customer experience that explores the challenges that organisations face in becoming customer centric and what they need to do to achieve that. He joins me today to talk about their research and what brands and leaders can learn from it. Hat tip to Ian Golding for putting me onto the report via his blog.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Let’s stop talking about data and start talking about outcomes – Interview with Geraldine McBride of MyWave – and is number 162 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights of my interview with Ian:

  • Almighty focus on doing meaningful work at the intersection of customer needs and brand business objectives.
  • Almighty have recently published a new report called Hearts, then Charts: a framework for meaningful approaches to customer experience
  • Hat tip to Ian Golding for putting me onto the report via his blog.
  • The impetus of the report comes from their experience in looking into what systems, processes, infrastructure etc etc are need to fulfill the customer needs that they are uncovering for their client’s brands.
  • Also, they were finding that outputs were really not tying to outcomes as much as they had presumed.
  • Are we creating outputs that don’t generate outcomes because they don’t adhere to the organisation?
  • Ian relates an example from an organ transplant surgeon he recently had dinner with. During the dinner, they were talking about performance metrics and he asked him about his performance metrics. The surgeon said that the only performance metric they have is ‘acceptance rate’ as even the most elegant execution that doesn’t take is a fail whilst the most ‘haphazard’ one that does take is a success. All the surgeon cares about is that the organ is accepted.
  • Their study focused on how are customer experiences measured, what are they predicated upon, how does the organisation define user need and how much of the broad journey does the organisation have a meaningful sense of and adapt to.
  • One of the stark findings was that many organisations were developing customer personas but these weren’t unified across the organisation so that they were designing for one group, marketing to another and then selling to a third group.
  • This was no shared sense of who the customer was.
  • Of the 50 enterprises that they did a deep dive with on this only 2 had connected personas across product design, marketing and sales.
  • Some of the main reasons behind this include the high-turnover rate in organisations, particularly in sales and marketing, which meant that outputs and/or documentation of peoples predecessors was not getting adopted.
  • They also found that whilst lots of brands are talking about and buying customer journey mapping they face a big problem in that most of the mapping efforts are remarkably limited in scope and very few map out the experience that the customer has outside of the purview of their organisation.
  • We have mistaken fidelity for utility.
  • We mistakenly believe that a perfectly dialed in description of the customer that is held by a few is more valuable that a more broad based description that is universally understood, accepted and adopted.
  • We are too focused on outputs rather than outcomes.
  • This report articulates a route for organisations to build ‘muscle memory’ around the basics of a customer-centric organisation. In doing so it outlines five key themes to help achieve that:
    • 1. A shared language for talking about our most important customers.
    • 2. A common vocabulary for describing the stages and phases of our customer experience.
    • 3. A means of defining customer needs throughout the entirety of our customer experience.
    • 4. A framework for measuring the effectiveness of experiences, and connecting them to business outcomes.
    • 5. A model for centralized accountability for the ongoing delivery of great customer experiences.
  • Their findings about the last point were particularly interesting, where they found that most organisations are not clear about who is accountable for customer experience. In one healthcare provider, they asked 8 very senior executives and received 8 different responses! They found a similar response in a retail chain where they asked 8 very senior executives and got 6 very different responses.
  • So, whilst people believe that this is important and that accountability should sit somewhere there are not sure where it does sit.
  • Here’s an additional and potentially alarming finding, albeit based on a small sample size. In the 188 companies that they surveyed, 44 companies had a plurality of people that said ‘Yes, I know who is accountable’ for customer experience. However, in only one of those 44 instances did everyone name the same person.
  • All of the ‘fast company’ rhetoric around it being ‘the age of the customer’ has yet to manifest itself in meaningful ways.
  • In the US, in particular, customer experience is migrating to the portfolio of operations. However, Ian does not believe that that migration is behind the chaos they are seeing.
  • Ian tells a story of PillPack, a full-service pharmacy that is doing a lot of good things including how they are displaying their NPS scores simultaneously, and in real time, in both their head office and their pharmacies. However, more importantly, whilst everyone in the organisation will be able to tell you the NPS score, they will also be able to tell you what they individually can do to impact the overall NPS score.
  • Customer experience begins with the empowering of people to affect outcomes. Empowering people to do that creates the collective will to invest in those outcomes.
  • It’s really hard to get people to allocate budget inside large organisations against customer experience if they don’t believe it will drive something that they can hold up to show what they are accomplishing or what they are driving.
  • We have over-complicated what it takes to deliver a great customer experience but it really boils down to five things: who are our customers, what is the experience that they go through, what are the needs at each of those places, how do we measure our ability to meet those needs and how do we create top-down accountability for working to ensure that we meet the highest possible measure against those metrics.
  • One of the challenges for contemporary organisations is that in the absence of a real vision for customer experience decisions get pushed to really functional places.
  • To get started on this type of journey, Ian advocates getting members of your product design, marketing and sales teams together and ask each group the same question: Who are we making this for?
  • Comparing he answers will give you a real sense of where you are.
  • But, also don’t forget to ask the people that touch the customer the most often too….the customer service reps, your retail staff, your field service engineers as they will give you a clear sense of who are ‘making’ this for too.
  • Once you’ve done that, assemble a team to pull it all together.
  • Ian plugs Neil Perkin’s Only Dead Fish blog as something everyone should be reading.
  • But, do check out Almighty’s report: Hearts, then Charts: a framework for meaningful approaches to customer experience too.

About Ian (taken from his Almighty bio)

Ian FitzpatrickIan is a founding partner at Almighty, where he leads a research and strategy practice charged with developing insights into the behaviours and needs of the people who use the products and services we build, and outlining strategies for creating more-relevant content.

Prior to founding Almighty, Ian had led new media design and development efforts at Mattel and Euro RSCG / Circle for clients like American Legacy/Truth, Verizon, Campbell Soup Company, Diageo and Symantec.

Ian has written for more than a dozen publications, including credits in SPIN, Chunklet, Alternative Press, Dusted and Interface Magazines. He is a frequent speaker and panelist, at events and programming sponsored by organizations ranging from The Ad Club to CMJ to MITX. Most recently, Ian has been engaged with Boston’s vibrant startup community, working as volunteer advisor with Mass Challenge through the MITX Up program.

Ian works across the full range of Almighty’s client roster, most-recently focusing his energy on the launch of New Balance’s Minimus footwear line, the rollout of a new social strategy for BJ’s Wholesale Club and the insights that informed the design of physical installations at the New Balance Boston Experience Store.

Ian can be found on Twitter at @ianfitzpatrick and Linkedin here.

Photo Credit: gaelx via Compfight cc


  1. ​I particularly like the distinction between measuring outputs and outcomes. Fascinating how many organisation’s focus on the former rather than the latter. Perhaps there is a lesson in there somewhere


  1. […] interview follows on from my recent interview – Customer experience begins with the empowering of people to affect outcomes – Interview with Ian F… – and is number 163 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing […]

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