Customer Experience and Digital Transformation.
Essentially, the term ‘digital transformation’ can be interchanged with ‘customer led transformation’ and is about one thing; bringing your company back in line with customer expectations and enabling your company to remain in line, whatever external changes happen.
Therefore, always providing a great customer experience is central to any successful digital transformation.
As the term suggests, it’s not business that’s driving this change, it’s your customers.
If you're undertaking digital transformation, and if you’re not, you should be, then your customer experience (CX) should be your number #1 focus.
Three very important questions to ask yourself right away are:
- Do you really know what your customers expect from you?
- Do you know what your business’s shortcomings are and what your customers value from your competitors?
- Do you know what how to proceed if you know the answers to the previous two questions?
It's more than likely that if you answered those questions honestly your answers were...
If you're answers were all "Yes!" then you're one of the few people in the world that's really nailing this. Well done!
If your answers were "No." then read on.
In this article, I am going to help you rectify the dangerous position you're in by talking about:
- What customer experience means for your business
- How to find the gaps that exist between your services and what your customers want
- How to address these issues so that you can get your digital transformation underway
What customer experience means for your business.
The experiences that customers look for change rapidly in the digital age.
It’s likely that your competitors and the new digital entrants in the markets your business operates in have already discovered and deployed digital products and services that capitalise on these opportunities.
Your digital transformation must ensure that continual change and innovation are at your company’s core if you want to compete in this situation.
It’s important to remember that now, in the digital age, consumers’ consumption of digital services and products is changing how they find, evaluate and ultimately buy from companies.
This new model ultimately means that your customers become just as much of a sales force for your company as your existing sales team. This is done following a great experience with your business through social endorsements, recommendations and the sharing of your key messages online, to other target consumers.
In the digital age, relying on static value propositions is inevitably a strategy that will fail.
The world outside of your company is simply moving too quickly in all kinds of unpredictable directions to rely on this. Digital transformation must address this issue.
When we talk about customer experience, what we are referring to is every single interaction that a customer has or has ever had with your organisation. Every one of those interactions must be a great experience, even if it’s a complaint or an otherwise negative process. If your company can’t deliver this, then it’s very likely that over the next 12-months you will start to lose customers and revenue to the competitors that can.
Remember that this is the age of the customer. They are firmly in the driving seat and will ultimately vote with their feet (or fingers!) if any aspect of their experience with your business doesn’t match their expectations. There are plenty of other options!
So how can you use digital transformation to deliver a world-class customer experience?
Let’s get one thing clear.
The answers are not inside your company, they’re outside.
You must look outside of your business to understand the customer needs and expectations and the gaps that exist between them and your services. It is also critical that you understand the competitive and technology landscape which will enable you to transform to successfully deliver against them.
Therefore, a key part of digital transformation is becoming an ‘outwardly orientated’ organisation.
Imagine when your company was first formed. Every interaction was perfectly defined to meet customers’ expectations and needs at that point in time. However, since then, significant gaps have will have formed, and digital technology has created a more complex customer journey. This is true for both B2B and B2C organisations.
Identifying the gaps with your customers’ needs.
It is essential to clearly define the gaps that have formed between your services and the actual, real-time needs of the customer and it’s also essential that you understand that this is an ongoing, circular process that must be a constant in your company.
Remember that putting your customer first, should be an absolute priority.
No organisation exists to serve any other purpose but to deliver the services that it’s customers need.
This mantra is central to digital transformation and it’s one that a lot of companies and organisations have lost sight of. In fact, the larger the company and the longer it has existed, often means the further away from this principle they have become, despite the marketing messages they may disseminate.
Understanding the impact that digital technology and services have had on your customers is key to enabling you to identify ways you need to transform to meet those new and evolved expectations.
Companies like Amazon, Google and Uber have impacted the way that most of us expect to consume services. They’re offerings are instant, real-time, ubiquitous and often they even predict our needs, making these brands and their services part of our very thought process.
How to do it?
Like most things that are worthwhile doing, there’s no silver bullet or easy method to deploy.
Most of the analysis you need to produce can’t be automated, and quite simply you’ll need to get out of your comfort zone and start engaging, sometimes hearing uncomfortable truths that you may not want to.
The only sure-fire way to gain customer insight is to……. you guessed it; talk to your customers!
There are multiple ways to undertake this, and I’ll go into them in a bit more detail later, but essentially you, and especially your company’s leadership need to talk to customers in your target market and at multiple stages of the customer journey.
You must try to form a meaningful connection and really immerse yourself in the experience that they receive from you and learn what they value both inside and outside of your sector. Indeed, what they value from life in general.
The key objectives of this analysis and customer engagement are:
- Finding and prioritising the needs of your customers that you are currently not meeting
- Using those unmet needs, define new business models and opportunities
- Establishing the process that your company will use to ensure an ongoing method of customer engagement is deployed
This information should form a major part of your digital vision. All that’s left to do is deliver the digital services that you now know you need to!
Some good ways of achieving the type of engagement needed to make the required connections are things like interviewing customers at multiple stages of the customer journey, and hosting events for customers to attend and give honest feedback in an open forum. You could incentivise them for this with free service or product. Develop a question script for customer services staff to run through on customer contact calls, even experience the service for yourself by mystery shopping your own organisation and your competitors. You can also use your social media channels to ask questions.
My simplified advice here is that the data gathered must be genuine, non-biased and completely honest feedback with no assumptions.
“Assumption” is the enemy of “fact”, and must be avoided at all costs!
How to address the issues identified and start closing the customer experience gaps with digital transformation.
Once the feedback is rolling in, then it’s time to start iteratively delivering the products and services you need to.
Some good ways to achieve a better customer experience and important elements to keep in mind are as follows:
Solving Pain Points.
Solving points of pain for your customers is the simplest and most effective way to gain traction and realise results in your digital transformation. Not least of all because there is a measurable before and after state to tangibly demonstrate positive results.
Try finding pain points that are both simple to measure and valuable to your customer. Look for low hanging fruit which has the most value and link that to a KPI or metric.
Facilitating or enabling long-term goals.
Enabling your customers to meet a long-term goal is more difficult than solving a pain point, but it’s extremely valuable for fostering loyalty and extending the lifecycle of your customer.
The key approach here is to choose multiple pathways and measure them at the same time to help choose what to scale and what to put further down the list.
Look outside of your business to your competitors and engage with your customers directly to understand their long-term needs, which are currently outside of your current value proposition.
What to avoid.
Avoid falling into the usual traps by simply digitising existing process. This is a common mistake.
Digitising existing processes IS NOT digital transformation.
Digital transformation is not about creating more efficient processes or replacing people with automation. This is what inward facing companies do and is a legacy approach that has been proven not to work.
Ensure there is an ongoing way for senior leadership to engage directly with your customers through meaningful channels. Not online or automated surveys, but an actual conversation. This is fundamental to ascertaining what is important to your customers, and what will keep them coming back, and advocating for your business.
Remember, your customers are now your sales force.