Thirty-nine percent of companies are still in the process of digital transformation, according to UserTesting's 2021 CX Industry Report.

While some companies, like Starbucks, have already met with success with their digital transformations, they are the exception to the rule. Most other companies are still just getting off the ground with their efforts and may not know where customer experience fits in these broader initiatives. For those companies, consultants and marketers offer the following advice.

Start With Enterprise Strategy

The single most important element of successful transformation is a coherent and well-defined enterprise strategy — not a specific customer experience or digital strategy, said Iliya Rybchin, partner with Elixirr.

"Too many enterprises jump into CX transformation and quickly launch a number of CX transformation initiatives," Rybchin said. "While the bias for action is commendable and doing something is obviously better than doing nothing — moving forward without an enterprise strategic plan is a recipe for failure."

A business should only have one strategy — the enterprise strategy, he added. "A thoughtful enterprise strategy should account for CX/digital transformation but having a separate CX strategy means that the main enterprise strategy does not sufficiently address CX/digital transformation."

Aligning CX/digital initiatives with the overall enterprise goals means the program will have the support and visibility of the organization’s top executives, rather than some lower-level executive who hires a niche-agency to help, Rybchin said. "CX/digital needs to be a C-suite initiative with support and oversight from the senior-most executives, with access to meaningful budgets, and aligns with other enterprise-wide initiatives."

Related Article: Looking Beyond Digital Transformation

Understand the Organization’s Digital Maturity

When considering the customer experience as part of the transformation roadmap, there are two elements that should be considered: Digital maturity and the customer journey, said Matt Glaze, Capgemini North America user experience director.

“Understanding the digital maturity of an organization means identifying where the company sits within a spectrum of technology capabilities,” Glaze said. “Are they currently collecting and analyzing customer data? Do they have the ability to provide personalized content, service, or product experiences based on customer profiles? Are they leveraging their current systems in a way that allows transparency of the customer journey across sales, support, and marketing channels? Understanding the current maturity level of an organization allows us to define a starting point in the transformation roadmap and will help all stakeholders better understand the long-term investment in process optimization.”

Also critical is for organizations to understand the various personas, and the unique journeys for those personas across all digital touchpoints, Glaze added. In many cases, the personas extend beyond customers to also include employees and other internal business users. Putting people first, and understanding their pain points in any experience, leads to improved customer loyalty and retention and improved brand perception. A better customer experience also makes it easier to weather disruptions in the marketplace, new or increased competition, changing technologies — and even something as unexpected and impactful as a global pandemic.

Related Article: Building Blocks of a Digital Transformation Maturity Model

Learning Opportunities

Allow Analytics to Guide Your Focus

When branches closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, analytics was critical in shifting the focus from being sales-focused to being service-focused, said Cameron Minges, president of Financial Center First Credit Union. The shift is now being incorporated as part of a broader digital transformation effort.

“To execute this new strategy, we’re using our analytics to identify members (credit unions refer to customers as members because all are shareholders) who might need help right now or benefit from a product or service they’re not using,” Minges said. “We’re also looking to marketing communications, online services, outbound calling, and internal workflow and response systems to execute on insights derived from those analytics. Much of our ability to successfully shift our business strategy to best serve our members was made possible by utilizing the powerful data management and analytics capabilities.”

The credit union built a predictive analytics-based application to better understand member behaviors and identify those members most in need, Minges added. With the predictive app, the credit union had its best lending quarter in its history.

Related Article: How Analytics Are Driving Digital Transformation

Plan for Uncertainty, Encourage Experimentation

The pandemic made uncertainty a concern for all companies, and highlighted the need for digital transformation plans to include accommodations for such uncertainty, said Suzi Tripp, vice president of insights for Brooks Bell.

"Business leaders are adjusting their customer experience and digital transformation strategies to best address the uncertainty of the future," said Tripp. As part of a broader digital transformation effort, CX plans should include "weaving experimentation into the fabric of these processes will equip teams to discover data to inform better decisions and capture deeper insights into customers’ habits, motivations, and anxieties. Utilizing experimentation allows companies to make strategic, data-backed decisions rather than placing bets on what they think customers might enjoy."

Companies embracing digital transformation will need to focus on flexibility, Tripp added. “With consumer behavior changing with the onset of a post-pandemic economy, it will be the responsibility of individual organizations to determine what best suits their business and customer needs. Being able to anticipate shifts and adapt to them is crucial. Experimentation is the key.”