To better qualify this statement, it is essential to talk about customer experience first. Gartner defines the management of customer experience as follows:
“CXM is the discipline of understanding customers and deploying strategic plans that enable cross-functional efforts and customer-centric culture to improve satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.”
It is clear why customer experience is becoming an important aspect of any company’s offerings. In a sea of “me too” and “table stake” features, often the customer experience is the only thing that differentiates one company from another. Thus, it is essential to create a customer experience culture with the broad aim of putting the customer at the center of your business. This is even more true in a post-Covid-19 world, where accelerated digitalization is making many things more “commoditized” and “platformized”. As stated in, the book Deliberately Digital, this “customer intimacy” is a key goal of any digital transformation, but most companies have not achieved this yet. Research conducted by Accenture found that “80% of brands think they deliver superior customer experience” but only “8% of their customers agree”.
When I talk about digital transformation, it is often in the context of changing the business architecture to improve efficiencies and enable new opportunities; in some cases, this may also require a change of the business model (driven by necessary disruptions). But there is another component that I believe is far more relevant for companies in the short-term: that is the improvements it can deliver in terms of customer experience.
Traditional digital transformation starts with digitizing existing processes, or the equivalent of moving from paper to digital. To accomplish this often requires companies to build digital middleware layers so legacy processes can be abstracted and normalized through service-oriented architecture or APIs.
Amongst other things, this allows for faster reconfiguration of service offerings and a speedier time to market. Additionally, APIs and abstraction bring the ability to create experiences even if the services that are being used or utilized are not necessarily under one’s control. A simple example of this is where a company has different customer facing touchpoints and, with that, different user experiences. Now, in existing setups that often means linking customer touchpoints and applications together and, in some cases, that ends up being an incohesive experience because the interface (what the customer sees) is typically different from one component to the next. For software applications, digitally transforming towards APIs allows the re-creation of the user interaction from scratch and, instead of existing user interfaces or touch points, one can use the newly exposed APIs to create the exact desired experience.
But why would you want to do that? For total customer experience control, for which you need to control all relevant customer engagement points. But that’s not enough, you also must measure and closely monitor the usage of services that have a customer endpoint. It will not help if the customer is stuck in one of your processes and you will not know because you either don’t control the experience or you fail to measure it.
Not all experiences are dependent on your business architecture and ability to transform digitally. In some cases, there are simple steps that you can take to provide a better experience. For example, where systems or applications are linked together, close monitoring will be required to ensure that tone of voice, branding, language, culture, and other aspects stay consistent and cohesive. These experiences can be changed without radical digital transformation. Furthermore, it is also important that human interactions with customers follow the same playbook so that when there is a customer service representative talking to a customer, the experience remains consistent.
So, in my view, the overall approach for improving customer experience is:
a) Start with the simplest changes that are required to improve customer experience; often these can be a simple as ensuring that branding and tone of voice is consistent. Sometimes, it requires an audit to understand how customers experience each interaction.
b) Engage with your digital transformation program to ensure proper focus on customer experience.
c) Continuously monitor experiences and iteratively adapt when required. This process will never end!
Ultimately, digital transformation can have a significant impact on customer experience, however, it might not be necessary for companies to start there. Instead, it is worthwhile to take stock of the existing customer engagements and first analyze the opportunities for immediate short-term change before embarking on a digital transformation journey.
At Worldline we are helping our clients to improve the touch-points for their customers through superior transaction infrastructure and associated experiences.