There is no doubt that brands have to adjust to an increasingly digital, mobile and automated world. But for all the focus on “digital transformation” in recent years, many brands still miss the mark, investing in technology and strategies that see slow adoption, fail to drive business outcomes and do not improve the customer experience.
The key to success in the future is not simply to improve your brand’s digital acumen and footprint but to do so in the right ways that serve your customers’ needs and expectations. Identifying and solving your organization’s digital gaps will seem daunting unless you first concentrate on your customer experience gaps.
Modern organizations often split functions into channel-based silos–a digital group is responsible for achieving digital goals measured in digital ways while a physical- or phone-oriented team is tasked and rewarded for success only in their own channel. The problem with this approach is that consumers are neither completely physical nor digital.
When a customer uses their phone from inside a retail store to check on product details or pays using a digital wallet, are they being physical or digital? When a homeowner feels cold and says “Ok Google, make it warmer,” causing their Google Home and Nest devices to send more fuel to the furnace and lift the temperature, are they being physical or digital? When people play Pokemon Go, viewing the world through their phone and traveling physically to collect digital rewards, are they being physical or digital?
Too many digital transformation efforts can operate on digital islands and thus miss that consumers easily and willfully switch from physical to digital channels with ease. Consumers do not object to merging or shifting real-world and digital channels when it benefits them; they object when brands force them to switch because doing so is best for the brand.
Many brands tried to keep website customers on the site and measured success only when the customer converted online, but increasingly marketing leaders have come to realize they can be more successful by interrupting web surfers with offers of assistance via phone or by sending them to nearby stores that have the customer’s desired inventory. Brands typically attempted to keep customer care callers holding on the line for a representative, but it is now routine for customers to hear hold messages that remind them of convenient digital service options at their disposal.
While the technical capabilities to offer these sorts of multichannel experiences were not particularly difficult, the organizational challenges were often daunting. Who gets credit for a sale that starts online and is completed offline or by phone? Contact centers are rewarded for keeping call abandon rates down, but what happens when customers accept the invitation to hang up and use Twitter, instead? These questions only arise when digital strategies and outcomes are isolated from broader measures of business or customer success.
Customer experience management helps your brand to understand the digital and real-world touchpoints your customer values. Without an understanding of the customer and his or her needs, expectations and journeys, digital transformation efforts can go awry. A brand cannot know what backend technologies, what web, mobile and social functions or what partners and APIs can add the most value for customers and the company.
Will customers value a refrigerator with a giant screen on the front, or will they want refrigerators that automatically add preferred items to shopping lists and communicate to a mobile app what perishables are reaching their expiration date? Do consumers want to pay extra for (and figure out how to connect) an IoT lawnmower that can track usage and tell them when to change the oil, or do they want a lawnmower that can safely and efficiently cut the grass on its own? Will consumers welcome a virtual reality grocery store with aisles through which they can navigate to select items, or will they want a simple app for ordering groceries and rapid drone delivery? Customer experience management processes can provide the answers you need to make the right investments in digital technology and innovation.
Unless your company already puts the customer at the center, has a strong, mature customer experience program, and beats your competition at retaining customers and converting them into vocal advocates, your organization needs a customer experience transformation before it can direct attention to its digital transformation. Doing first things first helps your brand to:
- Focus on the right customer: If your brand invests in cutting-edge digital capabilities for early adopters while ignoring the needs of more traditional customers, it may alienate its core segments faster than it attracts new ones. Know and transform for your most profitable customers, both today’s and tomorrow’s.
- Understand customer preferences: If your brand creates and uses digital-only customer journey maps, it may be missing key customer experience issues and opportunities across channels. Start with an understanding of customer needs and behaviors and be unbiased in how you evaluate your customer data in terms of current channel preference and future trends.
- Prioritize and invest in the most important digital transformations: If your company launches a digital transformation effort without first understanding the customer, mapping their desired journeys, and developing a customer experience management strategy, you may invest unwisely in unnecessary technology and digital services. Just as your business, brand and advertising strategies are expressly formulated for your unique customers, so should your company’s digital transformation plan.
I will end with two radically different ways to reinforce the need for customer centricity and the integration of digital and real-world approaches. The first is a quote from Jeff Bezos about why it is Amazon succeeded where so many other e-commerce and traditional retailers failed and struggled. Despite being one of the most digital brands in the world, Amazon’s success isn’t about digital technology. Bezos says:
“If there’s one reason we have done better than most of our peers… it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word of mouth is so very, very powerful.”
And on a very different note, enjoy this lovely version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. As you listen and remember the great songwriter, who passed away last week, pay attention to how this beautiful music is created. While the piano and violin are both centuries-old instruments, Rob Landes uses a looper pedal to accompany himself on the violin. Today’s music, no matter how traditional, is created, recorded and distributed in ways that combine the best of digital and non-digital approaches. How can your brand connect the digital and real worlds to create beautiful music for your customers?