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The Digital Transformation Is Not Complete: What Firms Must Do

 6 min read / 

Being digital must be more than a simple desire to transform a business from purely analogue to one that uses today’s technologies. To become fully digital, leaders must be prepared to turn the business inside out by addressing the needs of front-, middle-, and backend operations. Digital business transformation is not an easy task, but the end result supports retaining current customers and acquiring new ones. The digital transformation consists of the front, middle and back operations of any business:

  • The front encompasses the digital business and includes interactive, connected products and analytics.
  • The middle covers the operations that keep the business moving forward and those which customer never sees, such as software platforms and process automation.
  • The back contains the systems and technologies that keep a business humming and relevant, including IT security, engineering, and modernisation through the transformation of legacy systems.

Digital at scale is the process of reinventing a business, using digital technologies in the front, middle, and end operations, to make the organisation perform better, making fewer mistakes. All of this is done with the customer in mind: How can the customer journey be made more enjoyable and get them where they want to go more quickly and with less effort?

It’s All in A Name

The first place to start: a name. Building or re-building a business to become digital at scale means looking at the organisation from the customers’ perspective; not necessarily how insiders view the company. This includes how products and services are named. Companies must ensure current and new customers can find the organisation online; simple, descriptive names make that possible.

Some companies employ esoteric names for products and services that, frankly, make no sense to anyone outside the organisation. While someone in marketing may feel good about their creativity, the fact is that very few customers search online for information or products using highly stylised names. Very few companies – Apple is an excellent example of a company that can do this – have the worldwide name recognition necessary to successfully launch and promote product names that become part of the world’s everyday lexicon.

The vast majority of online searches are descriptive and ask how the user can accomplish a task or find a specific type of product, like “where are the best deals on golf balls.” Customers rarely find a business if a convoluted naming structure is used, that makes sense only to the people who created it, or if keywords that describe what the product or service does better serves the company. The latter is a customer-centric option. The former is the old way of doing things and is contrary to old maxim “show, don’t tell.”

Getting in Front (Office) of the Competition

The front office is the public face of the company that, once discovered on the internet, for example, must immediately provide an engaging customer experience or risk losing business in the time it takes to click a mouse. In the pre-digital world, the front office consisted of people working cash registers, customer service call centres, and physical point-of-sale displays. In pre-digital, sales could be made even if the customer service and in-store experience weren’t top-notch because the competition was local, not global. Customers had dressed, driven to the store, parked, and entered the building. They had committed.

For example, a few years ago avid golfers were limited to clubs, balls and other equipment sold at a handful of local stores. They had to settle with the stock on hand, even when it wasn’t quite they wanted. Today, these same consumers can find exactly what they want, whenever and wherever it is. The world has shrunk, significantly.

Consumers can have anything shipped to their homes from just about anywhere in the world without ever leaving their house. For this reason alone it is critical to get the digital consumer experience right the first time because shoppers are an impulsive and fickle bunch who have no qualms about visiting a competitor’s website within a second or two. Today’s customer experience must be personalised, automated, and built on artificial intelligence and customer convenience. For example:

  • Instead of cash registers, organisations have different forms of instantaneous online, mobile or tethered payment options.
  • Rather than people handling customer calls, companies use artificial intelligence based chatbots that communicate with customers through chat boxes on websites. In some cases, real people continue to answer questions by chat or email.
  • Point-of-sale displays are everywhere: They are found in search engines, comparison websites, online display ads, the ads that follow users from website to website and, of course, the company’s own website.

Each is available every day, all day (and night) long.

The Customer is Always There

The customer is always there and waiting. While every industry has different customer types, the customer is always waiting to be wowed by a flawless experience. This is true whether the focus is B2B or B2C; this distinction, frankly, does not really matter when it comes to digital transformation because while the methods used to interact with the customer may be different, a bad experience results in the loss of that customer, and, very likely, other customers through negative word-of-mouth.

Amazon is likely the best-known worldwide brand for putting the customer first. From easy ordering to easy returns, Amazon has defined how customer transactions occur in a digital world. According to an article in Forbes:

“Amazon has permanently redefined what customer experience should be, and put all other retailers, service providers and brand managers on notice that the game has changed once again. First, borrow the notion of customer obsession from Amazon, and double down on the audience that falls into your brand’s sweet spot. Remember, Amazon is built for the masses.”

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos wrote in 2015 that many businesses say they are “customer-focused,” but actually spend more time copying competitors than working to improve the way the company interacts with customers, who actually pay the bills. The recently published American Customer Satisfaction Index Retail Report 2017 shows Amazon with a score of 86 out of 100 points. Amazon leads all internet-based businesses as well as brick and mortar and online retailers, which scored an aggregated 78 points.

By combining digital transformation with the idea that the customer should be the organisation’s top priority, Amazon keeps its customers happy (and returning to the web retailer to purchase more goods).

When the entire business, like Amazon, pledges itself to digital transformation, the company also must ensure an excellent customer experience. It does little good to have a user-friendly website with an easy way to capture orders if warehouse workers print out packing slips to prowl the shelves for the product. The only way digital at scale becomes digital at scale is when the entire enterprise commits and converts.

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