Digital Transformation: Three Keys to Getting it Right
Nowadays one can hardly attend a CX conference or a cross-industry peer meeting without hearing the words “digital transformation”. Especially in well-established companies, with multiple products, M&A-induced technology, multiple customer databases, various global locations and technical debt in every corner, the mere thought of digital transformation can be daunting and the actual execution of it even more so. Add to this a mobile phone world, where simple and elegant apps have raised the bar of the customer experience, and it’s easy to see why there are only a few established companies that have successfully built a thoughtful and seamless customer experience. Below are three critical steps needed to effectively execute on digital transformation, especially in a mature company:
1. Executive and Senior-Leader Buy In: Any of us who’ve worked in large, multi-national companies know that getting an entire organization to “play nice” is the corporate equivalent of solving for world peace. However, if we are to build a thoughtful and seamless customer experience, we need executive and senior leader buy in in order to build the personal and technical bridges that will tie together the CX at any company. This starts with the CEO and must also be adopted by his/her executive leadership team, and down the line to the P&L and/or functional leadership team. This is no easy task and tactics may vary based on the political environment of the company, but common ways to do this include (a) ROI analysis, especially efficiency gains through technical debt reduction, (b) cross-company adoption of CX metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS) and customer health, and (c) all-company compensation tied to customer experience metrics. There is no magic bullet here unfortunately, but perseverance is absolutely the key ingredient.
2. Ownership: One of the most annoying and consistent corporate shortfalls is around ownership. When asked who owns something, and I get the response, “Mary and Jim own that.”, I reply, “But who owns it? Mary or Jim?”. Of course, large CX programs or projects need multiple workers and involve multiple stakeholders but every effort should be made to have a singular owner for major workstreams. By way of example, here are a couple of my favorites. 1. Customer data. If we truly care about the customer experience, we need an owner of customer data. We wouldn’t dare not have an owner for our financial data, especially as a public company, so why do we allow so many owners of customer data, data entry, data changes, etc.? Customer data is the precious raw material of a great CX. Treat it as such. 2. CX at the product level. Who owns this? In my opinion, the product manager. Being a PM is not just about building, fixing and developing a product. It’s the wing to wing CX, from Marketing to Sales, to Onboarding, to Support, to Finance. The functional leaders of the aforementioned groups have ownership of their functions and are there to help the PM’s design and execute the CX at the product level, but the PM’s should own CX for their products. Regardless of the major CX workstream, singular ownership is critical.
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3. Customer Feedback Versus Innovation: By now, you probably know this quote by tech titan and visionary Steve Jobs: “It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.” Henry Ford also famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”Both Steve and Henry are right in that some of the world’s best innovations have come from singular minds, working alone. However, the stark reality of day to day life is responding to feedback is more voluminous and practical. On the client service side of things, we have established a transactional CSAT (customer satisfaction) survey and an NPS (net promoter score) program. We use CSAT to measure day to day satisfaction in working with our company through support issues and we leverage NPS to glean customer loyalty. Both surveys also elicit heaps of verbatim comments that our required reading for our managers and our service managers use aggregated feedback and trends to help our product managers make development decisions and to help drive self-service within our products. We’ve also rolled out a customer community for peer to peer interaction, self-service and/or specific topics our customers want to talk about. Both innovation and responding to customer feedback is crucial and perhaps the best way to delineate the time and focus spent on both is to focus innovation around the sustainable competitive advantages your company already has, and continue to innovate there (e.g. if you are Facebook, continue to innovate and acquire IP related to building your network effect advantage). For the rest of the feedback you get from customers, look at it daily, and gleam the little nuggets they provide, but also aggregate the data to see what the biggest problems are to fix.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Digital transformation is hard. But it can be done with executive and cross functional buy in, ownership and continuous attention to customer feedback. Sprinkle in the occasional innovative brilliance and businesses start to really hum.