People frequently throw around the term "digital transformation" when discussing modernizing business applications and online services. 

What often gets lost in the conversation is that digital transformation and customer experience go hand in hand. 

You can't provide a great customer experience if you aren't taking advantage of new digital technologies. But it's not as simple as creating a new website, mobile app or using new technology in your call center. Digital transformation means aligning, unifying and building the experience around the customer.

Alignment of Technology

Every organization uses a number of core technologies to support customers. Sales use CRM and ERPs; marketing uses web CMS, marketing automation, CRM; both use e-commerce; support uses call center solutions and so on.  

Unfortunately many organizations maintain these applications in silos, sometimes with connections, but almost always with duplicate and divergent customer profiles and transaction data.  

To center digital transformation around the customer, organizations need to align these technologies, connecting them to share information, unifying the customer profile and enhancing it as each department interacts with a customer.  

Unification of Experiences

Different departments interact with customers. They share information, receive information and gradually build their customer profile. 

It used to work like this:

  • Marketing gets a lead in the door, then passes her over to Sales

  • Sales close the sale and passes her over to Customer Care

  • Customer Care provides service and support

In each case, each department develops its part of the customer relationship and doesn't care what the other departments do as long as their job is finished. 

But this isn't what customers expect. They assume that you know them every time you interact with them — not just your limited view, but everything — from what they looked at on the website, what they downloaded, to what they bought, how many times they had to make a support call and so on.  

To make it more challenging, sometimes customers don't want to talk to you. They research online, get advice from peers and others to make purchase decisions. They want to find answers to their questions in support documents, not through long phone calls, waiting someone to figure out who they are, what they bought and how to fix their problem.

Customers want to move seamlessly from one part of the customer journey to the next. The lines between marketing, sales and service have blurred to the point that customers don't care who's job it is — if they ever did — they just expect you to work with them across channels and touchpoints.

Your organization needs to present one single unified customer experience across the entire organization.  

Build the Experience Around the Customer

Digital transformation entails realigning the structure and business model of your organization and implementing new types of technology that focus specifically on the customer and their experience.

It's not about creating different experiences for each touchpoint within the organization: It's about creating a seamless experience as the customer moves from one stage of the customer lifecycle to the next.  

This requires:

  • A unified customer profile and
  • A unified customer system

A unified profile ensures that all the information you have about a customer and their interactions with you is accessible in a single location. This is not to say that you can only have one place to store customer information, which is nearly an impossible feat. What you need is technology that connects all of your customer systems in order to show 360 views of your customers. Use this unified customer profile to personalize experiences across all your web applications and sites.

A unified customer system is a place where your customers can come and see the products and services they have purchased, get service and support, maybe interact with other customers, and get relevant information about things of interest. It works well for multi-service and multi-platform organizations.

Both of these support the experience you are building around the customer. The unified customer profile tells you everything you need to know about your customer, and the unified customer system gives them access to the tools and information they need to interact with your organization.

A Note on Mobile Experiences

When we talk about digital transformation, mobile experiences play a big part and require alignment as well. But some organizations believe that transformation can be managed at the presentation level only.  

This is no longer true. To truly transform the mobile experience, you have to do it at the data level. 

What this means is that you personalize the mobile experience for the customer. Creating a better visual experience is part of it, but on a deeper level, it involves understanding who the customer is and providing them with the content they need. 

Knowing the customer might be as simple as knowing their location and providing content relevant to their location. It might mean segmenting the customer by products sold and providing content related to what they purchased, or deals for complimentary products. Or it could be as complex as giving the customer updates on a recent problem ticket they submitted and a list of good content to read that might help them address their problem.  

Delivering on all of this requires the customer data to make the mobile experience specific to the customer.  

Walk in the Customer's Shoes

Too often when organizations start their digital transformation projects, they focus on technology and how to implement it. But technology is only an enabler. Take a step back and focus on your customers and what they need.

When you put yourself in their shoes, you'll get a better idea of how the organization needs to transform — in both processes and technology — to improve the customer experience. And that's what digital transformation comes down to — improving the customer experience.

Title image Samuel Zeller