planning meeting
Too often businesses allow the systems design to drive the digital experience, rather than the other way around PHOTO: rawpixel.com

No one said implementing a new digital experience project would be easy, and if they did then they have totally underestimated what was involved. 

Implementing a customer-centric digital transformation plan involves a lot of moving parts. Unfortunately, most of these projects quickly lose focus on the “customer-centric” part and become all about the “digital” part.

Let the Experience Drive the Systems Design

Focusing on technology, although still complicated, is in many ways the least challenging part of changing the digital experience. We can go out and look at all the fancy vendor demos, issue requests for proposals, run proof of concepts. It’s an easy way to show that we are making progress on the project. 

However, putting technology first often means we end up either digitizing the existing process without making things easier for the customer, or we end up having systems limitations drive the experience, when instead it should be the desired experience that drives the systems design.

Avoiding the tool trap is easy. Don’t allow yourself to start talking about technology and software until you understand what the real challenges are. What problems are you trying to solve? Why are there problems? What do those problems cost your organization? And what are you willing to do to make those problems go away?

3 Fundamentals of DX Project Planning

When it comes to transforming the digital experience, the problems you need to solve aren't only internal ones, they are first and foremost those of your customers. And only by exploring three essential aspects of planning a digital experience project will you truly address those problems. 

1. Know Your Customer

I’m sure you know who your customers are. You probably know what pages on your website they visit, what whitepapers they download. You know what products they buy. 

You probably also do many follow-up surveys to find out what they thought of their interactions with your brand. Ninety percent of your customers ignore those surveys because they're about scoring your internal processes, not fulfilling a customer's need. 

Knowing your customer is not about knowing how they interact with your existing processes, it’s about knowing why they do what they do. What problems are they trying to solve? The digital experience shouldn’t be defined by what your products do, it should be defined by what your customers need.

2. Follow Your Customer

Customer journey maps can be a very useful tool, and I’m sure we’ve all developed them. They help define strategies and approaches to delivering experiences. 

The problem with these customer journey maps is that the customers don’t see them and don’t always follow along with the nice routes we’ve mapped out for them. Customers drop in and out of the theoretical maps. Typical customer lifecycles are made up of many, often disjointed, customer journeys. 

While using techniques like analytics may help bring some of those disjointed journeys to light, the best way to truly follow the customer is to walk in their footsteps and perform the tasks they do to solve their problems. By conducting a practical test of the digital experience, you can discover the bottlenecks and roadblocks that need fixing and identify opportunities to deliver additional value.

3. Understand Your Customer

Delivering real value to the customer comes from examining the gaps between the multiple disjointed customer journeys. 

Whenever customers aren't interacting with your systems is when they are understanding and refining their need, deciding what solutions or products can address that need, and doing research on purchase, support and a wide variety of related information that will add up to the total experience. 

On one project I was involved with we interviewed over 100 customers to walk us through what their job was (not how they interacted with our brand). We discovered most of them went through around 35 process steps between identifying a need and resolving that need. We as a company were directly involved in just eight of those steps. We knew a lot about those eight steps — we had all the analytics — but we knew nothing about the other 27. 

Once we understood what the customer was looking to achieve in the instances they were not interacting with us, we were able to provide valuable content to speed up the process. We also redesigned aspects of the digital experience with our brand to ensure we were asking for the right information at the right time to smooth interactions and make the overall experience as frictionless as possible.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what delivering a successful digital experience is all about: making it easy for the customer to solve a problem, or fulfill a need?