Optimizing the customer experience requires a holistic approach to planning and execution.
Change for its own sake can be a pointless exercise. In executing a digital transformation strategy, businesses must keep this in mind, and avoid investing heavily on some complex digitization project without a clear goal. Transformation is about outcomes, and in the context of digitization a primary goal has to be creating a better customer experience.
Customer experience is a principal business driver. It is especially significant in markets where competition is fierce. Think of auto manufacturing. Car makers are equipping vehicles with seat massagers and internet connectivity for applications such as radio streaming and location services. They’re adding screens that capture hand gestures so drivers don’t have to touch them to issue commands, and plenty of safety features such as self-parking and lane-departure alarms and lights that alert the driver when another car or object is travelling alongside.
Optimizing the customer experience requires a holistic approach to planning and execution – as well as an understanding of why improving customer experience is a desirable goal. The latter may seem obvious on the surface – it’s simply good business – but once you dig a little deeper, you’re bound to find there’s more to it.
If your customers don’t particularly enjoy interacting with your company, you have to find out why. Is it bad customer service? Slow responses to inquiries? Missed delivery deadlines? A poorly designed website? Poor-quality products?
Whatever the issue, you must address customer pain points to optimize their experience. And if you’re going to address them effectively, you have to listen to your customers from the “outside in.” Do surveys. Record customer service calls. Read what they’re saying about you on social media.
We all understand what a good customer experience should look like. In a digital context, the common assumption is if you make it easy for customers to access and absorb information through mobile applications, web portals and social media, you’re done.
A good customer experience means getting your online orders delivered on schedule, spending less time in a doctor’s waiting room, having a pleasant checkout experience at your favorite retail store, getting service technicians to tell you when they’ll arrive as opposed to giving you a four-hour window.
But there’s more to these scenarios than what happens at the touch points. A lot goes on behind the scenes to shape how a customer, client or patient feels about your organization.
Customer interactions transcend multiple business dimensions, from the loading dock to the front entrance. As consultant Lynn Hunsaker wrote in a Customer Think blog, customer experience consists of “all interactions people have with or about a solution: messages, people, processes, policies, price, products, and services. Collectively, these things are intertwined in a customer's experience with a solution.”
Transforming the customer experience is an enterprise-wide endeavor. It’s not like you can put up a web storefront and wait for shoppers to flock to it.
Your website may be a joy to navigate from a user standpoint, but if the credit card processing application is prone to failure, you’ve got a problem. You can have the most efficient store layout in the world, but if checkout is plagued with long lines, the store layout isn’t what customers will remember. They will remember how long they had to wait to pay for their purchases and leave.
To avoid such undesirable outcomes, you must focus on backend systems just as keenly as you do on the customer touch points. Maybe checkout is too slow because your store lacks enough bandwidth to run all its systems, slowing down payment card processing. Or you didn’t staff up properly because you miscalculated your busy times, something avoidable with a good data analytics application.
Sixty percent of customer dissatisfaction situations originate in the back office, according to CapGemini Consulting. Be it bad WiFi, a lack of process analytics or too much reliance on paper and manual processes, all of the systems and processes associated with customer interactions have to be part of your digital transformation strategy.
You need a holistic approach that takes everything into account – from inventory and supply chain management to billing and invoicing to digitized user manuals and customer service. It’s important to realize even backend systems that don’t directly touch the customer can be a critical component of customer experience delivery.
By definition, digital transformation changes how you do things. But change is often difficult, so whatever your plans and goals are – customer experience optimization, in this case – get buy-in from stakeholders. Successful change takes effort.
Employees tend to resist change because they’re used to doing their jobs in a certain way. Bring them into your digital transformation planning early, get them involved, ask for ideas, explain what you want to accomplish, and make sure they understand the end goals.
In addressing customer experience through digital transformation, come up with a methodology to accomplish your goals. These five steps should be a good start:
- Set your goal: Improve the customer experience.
- Find out what customers like and dislike about your company.
- Design a plan to address customer needs and reverse the dislikes.
- Implement the systems and process changes needed for transformation.
- Get all company stakeholders on board by explaining the goal and their role in achieving it.
Remember, change for its own sake is pointless. But if you go at it with a well-defined goal– in this case to enhance customer experience – and a plan to execute it, your chances of a successful digital transformation are greatly improved.