Now that my kids are off to college, I find myself with some time to focus on some hobbies that I've wanted to pursue for years but didn't have the time for when kids needed chauffeuring or feeding. I love my kids but having free time to explore some new interests and hobbies is awesome. But I digress.
Exploring a couple of new hobbies made me think about the way most entrepreneurs and innovators structure their businesses. It's as if there are only a handful of potential business models, and regardless of the opportunity or need, all businesses must be structured along similar lines. In other words, we allow conventional models to shape our businesses, rather than customer needs and emerging opportunities. Rather than consider customer needs and objectives, it seems we stamp out more of the same siloed businesses. Let me give you an example.
For years I wanted to learn to play the guitar. Since I have limited experience, it's a bit daunting. Going to the guitar store I found literally hundreds of acoustic and electric guitars for sale, and no real guide to what's right for a middle aged beginner. I wanted a used acoustic guitar, in case I decided I simply didn't have the commitment or chops. Trying to find a good, reasonable quality guitar was really overwhelming. There are guitars on Craig's list, Reverb, at the guitar centers. New and used. Dozens of manufacturers. How's a rookie to know what to do?
To increase the confusion, guitar lessons are offered in a dizzying variety of methods and channels. Group lessons, in person or remote, self paced, Youtube videos and many other mechanisms. Getting started would have been nearly impossible without the help of a neighbor who plays guitar. It makes you want to say - there's got to be a better way.
Structure your business as an experience
So what's the point? As more and more boomers and Gen Xers have free time to explore their interests and hobbies, they want curated experiences - end to end. This isn't just about my hobby but I think an emerging sense of how people want to interact with their world. The take away is this: rather than shape a business in silos such as "retail" or "service" or customer support oriented, think about what your best customers are likely to want and need as a solution. I have to believe there are thousands of people just like me who are frustrated with the process of choosing a guitar and finding the right help to get started playing it. And this is just one example.
Let the opportunity shape the business
What if, instead of reinforcing existing silos, an entrepreneur spotted the emerging need for people to engage in their new interests and offered concierge service throughout the process, from interviewing and identifying the right guitar to finding and providing the right lessons or services. Here I am using my guitar interests but you get the larger point. In the past it probably made sense to silo these different activities, but as information has increased and expectations for customer service and engagement have increased, these silos don't make sense anymore. The more options and choices we have (and they are always increasing) the more many of us need services tailored to our needs, focused on the end to end solution.
I think it might be very instructive to apply the customer experience journey not just to a specific customer need or journey but to entire industries. How might we invent new offerings or even companies by thinking about the entirety of a customer's need for a total solution? As the emphasis shifts from discrete products and services (existing silos) to integrated solutions and offerings (total customer experience) you will want to shape your business based on the experience, not the silo.