Insight | 31 March 2021

How digital transformation can improve your customer experience

James Bloor 800

James Bloor

Chief Strategy Officer

Tags: Digital Transformation

Hand hovering above a tablet laid flat on a table, conjuring icons to represent digital transformation

Is your business exploiting the vast digital potential to make customers happy and loyal to your brand? Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and digital transformation is the vehicle that many companies are using to improve their customer experience.

The digital age customer is empowered and hard to please. For businesses that understand the modern-age customer, happy returns await. In this article, read how digital transformation can impact your customer's experience and how to get started on the journey.

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation means many things to different people. For some, digital transformation is a path towards efficiency; for others it’s a way of attracting customers with cutting edge technology and great apps; and for others still, it’s a way of cutting costs. They’re all valid to some extent since digital transformation is about businesses meeting the digital customer's needs.

As the world becomes more digitally interconnected, customer taste and preferences have shifted. Digital transformation is how companies position themselves to meet the modern, particular, and spoiled-for-choice customer's needs. It is the use of technology to enhance customer interaction experience with the brand.

One of the most comprehensive definitions of digital transformation defines DT as integrating digital technology into all business areas, resulting in fundamental changes to how a business operates and how it delivers value to customers, partners, and employees.

In all definitions of digital transformation, one aspect is clear; that the customer is in the driving seat of digital transformation, forcing businesses to adapt radically. How has the customer found themselves at such a pivotal position in business strategy? It all boils down to customer habits.

Customer habits in the digital age

To succeed in digitising customer touchpoints, you first need to understand the nature of the customer you’re dealing with. In the digital age, customers' needs and expectations are varied and continually evolving. What is working today may not be fit for purpose tomorrow.

The customer demands convenience and on the device of their choice. The digital customer is hyper-connected and wants to get the best product or service, how they like it, and at a time and place of their choosing. Here are the most salient habits and traits of the customer in the digital age.

Vocal and opinionated

Customers in the digital age are highly opinionated and unafraid of raising their voice and demands. Multiple platforms, especially social media, enable customers to be vocal about their experience with a brand or product. The possibility of these voices going viral is intimidating to business leaders. However, it’s also an excellent opportunity to capture feedback, recruit a loyal army of customers, and cut down on advertising costs.

Thorough research

The digital customer’s ability to do background research on your business is legendary. More than ever before, customers can dig the best deals in the market, compare prices, read product reviews, and make a buying decision within a few minutes. Businesses that lag in digital presence will lose customers to a more digitally savvy competitor.

Informed and connected

Information is power. In the information age we’re living in, power has shifted to the customer. Social networks, digital devices, and the internet's ability have empowered customers who are now using the capabilities to go online to demand world-class service.

Demands customisation

Customers in the digital age do not want to be lumped together with everyone else and treated like a mere statistic. They want to be understood by their unique needs, offered what they want and when they want it. Brands that provide customised communication and services are highly likely to attract and retain their customers in the digital transformation race.

What does good digital customer experience look like?

Customer experience is the quality of customers' interactions with a brand, its products, and services. Therefore, digital customer experience can be construed to imply the quality of interaction via a digital interface.

It’s probably incorrect to think of customer experience as a science; it’s not necessarily something that can be lifted from one company and applied to another with the same result.

However, a superior digital customer experience will exhibit the following characteristics:

Consistency

Modern-age customers are interacting with brands from diverse channels but still expect consistency across the board. Inconsistent digital customer experiences create confusion, breed frustration and erode customer loyalty. Consistency is achieved by streamlining internal IT processes and automating customer-facing processes.

Visual consistency also matters and is a crucial differentiator of good or bad customer experience. Customers associate a particular design with a specific business and will quickly jump ship if the brand they cherish departs from their expectations.

Complementarity

An excellent digital customer experience should add to the existing customer journeys. Merely adding digital components that don’t benefit customers may turn the experience from good to worse and drive away customers.

Convenience and ease of use

Customers like convenience and simplicity. A digital experience that delivers the same is likely to gain traction in the market. A simple website that is easily accessible and easy to navigate is preferable to one with a colourful design but ends up wasting customer's time. Apps that are easy to download, sign up for and use are indispensable in creating a great digital customer experience. Time is precious and attention spans short.

Personalised interaction

A 2018 report by Accenture points out that there is a widening chasm between customers’ expectations and reality. Customers are reporting that digital experiences are not meeting their expectations. 91% of customers are likely to make purchases from brands that recognise them and give them relevant recommendations.

Never-ending improvement

A great experience is continuous and demands constant updating to keep up with changing customer preferences. Digital transformation is never over. Technology isn’t stagnant. There is always more to be done. Companies should invest in opinion gathering capabilities to spot areas of improvement before it’s too late. Unlike in brick-and-mortar interactions, digital customers will rarely have time to report inconsistencies. Proactively measuring how well you meet customer expectations is critical.

Great omnichannel experience

Customers want to have the same experience on your website, mobile app, social media - across all digital platforms. A great website only accessible on a laptop will frustrate customers looking for your brand from their mobile devices. The company’s digital assets should be usable and accessible. They should also solve customer problems without leaving the site or providing more information already with the company. A great omnichannel experience enhances consistency and reliability, which are vital for customer attraction and retention.

Person holding tablet flat in one hand and conjuring graphical icons from the tablet with other hand

Consistency across all digital platforms is key to a successful customer experience.

Digital transformation trends impacting customer experience

Hyper-personalisation

Hyper-personalisation is the real-time customisation of content and offers at the individual level. Hyper-personalised customer experience is taking root as companies use the troves of data in their possession to deliver customised solutions to customer's problems. This trend is fascinating to customers and brands alike. Customers are more likely to shop with a brand that knows their shopping history. For brands, hyper-personalisation increases customer retention rates.

Seamless customer channels

Customer channels that offer a seamless experience are the way to go. Customers want to transit from one platform to the next without starting the engagement all over again. Customers loathe the inconsistency of incongruent channels. Seamless multiple channels result in consistent customer journeys and faster resolution of customer concerns hence happy customers.

Embracing automation

Customers are deriving higher satisfaction by engaging with an automated system rather than human beings. A study by Accenture confirms this view, with 84% of the respondents preferring to interact with computer-based applications. Automation has several advantages, such as full-time availability, it’s non-judgmental, and gives faster resolution of issues. Automation of customer support, such as chatbots and humanoid robots, is a step in the right direction.

Humanising the experience

As much as most customers prefer to engage with computer applications, the need to maintain the human touch is not to be forgotten. Customers are human and want to feel valued. Leaving customers to find their way out in a maze of digital applications is an anathema to the digital transformation promise. Personalising offers and content, seeking and acting on feedback is an excellent way of humanising your brand.

Transparency

Customers are asking for more transparency in how companies are using their data and feedback. When a customer interacts with a brand, they want to believe that the interaction is meaningful and will lead to a better experience in the future. Companies that show laxity in acting on feedback or misusing customer data are likely to feel the double pinch of regulators and customer flight.

Focus on data compliance and security

Governments are growing uneasy over the amount of private consumer data in the hands of companies. As brands continue focusing on improving their customers’ experience, the demand to comply with data laws continues to gather speed. Security of customer's data is paramount as breaches are highly costly to clean up, not just because of the hefty fines companies are likely to suffer from regulators. Customers are also expected to be quite unforgiving to companies that misuse their data.

Digital transformation and customer experience: factors to consider

Achieving superior customer experience through digital transformation is not simply a plug and play affair. Careful planning and analysis of the customer journey, pain points, business needs, and implementation matrix is essential. Digital transformation missteps can be costly, ineffective, and a significant cause of customer pain. Here are the factors you need to consider in the entire process.

The role of IT and enabling technologies

Technology is the backbone of the digital customer experience. Knowing which technological tools will deliver the best digital customer experience is key to hitting the mark. Understanding your customers provides an insight into how they like to interact with your business.

Creating a brilliant website that customers rarely visit may be superfluous. A mobile application that provides little assistance to customers is an insult to customers' intelligence. In short, optimise the technology that your customers are yearning for and keep it simple, usable and accessible.

An enterprise-wide approach

Customer experience is not the domain of the front-end and customer representatives alone. Customers do not bother with the internal administrative issues as long as their concerns are handled well. Digital customer experience is best executed as a whole-of-enterprise project involving the front-end and the back-end. Siloed organisations find it difficult to improve customer experience, which leaves the customer frustrated and most likely on the way out.

Priority to people first

Why are so many companies missing the mark in their digital transformation efforts? The simple answer is that they are focusing on the wrong things; technology rather than people. Putting people first is the essence of digital transformation. Business leaders need to analyse people’s unmet needs and plan the transformation journey around those needs. Digital solutions that meet customers' unmet needs are more likely to get a head start than those that plunge blindly.

Knowing the why behind the why

Companies should not stop when they meet their customers’ needs but should go further and ask more ‘why’ questions. Why does the customer choose your products over others? Why are customers likely to leave you for your competitors? Such why questions help your business anticipate disruptions and future customer needs and be better prepared to handle emerging eventualities.

Employee training

Employee training is one of the most overlooked aspects of digital transformation efforts. If done right, employee training leads to confident workers ready to support transformational goals. If training is left out, it’s likely to lead to unengaged workers all too willing to stick to the old way of doing things. Putting in more effort to explain new workflows and technologies improves the chances of success of digital transformation efforts for a better customer experience.

Professional men and women sat round a meeting table with male standing by and presenting from a whiteboard

Successful digital transformation means an investment in your people too.

Benefits of digital transformation

If done right, digital transformation gives immense advantages. Here are some of the key benefits for organisations that succeed in digitising their customer touchpoints:

  • Transform customer experience - by digitising the customer journey, a brand earns the trust and loyalty of customers. Loyal customers are excellent ambassadors for your brand, helping you win more admirers.
  • Tapping into data-driven insights - going digital helps your business track the most critical metrics hence optimise strategies for better results.
  • Foster interdepartmental collaboration- digital transformation eliminates existing silos making your business more responsive to customer needs.
  • Enhances agility and innovation - digital transformation enhances a business's capacity to adapt to new trends, anticipate disruption, and stay ahead of the curve.
  • Consolidates processes and operations - digital transformation brings your workforce, workflows, and infrastructure together, helping you better connect with customers.
  • Fosters digital culture - digital transformation encompasses every person in an organisation. The full-scale, bottom-up and top-down approach to digital transformation fosters a digital culture with the customer being the biggest beneficiary.
  • Higher profits - as customers fall in love with your digital platforms, they turn into your unpaid brand ambassadors. A bigger customer base often leads to more revenue and higher profits.
  • Market segmentation - digital transformation allows you to understand your customer segments and provide services that are tailored to each segment.

How to improve digital customer experience

There is no rest in improving the customer experience for your business. Your customers will keep demanding the best, and competitors are always ready to pounce on any slackness. Even for businesses at the top of the digital transformation curve, there is always room for improvement. Here are a few suggestions on how you can still take digital customer experience to the next level:

  • Understand your customer needs and habits
  • Foster a customer-centric organisational culture
  • Have an emotional connection with your customers – treat them as people, not numbers
  • Introduce customer loyalty reward programmes
  • Encourage your team to go the extra mile
  • Keep learning your customer journeys and pain points
  • Establish ways of capturing customer feedback
  • Act on customer feedback without delay
  • Identify staff training needs and make training a priority
  • Measure the return on investment to see whether customer experience is paying off
Close up of male and female comparing interface designs on paper, laptop and mobile

Keep revisiting your customer journey as part of your ongoing digital transformation programme.

Getting started with digital transformation

Is your business yearning for a superior digital customer experience? Here’s how to get started with digital transformation:

An agile environment

The needs of the digital customer are always shifting. What does this mean for your business? Your business needs to have both an agile mindset and agile systems to meet the changing customers' needs quickly and cost-effectively.

Personalised customer experience

Customers cherish personalised interactions over generic engagements. To get started, understand your customers' unique needs to enable the delivery of customised solutions. You can do this by understanding your customer using empathy mapping.

Seamless, uninterrupted multichannel experience

Today’s customer interacts with your brand on several channels, from mobile apps and the company’s website to social media platforms. Tying up these channels enables your customers to derive an unforgettable, frictionless experience.

Final verdict

Digital transformation is critical for your business in today's hyper-competitive environment. Your customers are firmly in the driver’s seat, dictating what they want, how they want it and when they want it. To satisfy their demands, only the brands that connect seamlessly with the customers will survive.

Want to get started on digital transformation to deliver a superior customer experience? Talk to us today for a free consultation or second opinion.