There has never been a better time to be helping improve the digital experience for customers. However, while you will quickly recognize what needs to be done to make things better for customers, convincing your organization to do these things will be a much slower process.

We have made a lot progress in making it easier for customers to do what they want to do. These days most websites are simpler and less cluttered, with clearer language and less jargon. And yet it can feel that progress is not fast enough, and some organizations slide backwards, particularly when new management comes in.

The reason that progress is not as fast as we’d like is that to significantly improve the customer experience we must change the culture of the organization. A radical cultural change is required.

Organizations are a form of tribe. They have a deep, unstated belief that they are the center of the universe. They see the customer as a consumer — someone who consumes the products and services that the organization produces. There is very little acceptance within most organizations that the customer is independent, with their own will and needs. 

According to traditional organizational philosophy, if the ‘consumer’ doesn’t at this moment want to consume organizational products and services, then it’s the job of marketing and communications to ‘convince’ them. Government is exactly the same. At best, traditional governments are paternalistic towards their citizens.

Digital transformation has happened first with customers. Digital has empowered customers in a way that is historically unique. Social media is the first media where the key channel is not from organization to customer, but rather from customer to customer. We have customers now who don’t simply expect simplicity, convenience and transparency — they demand these things.

That’s great for you because you want to make life as simple as possible for customers. But for much of your organization — particularly senior management — it requires the acceptance of a significant loss of control and power. Traditional organizations go through a deep identity crisis when they feel they are losing control. Because the essence of traditional organizations is to control, direct, plan, strategize.

You’re telling the organization that they are no longer the center of the universe. That digital has changed the societal landscape. That it is the customer who is the center of things now. That the organization must now organize around the customer.

You are a disruptor, a change agent. However, even for those who accept your message and understand the need to change, the change required will still be wrenching.

You will notice that the more you talk to your colleagues, particularly those in other departments/silos, the more effective you become. The more you reach out and build multi-disciplinary alliances, the more successful you become. Digital transformation is much more about changing hearts and minds than changing websites or apps.

Your passion is essential but it must also be married to patience. You need to be polite, optimistic and persistent. Even nudging a culture towards change can take years of effort.

Remember, you are not alone. Right this moment, there are thousands of people like you, all over the world, nudging their organizations forward. Never give up hope. You’re on the right track!