Customer Experience

Want to improve customer experience? Just hack it!


In the Age of the Customer, providing a top-notch customer experience will increasingly be seen as table stakes, as more and more companies launch digital transformation initiatives driven primarily by customer experience. Gartner predicted that by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations¹.

And yet despite the clear indication that to keep your customers loyal, you need to invest in the experience, many, if not most, companies still face significant challenges when it comes to instilling a company-wide customer experience culture, leveraging customer insights and streamlining internal operations to better meet customer expectations on a daily basis.

A few months ago, my team and I were mulling over some of these CX challenges while enjoying a coffee and a pretty impressive view of the Eiffel Tower from our Axway Paris office. As more and more colleagues dropped into kick-start their day with the obligatory shot of espresso, I couldn’t help catching snippets of conversation about the issues and challenges of the day.

“Wouldn’t it be great if…”
“If only we could change the way we do …”
“Hey, our customers would love it if we provided …!”

The air was buzzing with cool ideas about how to transform Axway, both for the benefit of the employees themselves as well as for our customers.

Well yes. Of course. Employees from all parts of the organization either come into direct contact with customers, or influence customer experience to varying degrees every single day. They are clearly the best placed to figure out what needs to change, and, judging by the coffee room conversation, were all too ready to dive in and reinvent the way we work.

So, how could we leverage all this creative energy to innovate and enhance the customer experience?

Hackathons aren’t just for coders!

Maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was the flyer on the table for an upcoming dev hackathon, maybe it was the Eiffel Tower in all her glory, but suffice it say that the team had a collective lightbulb moment–Why not hack it?

Typically hackathons are known for getting eager developers to solve technical challenges or create what they hope will be the next great application. Hackathons don’t usually involve that whole other part of corporate life–the “non-developer” world.

Having listened to the wealth of ideas sizzling over the morning coffee, from product marketers to admin staff to HR practitioners, tech writers as well as developers, it was clear to me that everyone had an inner hacker waiting to emerge. In the twinkling of an eye, we decided to launch Hackaway–a customer experience hackathon, open to all employees ready to unleash their creative juices. No programming skills required.

Leveraging a recent employee CX survey, we created an online Suggestion Box to gather new ideas and allow employees to vote for the most meaningful proposals. But ideas without action quickly stagnate. It was time to take the next step.

The mission

With a focus on the themes of personalization, self-service, collaboration and efficiency, the mission was to improve our internal practices, enhance customer and employee engagement and ultimately deliver a delightful, end-to-end customer experience.

All employees were invited to form teams, with bonus points awarded for cross-functionality and diversity. Teams could either build on one of the proposals in the Suggestion Box or come up with an entirely new idea. In just 24 hours, they were tasked with building a five-minute video to explain their concept, highlight the CX benefits, and outline the implementation plan and feasibility of the proposal.

Hackaway day

The day of the hackathon was truly awe-inspiring. Twenty-five teams with over 120 participants collaborated across the Axway globe and across departments to unleash a wave of innovation, creativity and fun. Hundreds of Axway employees participated in the voting; 15 cross-functional judges and 8 members of the executive team took part in the final judging. We saw demos of an integrated portal experience, chatbots, Axway support apps and an Axway TV channel. Several teams proposed ways to innovate around DevOps, to improve our customer data quality or measure customer mood, as well as gamify knowledge transfer. We even saw references to Ancient Greek poetry and inspirational role-playing to illustrate new ways to communicate on our platform vision. All teams went above and beyond expectations and the high energy on Hackaway Day was tangible.

And we made it! The winning teams

With relevance, originality, innovation and feasibility as the selection criteria, Axway employees and executives went to the polls.

  • First prize went to team White Glove Treatment–a self-service, proactive, monitoring solution designed to fix problems before they become catastrophes
  • Second prize went to team Down Under–an Axway Support app, powered by an open Support API, that allows customers to better interact with Services and Support from a mobile device while integrating seamlessly with their own internal systems
  • Third prize went to team Amplify Customer Mood–an innovative way to collect, measure and act on customer insights, using artificial intelligence to analyze text and assess mood

All teams offered something unique, fun and surprising–and I almost wish we hadn’t had to choose a winner. What we all gained from the experience, what Axway will gain from the wealth of proposals and ideas, and what our customers will gain ultimately from our customer-first innovations makes us all winners.

Hackaway takeaways

First, if you want to transform culture, attitudes and engagement–start with baby steps. Rallying people across the globe and across departments for one day of innovation and fun is not so hard. Just do it!

Second, hackathons really aren’t just for coders. All employees are capable of bringing fresh, innovative ideas to the table and can clearly find a multitude of unexpected ways to sell their concepts. And where individuals may fall short–that’s what teams are for!

Third, everyone in some way touches the customer. A CX hackathon is a great way to make people realize how they personally have an impact on the customer experience and how they could make it better.

Finally, cultural change needs energy and talent from the bottom up, but also requires top-down support from the executive team who actively demonstrates their desire to enable transformation throughout the organization. At Axway, we’re fortunate to have both.

With that, I’d like to thank our winning teams and all participants once again. Let the hackathon go on!

Learn more about hackathons here.

¹ Gartner Says Organizations Are Changing Their Customer Experience Priorities, STAMFORD, Conn., June 9, 2015