on the set of Jeopardy
Businesses across verticals are failing to meet their customer's needs PHOTO: Steve Jurvetson

I have a recurring Jeopardy! game show dream:  "I'll take digital transformation for $1000 Alex," I say. 

Trebek responds, "And the answer is 'flip, lift and flex.'"  

Tension builds, the countdown music plays, my brow furrows and finally I answer, 

"What are three ways to improve your customer journey?"  

Cue loud applause as we cut to commercial.

Whether you are as obsessed by Jeopardy! as I am, I trust you and your company are obsessed with improving your customer journey. 

The fact is business customers are essentially consumers who need to be engaged, retained and well served along the journey.   

Relationship Expectations Drive Transformation

Consulting firm McKinsey found “many customer-experience transformations stall because leaders can’t show how these efforts create value.” That is why executives are placing top priority on digital improvements to the customer journey that strengthen relationships.

Take for example the financial services sector. Relationship management is the foundation of banking, especially commercial banking, and creating and maintaining customer relationships remains the single biggest challenge to growth. Commercial bankers are seeing raised expectations for digital innovation to quickly and cost-effectively configure products and services to meet personalized customer relationship requirements. 

Increased levels of competition have made it more difficult for firms to differentiate based solely on the products they offer. So what’s left to create value? 

Process and service excellence, and that requires digitally transforming to remove barriers at onboarding and across the customer journey. 

But where to start?

1. Flip to Customer-Centric Views

By its nature, the customer journey is fragmented. Our businesses didn’t spring fully formed at inception, but rather have grown over time, adding products and merging with other companies, often for additional lines of business. And our organization infrastructures are often inward looking in their perspective, taking a product, functional or unit view.  

All of this impedes how we interact with our customers. 

In commercial banking for example, relationship managers need access to all of the information for a customer across products and business units, as well as the full data view necessary to meet regulatory requirements. What we need to give our relationship managers is an ability to pull together all information for a given customer, and a way to turn searching for information into applying it for customer benefit.

In Healthcare Tech Is Giving Me High Blood Pressure, I wrote about my own frustrating journey. Underlying the issues I encountered were insurer and provider organizations alike struggling to get a unified view of their customer — member and patient respectively. The lack of information integration between clinical systems and provider financial systems is not only a source of customer dissatisfaction, it is impacting healthcare costs — with inefficient utilization management, care orchestration, provider network coordination and claims payments.

The challenge is clear and so is the answer: flip to customer-centricity. The technology is available and the ROI can be substantial. However, it will also require a determined change in culture and thinking to put effort behind the phrase “customer first.” 

As McKinsey advises:

“Like many far-reaching and complex business programs, customer-experience transformations frequently fail to live up to expectations. Customer journeys, which are cross-functional by nature, cut across traditional organizational boundaries, and changing this dynamic is tricky.”

The focus on converging data into customer-centric information is an important first step in transforming customer journeys for the better. But we also need to address converging omnichannel interactions.

2. Lift Processes Out of Channel Silos 

Channel silos can impede the customer journey, raise risk and increase costs. Coordinating across channels is critical to growth. This includes ensuring equal footing for mobile initiatives.

We are all familiar with the rise of mobile in the retail sector. No surprise then that PEW Research found more than half of users use their mobile phone to access healthcare information. This is pervasive behavior. Being effectively omnichannel in the customer journey requires the ability to create processes that are viable across traditional channels and mobile devices. 

Legacy approaches have created fragmented processes that more or less force paper and manual efforts to bridge the gaps or, worse yet, result in customers having to repeat themselves by channel. “Swivel-chair” access to multiple sources does little to insulate users from multiple channels and the complexity of back office processes. 

The solution? Lift processes associated with the customer journey up and out of silos through process automation. 

A full range of intelligent automation approaches exist today — from Robotic Process Automation to AI to Business Process and Case Management. The key will be ensuring your automation approach includes providing employees (and self-service customers) seamless knowledge-sharing features across devices and channels. 

3. Flex with Agile Technology 

If we manage to get our people and process initiatives aligned, our technology choices are the final critical element to ensure an effective customer journey strategy.  

Legacy systems make things difficult, but rigid development technologies can make things near impossible. We have all experienced the frustration of trying to forge a customer-centric view, automate across channels, and still move quickly to meet changing market and customer requirements.  

Traditional coding means long development cycles. All requirements must be known and locked down, because coding is inflexible and making changes at a later stage means more delays. 

What we need is the power and flexibility of agile methodology, coupled with a rapid application development platform that can sit lightly on your current architecture. Flexible low-code development tools favor visual composition over traditional coding so you can quickly build and develop apps that support continuous improvement. 

Forrester Research said it well, 

“Business leaders demand more solutions to win, serve and retain customers; adopting a Low-code application platform is often the response.”

The Final Clue

Each Jeopardy! show ends in a final clue. Responding correctly can make or break the current leader in the game. 

Getting the customer journey right can likewise make or break our businesses, and it’s no easy task. 

So my final Jeopardy! Clue for you: “The subject is Customer Journey and the answer is 'Focus on aligning your people, process and technology.'"