Why customer centricity is key to digital transformation

Kieron McCann examines the importance of maintaining customer-centricity throughout any digital transformation project

Digital transformation is pushing companies to change their business models and adjust to the new market. Yet, it’s not just the companies driving this change, it’s the consumer. According to IDC, nearly half of all organisations cited customer experience and satisfaction as their leading influence towards digital transformation.

Every company wants to provide the best possible experience for their customers and most believe the first step to digital transformation is through the design. However, if no thought has gone into the upkeep of the digital experience then this type of workflow can end up creating a static experience for customers and an expensive white elephant for the business.

Digital transformation is often seen as a one-time project to a lot of companies. According to Forrester, 21% of enterprises believe their digital transformation journey is complete. Digital experiences need to be constantly updated and modernised once they’re launched, however, when design is put first, evolving the experience seems more of an afterthought. Most businesses should be aware that general site updates just aren’t enough anymore to keep the digital experience up-to-date. There are two major reasons why digital experiences need more than just general updates to keep them tailored to customers.

Modern websites are now known to be intertwined with more multifaceted integrations, multiple systems and services and deliveries across a variety of channels and devices. This is both on and offline, paid, social, owned and earned. Every consumer now judges their online experience with the best experience they’ve had, not just the category they’re searching in. Consumers want relevant content in relation to what they’re doing, anytime, anywhere and in a format or device of their choosing. As Accenture suggests, 75% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a company that knows their purchase history and recommends products based on their preferences. To keep up with this demand, companies must have an unmatched customer experience.

People at the heart of transformation

People should always be at the heart of digital transformation and customer experience. The transformation of a business starts with its people, if you’re going to introduce skills, processes, culture, alignment, funding and organisational structure then who’s going to do it and why?

A big part of digital transformation is change management which can only be implemented by people willing to adapt. Even having the best technology software, there are still questions on who’s going to run it? How will they maintain standards? Do they have the right skills? There can be lots of people involved in change management; some with legacy, some new players and some who don’t really want things to change at all. The first task is to figure out who’s in it for the long term. The people side of change management in digital transformation is the most critical, even more so than the technological side.

Digital transformation requires changes in human relationships, some interactions will alter from human-to-human to human-to-machine. This is why it’s helpful to ensure your organisational structure has good communication and helps to prepare people to change the way they work in a digital world. Once you have worked out these core elements then you can take the next step and look at how all elements can be combined to create a new operating model for customer experiences. All internal and external services required to evolve the experience should be in place.

Investment in technology

To develop this kind of experience that evolves over time takes significant investment in technology and services. It also requires a change in culture. Failure is an opportunity to learn, so this needs to be built into the process with testing methodologies to discover what works and what doesn’t for different audiences and building this back into the process. It takes a large investment to allow a multi-channel experience to work cohesively across data and analytics, targeting and personalisation, web, mobile, email, social and more. To ensure all outlets are updated and optimised to keep up with the turbulent market changes is a complex and expensive task.

No matter the size of your organisation, if you’re dealing with several brands then you will encounter different customer segment needs which will require even more variation in experience. Implementing core digital experience management for each brand with such dynamic changes is simply unsustainable.

Being a company that’s undertaking a digital transformation means delivering on the promise of customer experience and taking a holistic view of the digital offering, not just individual components. Although customer experience is the prime focus of digital transformation, the reality is that organisations are now interested in how they can make the experience plausible. Rather than starting with the design and build stage of the workflow, clients are looking at big software vendors to help implement technology that will activate and evolve experiences over time. However, although technology is important, it is not what’s at the heart of digital transformation.

A mindset shift into this new transformation can be far more difficult to achieve than actually making the technology investment. Consequently, the technology becomes the comfortable part of the journey and, the less comfortable aspects of change management around people and process fall by the wayside.

As fast as consumer behaviour is changing, technology is changing even faster and organisational structures should be changing too. However, without this revolution from within, brands and businesses cannot deliver on the promise of truly exceptional customer experience.

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