Introduction:

Customers aren’t customers anymore — they’re designers, journalists, product developers, critics and smart testers.

One of the ways many organisations are keeping up to date with their smarter customers is through “digital transformation”, an essential strategy for legacy based organisations that pre-date cloud-based technology.

To meet the needs of future customers, a digital transformation helps disrupt the current way a business is working and makes sure they keep up with the speed of cultural change.

The range of approaches to digital transformation is almost as wide as the variety of organisations implementing it. With such a degree of variation, the debate around the most effective methods is as heated as you’d expect. Though it might not be clear yet which mode reigns supreme, I have a few thoughts on how you can decide what is best for you.

The first thing organisations really need to nail down is their existing customer journey and map it out step by step. This goes beyond the central company-client transaction and requires an understanding of each level of interaction.

As your customers are spending more and more time online you are seeking to meet them where they are? Is your online presence communicating the right image?

An effective digital transformation not only takes into consideration the digital touchpoints, but all touch points that customers will interact with your organisation. This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how easily tonal inconsistencies can become more pronounced if not monitored. Social media regularly provides examples of companies not quite hitting the brand mark in their posts.

In order to truly capitalise on the benefits of a digital transformation, I believe organisations must become PROACTIVE rather than reactive. There are some key differences between the two-

Reactive Organisations:

  1. Waits for customers to complain
  2. Doesn’t seek to innovate
  3. Doesn’t seek to be unique as a strategy
  4. Watches their competition more than listens to customer
  • Looks for the quick fix solution to a customer’s problem (I call this the digital plaster)

See United Airlines for an example of when this goes spectacularly wrong.

Proactive Organisations:

  1. Sees their customer as a partner and more than a consumer.
  2. Know what customers want
  3. Seek to use technology to enhance a customer experience.
  4. Speak to customers regularly and actively listens.
  5. Keep customer informed of new changes.

Southwest Airlines is a great example of how low-friction user experience (even in minor areas) can build brand positive brand reputation.

Essentially, moving toward making the customer journey a key consideration in decision making will help cut down on unnecessary friction when implementing new digital solutions.

This is about moving from Conventional customer service to customer experience models.

Customer Experience over Customer Service

If you didn’t already know, customer experience is now becoming an essential pillar of an organisations strategy. Some say organisations should spend more of their time, energy and resources into customer experience centred developments if they want to see real growth.

The key difference between customer service and customer experience models is that the former is more prone to reactive behaviours. When you fix problems by waiting for them to be reported, you’ll usually end up sticking a digital plaster on it until the plaster itself starts to become a problem. Customer experience, on the other hand, is so much more.

Talk To Customers

Living in the age of big data can sometimes lead us to forget about the people behind purchases. However, if you’re serious about implementing a meaningful digital transformation, nothing beats dialogue. A phenomenal customer experience is achieved when those who directly work on your digital products have direct access to customer feedback. Engineers at driftspeak directly to customers which not only helps them saves time but build empathy towards the needs of the customer. There are a thousand different ways to break a system, knowing a thing or two about your users can help you preempt potential pitfalls.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Peter Reinhardt from Segment says

“As engineers who had never done this before, talking to people didn’t seem like real work. Real work was coding… But in reality, 20 hours of great interviews probably would’ve saved us an accrued 18 months of building useless stuff.”

Organisations have to evolve and grow to meet the needs of the customers they serve. This helps them understand where customers currently are at and their future goals and motivations. This is not an easy task but the more your design and development team speak to customers the easier it becomes.

Your Customer is Socially Active

For some reason, many businesses still focus on marketing as if we are in 2007 and if your digital transformation isn’t done correctly you also need to take into consideration where the attention of your customer is highest.

According to statistics on socialmediatoday.com, people spend an astonishing amount of time online the average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media every day, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime. The amount of time people spend on social media is constantly increasing. Teens now spend up to nine hours a day on social platforms, while 30% of all time spent online is now allocated to social media interaction. And the majority of that time is on mobile — 60% of social media time spent is facilitated by a mobile device.

With these numbers only increasing this means that organisations without a social media presence and consistent strategy that maps to the behaviour of their end consumer will lose in the years to come.

There are two areas businesses need to pay attention to the most with their social media;

  1. Context — What is the behaviour of the end consumer while they are using this platform that I’m sharing content.
  2. Content — ask How do people consume content effectively? What content consistently, effectively and in a personalised manner gives value to my customer?

How do you recognise customers motivations and goals?

Simple. Recognise your customers are your partners.

The traditional concept of the passive consumer is dying. People don’t just want to buy from you, they want to innovate with you. When it comes to implementing an effective digital transformation you need to recognise that your customers can set themselves up as any of the following:

  • Designers: consumers don’t just tell you what they want now, some of them will show you. Fan made designs and prototypes are becoming increasingly popular as people seek to make their world more personal.
  • Critics: Social media has put the old-fashion word of mouth on steroids. Everyone one has an audience and can voice their opinion in an instant
  • Product Developers: the bleeding edge of development and production is no longer the domain of R&D departments and academics. Amateur engineers and scientists can work from anywhere, with anyone including you.

So as you progress don’t try to seek to do everything as you get feedback, test your changes in beta with your customer. Also, many larger companies are forging relationships with startups to increase their service offering to customers.

Nicholas Drake, SVP at T-Mobile, says

“Your customer will appreciate that they are being heard and with every update or new test your customer loyalty and trust will increase. You build a new level of trust with your customers because they appreciate that you are trying to learn the difference between what they like to experience and what experiences they’ve been trained to accept.”

What’s the takeaway?

I’ve said a lot but there are a few key points to remember-

  • Be proactive! Seek input from your consumers
  • Understand the customer journey and each level of interaction
  • Pay attention to the context and content of your communication
  • Understand that your customers want to partner with you and find ways to let them

Taking these four points into consideration before you embark on your own digital transformation can radically change the way you interact with your customer and direct the conversation around your brand. As you do this more you should find it easier to push your business and brand forward. Once you start to consider your customer in decision making, you can begin to understand what an effective digital transformation entails: the ability to evolve at the speed of culture.

About the Author

Laith Wallace is the Co-Founder of Pixeloute a consultancy that helps the worlds leading brands maximise the impacts of trends and insights connected to e-commerce, user experience, marketing and business development.

Website: www.pixeloute.com

Contact: laith@pixeloute.com