Digitalization Yes, But is the Customer Forgotten?
Digitalization is perhaps the strongest current business mega trend and every major consulting house is telling you how important it is to modernize your company’s whole infrastructure and to design new digital processes, solutions and even new digital business models. Otherwise, the digital disruption will de
stroy your business… In all this haste for digital transformation, let’s take a step back and consider for a moment what does all this mean from a Customer Experience (CX) point of view.
The most basic guiding principal of CX is that the fundamental basis of all businesses, digital or not, is the customer. Your business grows or shrinks, prospers or dies, based on your level of understanding of the customer’s preferences and whether you can turn this understanding into solid customer experiences better and more efficiently than your competition. In short, if your business can create better CX more efficiently than the competition its future looks bright, otherwise disaster looms.
What does this mean for digital transformation? There is of course a myriad of different kinds of digitalization projects. Some focus on infrastructure change and improving internal processes. Other try to utilize new additional information sources and generate better insights for their business. Others still disable some old obsolete technology, cut the middle man, and deliver new services faster and cheaper to the end customer.
Whatever the scope of digitalization project, you need to ask the following questions from the CX point of view:
What are the customer experiences or services areas you project is impacting?
What are the customer preferences in the area you are impacting?
Are you creating a better solution for the customers, i.e. are you matching the customer’s preferences more closely?
Is the end-to-end customer journey still intact, i.e. does the new solution disrupt the customer experience?
Sometimes all that digitalization does, is to create faster and more efficient ways to deliver the existing customer experience. Or they just create a better infrastructure without no CX effect. Of course, in these cases, digital transformation makes sense and (if all runs smoothly) there is no risk of deteriorating the CX. In other cases, and unfortunately all too often, digitalization projects are technologically driven transformations that play down or totally ignore the effect on CX. The customer and his preferences are thrown out of the window and are taken back into consideration only once the project is rolled out and the harsh reality of disruptive CX is evident.
But, you might say, therefore we have digital CX (DCX). This is the answer that incorporates CX into digital transformation projects. Well, yes and no. The DCX is useful in that it aims to construct better experiences for the digital channels. However, there are two problems that loom. Firstly, if your digital transformation project is too technology driven, it will downplay the need for a solid DCX solution. It will be given a minor role in the overall scheme and the solution will be dictated by technology not by real customer preferences. Secondly, all too often DCX is reduced to user experience design of the new web-site or app. This is, however, too restrictive. The real CX needs to consider the end-to-end customer journey and lay out the customer preferences along this journey. Almost always this brings in elements that are beyond the normal UX design approach. Do not get me wrong, I do not want to downplay the importance of digital UX. It plays a very important role in creating smooth and working experiences when the customer is on the digital channel. However, these experience need to work in the grand scheme of the overall CX and be tuned to the right customer preferences. A great UX design for the wrong customer preference creates a bad customer experience.
I said earlier that all businesses should be built around the customer, by understanding the customer’s preferences and by delivering end-to-end customer journeys better and more efficiently than the competition. Applying this principal to digitalization means that we need to consider the customer preferences right from the start.
You can do this on two distinct levels, based on the scope and purpose of your digital project. On a strategy level your company should understand which types of customers it has or wants to have, understand the overall customer preferences, and put in place a plan for how to create matching customer experiences for these customers. In case of a digitalization project that leads to a fundamental business transformation, e.g. a new digital business model, you need to go back to the drawing board and START by reconsidering these three issues: 1) what kind of customers do you want to have 2) what are their overall preferences, 3) how can you create matching CX. You should make these fundamental questions before the start of any digitalization project and they should be a core element of the planning phase.
If the scope of digitalization is more operational, the basic customer types and their preferences will stay the mostly same. In this case you should, already in the beginning of the digitalization project, review the end-to-end customer journey in the area that is touched by the digitalization. You should investigate what are the core changes to CX by the new planned digital solution. You should also check if there are disruptions to the customer journey prior, after, or parallel to the place where the new digital solution will be. For example, if you are designing a new self-service area to the web-site, you need to consider how it impacts the existing call-center solution. Is there a smooth transition between the channels, are the customer preferences respected, is the information between the self-service and phone channels interchanged fluently, etc.
So, if you agree with me that the customer is the basis of all business and that CX, customer preferences, and customer journeys matter, then make it matter also for digitalization. Plan, design, and execute your digitalization projects around the right customer experience, not post mortem, but right from the start.