People expect a superior level of customer experience from businesses and organisations that use online channels to sell, distribute and support, their products and services. Customers expect you to know them, to be aware of their shopping preferences and know what solutions will solve their problems today. Digital empowerment means it’s now easy for customers to criticise a brand or rave about their product and services. It is because of this customer empowerment that digital transformation, for many organisations, will require the reshaping of the customer experience.
Surprisingly, not all digital transformation projects place customer learning at the top of the digital transformation agenda. Interference from internal politics and silo protectionism unhinge and redirect the very best of intentions. Who owns the customer and information process can often result in a schoolyard spat between Customer Service, IT, Sales and Marketing. These are conflicts that leaders need to immediately address! Clearly, all parties need to be involved in the process and not just those who manage technology or define its use. Leaders need to be free to communicate effectively with their teams and share customer information which demonstrates the importance of each touch-point and the contact moment in the customer’s journey.
To be effective, when it comes to understanding the customer’s journey, everyone needs to be on the same page. There needs to be clearly communicated benchmark and targets across the business for driving customer understanding. Leaders need to be free to communicate effectively with their teams and instil the importance of each customer touch-point and contact moment in the customer’s journey. Only then can everyone work together to proactively address issues that hinder the delivery of an improved customer experience.
The digital customer experience
Customer experience today has become a socially motivated activity and it can influence the perception towards a particular brand and its products and services. Research shows social media content sharing with friends, family and even advertisers, influences customer decision making when making a [brand] name selection.
A great customer experience provides a substantial return on investment (ROI). Customers quickly learn who offers a great experience and who doesn’t. Those that invest the resources and expertise to identify and understand the customer’s expectations will see a return on their investment in the form of social currency, such as brand sentiment to facilitate positive opinion and social sharing. On the flip side, brands that are deemed difficult to deal with, do not understand the customer, (such as miss matched product suggestions, or one-size-fits-all customer support) are going to realise very quickly that digital transformation is not a technology driven activity!
Once you understand when, where and why a customer wants to be engaged with the brand, only then can you confidently employ digital technologies to deliver personalised customer experiences.
Digital transformation should only begin when you are prepared to stand on the outside looking in, but this is where many organisations and businesses fail to step out of their comfort zone. For many, the process of digital transformation requires a leap of faith, especially if things appear to be working just the way they are – “why fix it if it’s not broken?” Unfortunately, transformational change in our consumer driven economy does not go away because you ignore it. Investment in research and behavioural analytics is required to understand customer preferences and behaviour. You can’t refocus or turn a business around based on what you already know; you need to find out what you don’t know. Identifying what customers want is a challenge for many companies and is either skimmed over or avoided due to misguided advice.
Let’s consider a typical scenario where an organisation brings into the fold a reputable consultant, who facilitates an internal workshop with the principal decision makers and front-line employees to map out the “customer’s journey”. Unfortunately, this is an all too often occurrence and is not customer journey mapping. In fact, it’s not uncommon for no customers to be part of the mapping process, and this is clearly business process mapping based on internally focused activity, or what you would like the customer to do, far from being a customer-centric process. Too many organisations and businesses will go through the whole process of digital transformation without sitting down with a single customer to ask them how, when and why they would interact with a brand, product or service. A failure to at least attempt to understand customer expectations and behaviour through direct customer dialogue makes the whole digital transformation process an investment based on the best guess approach.
Those that undertake a mix of customer research and engagement will understand the opportunities and threats presented by the digital transformation of their business. They will identify the real customer need and will be better prepared to keep pace with the fast-changing competitive environment. Customer insights will determine what customers’ value and why some experiences satisfy them and why others don’t! Companies need to take an outside-in approach, analyse the customer behaviour patterns and develop digital processes and services that respond to these patterns.
Take for example Starbucks, the American coffee company; they spent years understanding the evolution of customer behaviour and the role that digital technology played. They recognised that digital channels such as the Internet, mobile and social media were influencing their customers’ expectations and decision-making. Based on the current and future consumer trends, the company started building a focused digital business. Offering new products and services that catered to the needs of the digital customer. At the same time, and as a part of its digital transformation process, the company brought together its Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Informational Officer (CIO). Jointly the teams identified new opportunities posed by the changing consumer preferences and they worked collaboratively to leverage digital ventures with a focus of realising maximum benefits from the technology. The alliance worked wonders and the company started to make major strides in mobile, mobile payments and digital stores. Over time, the company successfully aligned its digital and physical stores and connected multiple touch points into a single customer journey. Which today allows Starbucks to deliver a holistic customer experience – a key element of a successful digital transformation strategy.
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