customer sandwich

Why a customer sandwich should be on your CX menu


Rapid digital transformation is very often creating siloes of verticalised teams, working with different processes, technologies and goals, and each with their own perspective on the customer. The customer experience is therefore suffering. So perhaps businesses with established verticalised teams should consider a customer sandwich...

15th Feb 2021

Customer-centricity is a noble goal, with business strategy revolving around the customer and their needs. But it doesn’t automatically achieve the results organisations are looking for, especially when it is operated through verticalised teams, working in siloes with different processes, technologies and goals, and each with their own perspective on the customer.

Instead, businesses with established verticalised teams could consider a customer sandwich model, where strategy begins and ends with the customer. Companies must start and finish with their audience’s needs, and sandwich everything else in between, to deliver a truly unified experience and achieve business success.  

A fragmented view despite appetite for customer-centricity   

While many businesses now take a customer-centric approach, they still work in siloed teams such as digital analytics, email and CRM, and ad management. Each team has a different workstream and a unique viewpoint on their audience. The analytics team might have a view of historical events, for instance, while the email team understands the customer’s response to this form of messaging, and the marketing team sees audience reaction to advertising. Data is collected and stored by each team in a variety of ways, perhaps at declared ID level or against a cookie ID.

Each team believes it has a customer-centric view, but their perspectives are all different and only provide a small piece of the overall picture so there is no single definition of the customer. This is problematic because, if an organisation can’t gain a complete understanding of who is interacting with it, where, when and why, it won’t be able to communicate in the most effective way.

The idea that an organisation can move from this verticalised team structure to a seamless utopia, where a single team operates in perfect harmony, is far from realistic, at least in the short-term. And simply throwing more technology at the situation won’t help either. Even best-in-class technologies will just add more complexity to an already complicated and disjointed landscape, unless they are accompanied by strategic change.

Digital transformation means organisations are spending vast sums on new technologies and processes, but if these are focused on short-term revenue goals in individual siloes, and don’t contribute to customer satisfaction, they will only ever achieve marginal gains.       

A customer sandwich strategy satisfies audience cravings

To take advantage of the customer sandwich model, business must put audience needs at the forefront – the top level of the sandwich. Customers don’t care, or possibly even know, that there is an analytics team, an email team and an ad management team. They also don’t concern themselves with metrics such as average order value, cost per acquisition and return on investment, or whether these are going up or down year-on-year. Customers simply want the answers to their own questions, such as ‘can I find what I need?’ ‘is it the right fit for me?’ ‘is it good quality? ‘is it easy to purchase?’ and ‘should I commit?’.

To align what customers care about with a strategy that keeps the business profitable and growing, a secondary layer is needed, directly under the customer, that operates on their behalf. This could be a customer success manager or a Voice of the Customer leader, who puts themselves in the mind of the audience.

Their KPIs are the customers’ needs not the business’ revenue goals. This role or layer should be squarely focused on building relationships with customers and designing processes to meet those needs, working with each individual vertical team beneath them to ensure this is achieved. 

customer sandwich

The central part of the sandwich is the teams themselves – their people, processes and tech tools – which provide a substantial filling. The activities of these siloed teams are linked together by the next layer, which consists of a customer journey orchestration tool, ideally a customer data platform (CDP).

A platform such as this has the ability to integrate data from all teams, tech tools and touch points, regardless of whether that data is historical or real-time, online or offline, and it can truly achieve a single view of the customer that can actually be activated in real-time rather than just viewed in a reporting interface.

A CDP allows businesses to effectively coordinate customer journeys across multiple channels, platforms and devices. By combining and unifying data on a customer’s historical purchases, immediate interests and individual behaviours, it enables organisations to deliver relevant and targeted experiences across all parts of the journey, whether online or offline.     

The single customer concept achieved by a CDP can be used to ensure businesses are working towards KPIs that align with the needs of the final layer of the sandwich – the customer once again. These KPIs may include product merch scores, purchase friction scores, and loyalty scores, answering the customer’s need for relevance, quality, simplicity and trust. Of course, companies will still work with revenue and profit metrics to ensure a viable business, but these should be a secondary consideration to customer KPIs, and organisations should avoid being too short-termist in their measurements.

Many businesses are quite rightly striving for a state of customer-centricity, but this won’t bring success as long as they operate in siloed, verticalised teams without unifying layers to deliver a complete customer view. By aligning with customer needs from top to bottom using the customer sandwich model, business strategy can begin and end with the customer, ensuring a higher rate of success.      


Replies (1)

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Sven Esser
By SvenMuc
22nd Feb 2021 08:49

Sure, a CDP is a must these days. However, we need to be clear what Digital Transformation means. It is often used as a buzzword for many things.

While Digitalization is about digital tools and processes, Digital Transformation focus on the customer, his experience and how to adopt the business model. (See:

With this in mind, Digital Transformation isn't creating silos from it's core direction. If a Digital Transformation program is creating silos, it's not a true Digital Transformation program... it's more a Digitalizaian and / or Digital Translation program.

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