As the world opens up, one thing to bet on is that we won’t return to normal. It is unwise to digitize past experiences or assume that customers will revert to yesterday’s norms. In addition to becoming digital-first during the disruption of the pandemic, consumers have learned new skills and behaviors, and now expect innovative and best-in-class engagement in digital and hybrid channels. They don’t seek to settle for less. They are not looking for reluctant relationships. They are more self-reliant and more aware, insightful and determined.
In the race to digitize, many companies have prioritized facilitating online transactions quickly, usually based on pre-existing processes, rather than reinventing experiences and business models for a new frontier. This sets a benchmark for numerical mediocrity first versus setting a new bar in a new world.
Now that the world is opening up, some consumers are exercising their power of choice, signaling a quest for enriched digital experiences and pioneering hybrid interactions (physical + digital = phygital). But dynamic leaders can retain and also attract customers on all fronts by innovating their digital services, exploring opportunities to go beyond digitalization to create new value-added experiences online and in hybrid phygital places. .
Design meaningful digital and hybrid experiences
To succeed in the next normal and against the next disruption, companies must now recast the rapid and expansive digitalization of yesterday’s experiences into innovative, unified, end-to-end customer services and experiences. It starts with a visionary value proposition for a world pushed into an entirely new trajectory due to newly unlocked digital behaviors.
In 2017, Jeanne Ross, a senior researcher at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research, wrote in MITS Loan Management Review that businesses needed to undergo a Ctrl-Alt-Del moment to succeed in a digital economy with more than a pre-digital value proposition.
“This value proposition must reassess how digital technologies and information can enhance an organization’s existing assets and capabilities to create new customer value,” she said. “Being digital isn’t just about introducing mobile apps for customers. It’s taking the opportunity to redefine a business – and maybe even an industry.
According to McKinsey research, improvement of services and digital experiences is based on three dimensions which, according to important customers, are the most important:
1) Improve trust in digital services by increasing privacy and security.
2) Improve user experience in digital channels by refining user interfaces (UX/UI) and creating phygital interactions that are also configured to involve a human agent if necessary.
3) Improve the end-to-end customer experience by making all products and services digitally available through after-sales services, and exceptional experiences across digital and hybrid channels.
Unifying around customer insights and engagement is the next frontier in discovering innovation
Salesforce recently sponsored a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study of a survey of 1,100 executives around the world, exploring how to respond to the future of customer experiences. “Making Customer Experience the Heart of Business: How Organizations Unite Around the Customer to Thrive” features companies such as Kellogg’s, Pacific Life, Kimberly-Clark and others investing in improving customer knowledge and engagement. They transformed on a large scale and quickly, but how did they do it?
The majority agreed that customer experience (CX) was a top priority. While most can say they are already “customer-centric,” the reality is that only 15% say they have both a single (360-degree) view of customer data and the organizational structure to use that information.
If companies want to break the cycle of digitizing poor or outdated processes and reinvent customer experiences as modern and remarkable for a digital and hybrid world, operating models must be centered on actionable customer insights and exceptional engagement. It seems, however, that companies have a long way to go. In this study, only 17% say their organizations are excellent in insight, engagement, or both.
Also according to the report, unified customer enterprises build excellent CX on a 360-degree view of their customers, identify real-time actionable insights, and consistently deliver relevant engagement at every touchpoint.
Become a customer-unified company in five steps
To drive growth in this new economy, it is not enough to transfer existing models and processes to digital touchpoints. This requires digital innovation centered on a connected customer with ever-changing expectations.
I was inspired by research with HBRAS and my work at Salesforce in experience innovation with companies around the world since March 2020. As a result, I’ve outlined five phases of customer-unified enterprise and digital transformation to help chart a course to new horizons of customer experience.
1) Adopt a unified customer mindset
First, you need to embrace a customer-centric mindset and commit to uniting around the customer and the employee.
- Set a vision and strategy for unified customer engagement across your organization.
- Make it easier for employees to make it easier for customers.
- Move from selling to the customer (product-centric) to serving the customer (customer-centric).
- Form a cross-functional steering committee to chart and manage a customer innovation roadmap.
- Optimize decision-making to accelerate experimentation and transformation.
2) Foster a unified customer data culture
Put customer information at the center of business transformation.
- Build a deliberate path to reach a single source of customer truth.
- Embrace a data culture that helps every employee connect with your customers.
- Train and educate your employees on customer and digital data literacy.
- Facilitate access to trusted, real-time data sources throughout the customer journey, making it easy for customer-facing employees to find relevant information.
- Build a center of excellence to cultivate data expertise and promote the voice of the customer.
- Create defined customer feedback loops.
3) Prioritize customer-centric digital transformation
Improve and reinvent the customer experience (CX) from front to back office.
- Identify friction with customers and opportunities to improve experiences and deliver new value. Focus on solving customer problems as the primary rationale for any new program. Resolving large-scale pain points introduces new net revenue streams.
- Define the new capabilities your business and IT functions need to support new experiences, and agree on the most critical outcomes your organization needs and how to measure them.
- Align IT and business leaders on a 360-degree digital operating model to improve customer experience and increase customer-facing performance.
- Create a single enterprise digital governance model that underpins and supports the functional digital operating model.
4) Pursue customer-centric business transformation
Reimagine operations around customer insights, integration and collaboration.
- Align sales, service, marketing, commerce, IT, digital governance and analytics to create a team organized around the customer.
- Unify organizational functions and operating models to support consistent customer engagement.
- Embrace customer-centric business processes.
- Make fundamental changes to your products or services, and the way teams work together, to deliver the value and experiences customers are looking for.
- Anticipate and respond to changing customer needs.
- Adopt agile methodologies to support endless digital transformation and experiment with innovation.
5) Embrace a customer- and employee-centric work environment
The formula for improving CX is to strengthen the employee experience (EX).
- Design EX to deliver a unified CX.
- Invest in systems, tools, and processes that enable and encourage collaboration across teams.
- Train managers and employees to empathize with customers and team members, ask the right questions, and be good listeners and storytellers.
- Apply incentives to individual behaviors that drive business goals.
- Encourage groups with different skills to solve customer problems together.
- Empower teams to act in the best interest of the customer.
Manufacturing unified customer experiences the heart of the organization begins with the actual organization around the customer, then the bold execution of ideas to engage, transform and innovate. This and only that is the way to prioritize what matters most to digital consumers, whether online or in hybrid environments, to deliver next-generation products, services and experiences that set the new commitment standard.