As it typical at the end of the year, you think about what the next year will bring. I’ve got eight topics that I think will impact Digital Transformation or a company’s Digital Transformation initiative. Some of them probably won’t be a surprise. That would include my first topic, in 2017 Customer Experience will remain important. We see that almost every day at client sites and many of the more well known prognosticators confirm it.
What’s Being Said
So it won’t surprise anyone that a number of topics drive the need for Digital Transformation. Altimeter lays it nicely with this chart. Note that Altimeter’s survey chose to capture a list of topics rather than just asking everyone to name the top driver. I’ve seen every one of these drivers in our clients this year. Note however that customer experience remains the top driver in this survey. Over 55% highlight evolving customer behaviors and preferences. Of course, growth opportunities in markets follows as a close second place.
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Of course, Altimeter isn’t the only one to highlight a need for ongoing investment in customer experience. Forrester has this to say in their Predictions 2017: Digital Transformation:
You will finally build holistic customer experiences that transcend touchpoints. Customers don’t deserve to be dropped between touchpoints. In 2017, digital business professionals will accelerate work to break down the silos between web, mobile app, and offline engagement. Omnichannel retail experiences like digital stores or click-and-collect, app+ strategies that transform smartphones into control panels for cars and home security systems, and wearables that feed health data to insurance firms will become increasingly mainstream, cross-touchpoint customer experiences.
Action: If you haven’t embraced customer journey mapping, now is the time. Digital business professionals should lead the charge to stop designing disparate digital touchpoints and focus on the role of each touchpoint in a wider customer journey or sub-journey such as onboarding or loyalty experience. They’ll reinvent the web for its increasing mobile use, blur the boundaries between the web and apps, and reach out through notifications, messaging, and connected devices to layer services on top of products — finally turning internet of things from a technology buzzword to a nascent revenue stream.
Forrester believes that in general, we are further along than I have observed. There’s still a LOT of additional work to be done to put customers first. Many companies still struggle to create a decent web or mobile experience, let alone a breaking down silos around the many channels a customer may interact with you. But their advice rings true.
Gartner notes this in their foundation document, Customer Experience Is The New Battlefield:
Customer experience management is top of the CEO’s agenda — see “2015 CEO Survey: Committing to Digital.” CEOs, CIOs and chief marketing officers have become interested in this topic because low-cost and ubiquitous access to information for customers, the rise of globalization, and the “death of distance” mean that customers are more empowered than ever. While this isn’t true of every industry and geography, it’s the case in more sectors every day. Customers can compare experiences across industries and force regulators and governments to be more accountable. At the same time, competitive differentiation — achieved through a strategic decision to invent better products that are hard to imitate, or by being the most efficient producer of a service — has diminished over time. What remains the same is how challenging it is to create a superior customer experience that will serve as a sustainable differentiator.
What We See
Gartner’s comments that CEO’s now buy into Customer Experience rings true. I was at a well known hospital last month where the CEO and his top advisors approved a major web and mobile revamp that brings patients (vs physicians, researchers, and donors) to the fore. They recognize that you cannot continue to attract and retain patients without making their experience a better one. While this particular effort focuses on web and mobile, they are also pushing major initiatives like wayfinding (a tool to help you navigate the entire hospital complex).
We have seen the same on the retail side. While many would claim that retail companies have already invested a lot of money into creating a great customer experience, there remains a lot of ground to cover. In this particular case, Perficient consultants found significant disconnects between online and in-store experiences that were costing this particular company millions of dollars in lost sales. Their digital roadmap puts the customer first. Their investments were ranked by what impact it will make to the customer. Some of the first activities involved a deeper analysis of the customer journey.
Customer Experience Steps in 2017
In many ways, what you should do in 2017 depends on where you are right now. Let me list some of the steps:
- If you don’t understand your customers, then gain insight into who they are and what drives them. Complete a customer journey map for each of you major customer types
- Put time into analytics. Find out what your customers are doing in each of your digital touchpoints. Be brutal, look for failure. Failure may means a disjointed experience between web, mobile, and in store. It may also mean the wrong message, or key issues in your cart. Find them. Find what works. Note that this implies investment in people. It also requires an ongoing discipline to identify key insight and to act upon it.
- Create a great customer experience across all channels or touch points. This includes touch points not normally included in the digital world like stores or the in hospital experience. If you did your job well in steps two and three then this will be a focused drive to act upon it.
- Be prepared to invest in a variety of front and back end tools. When releasing a mobile app that allowed riders to buy online and to present their phone as a ticket, one major bus company had to create a driver’s app to accept the ticket and also invest in the integration tools to make it all work.
- Create a personalized experience. Start with segmented personalization where you give them content, or offers based on what you know about them in aggregate. Don’t stop there though. You need continually strive to make ever more personalized and individual experiences. I know this last step is hard. But if you want that customer in an era of greaseless transactions then stay disciplined and work towards treating them like you know them based on what they bought, what services you performed, and what they told you.