Rethink the way you run your business
Irrespective of which digital business model works for your organisation, there are four guiding principles that you should adhere to as you execute on your digitised business strategy:
- Provide seamless, compelling and engaging customer experiences
- Optimise processes and improve employee experiences to deliver what customers value
- Form partnerships to accelerate and scale the business
- Develop a culture of innovation and continued refinement
Let us examine one by one.
1. Provide a seamless, compelling and engaging customer experience
Given the fast-paced innovation that happens around us, customers’ perception of value is continuously shaped by the best companies in the world. Not only that, but as customer interactions are involving more and more touch gestures, enhanced haptics, voice, and eye tracking, customer experience is increasingly becoming sense-based. As a result, you not only need to optimise for omnichannel interactions but equally multisensory experiences.
Digital innovators focus on engaging multiple customer senses to build emotionally resonant experiences that enhance the lives of their customer rather than complicate them. Furthermore, these innovators use advanced analytics to understand customers’ needs and desires and work hard on exceeding those by delivering a coherent, contextual and genuinely connected customer experience across every phase of the customer journey.
B2C companies track evolving customer expectations across the entire population and personalise every single real-time interaction based on a full view of the customer’s past and expected future context. Technologies such as natural language processing, natural language generation, chatbots, and voice assistants are harnessed to making every customer interaction as delightful as possible.
B2B companies who sell physical products, e.g. GE, are working hard on augmenting their products and services with intelligent software, advanced analytics, real-time sensors, and connected capabilities to add incremental customer value. GE Transportation uses sensor data in real-time to keep locomotives safe and efficient. For a company such as Mercedes-Benz, it could be to provide truck drivers with real-time feedback on how to save fuel to reduce operating costs.
As customer interactions are involving more and more touch gestures, enhanced haptics, voice, and eye tracking, customer experience is increasingly becoming sense-based. Optimise for omnichannel interactions and equally multisensory experiences.
2. Optimise processes and improve employee experiences to deliver what customers value
Digital innovators simplify their production, customer service and information processes with software and advanced analytics. The goal here is to use technology to automate, streamline, or eliminate processes to improve the organisation's ability to respond to the ever-changing customer expectations quickly. E.g. Robotic Process Automation, also known as RPA, is gaining much traction to help businesses partly or entirely automate repetitive administrative tasks.
Leading digital businesses measure their functional successes using customer-centric performance metrics. Furthermore, they organise themselves by customer outcomes or journeys. Customer value is increased through the alignment of departments, teams and business processes so that the only outcome that matters is incremental customer value while improving operating margins.
For employees to achieve high productivity in their work, especially when it comes to knowledge workers, they need autonomy, mastery and purpose. If your business has happy employees, you are much more likely to see higher customer satisfaction and improved financial performance. The linkage is clear as a passion for serving customers is a choice that your employees make. Research has found that what makes people the happiest is to get things done.
Employees get the most done when they are in “a state of flow”. What sets high performers apart from the average ones is their ability to focus by staying in a state of flow in their work. It is crucial that business leaders do all they can to help their employees improve their work productivity through a combination of a modern workplace environment, technology and actionable insights. In return, businesses will get happier and more productive employees that delight customers and stay with the organisation for long. In times when digital talent is a scares resource, there is no way around this one. E.g. Microsoft MyAnalytics summarises how employees spend their time and then suggests ways to work smarter – from cutting unproductive meeting time to getting a better work/life balance.
Few technologies, if any, are as foundational to the optimisation of processes and the improvement of customer and employee experiences as cloud. Business leaders should invest in public cloud because it is:
- Agile: Use cloud services to deliver technology-enabled services and experiences in minutes while being able to make changes almost instantly.
- Flexible: You only pay for what you use, which increases both agility and scalability.
- Empowering: Cloud often means self-service solutions that require much less specialised technology skills over traditional on-premise solutions. Most SaaS solutions are platform independent, which gives employees greater freedom to use the device of their choice.
Public clouds are a given and the doubters should stop asking whether to use it, but instead focus on the business opportunities in the form of the customer and employee experiences that it will enable. Retiring existing legacy solutions before they are paid back will increasingly become the norm.Optimise customer experience by optimising processes and improve employee experiences to deliver what customers value. #customerintelligence Click To Tweet
3. Form partnerships to accelerate and scale the business
During the last few years, many new ecosystems have been established. Combined with the availability of improved device connectivity, open APIs and digital delivery channels such as App stores, the cost of integrating non-core business capabilities with suppliers or distributors have come down a lot. This trend has forced many business leaders to evaluate what their core value-adding competencies are and what can be outsourced to specialised suppliers or distributors. If a third party can execute non-core processes faster, cheaper and more reliable than your organisation, why not let them, so that your business can stay lean and agile.
If a third party can execute non-core processes faster, cheaper and more reliable than your organisation, why not let them, so that your business can stay lean and agile.
Creating agility by simplifying your business is critical for long-term survival. Why not allocate scares digital talent to the areas that add the most value to your customers instead of having them spend time on maintaining non-core business capabilities? Focus on what you are excellent at and leave the rest to partners who have specialised in those areas – if they are leaders in their field, they will very likely have an open API to which the business can easily integrate.
A great example is the maintenance of the technology infrastructure – why bother when there are specialised public cloud service providers such as Microsoft, Google or Amazon who have made it their core business to run a more secure, low cost and scalable infrastructure than almost any organisation is capable of on their own. Even if your business operates in a regulated environment, such as financial services, most cloud service providers will comply with those.
4. Develop a culture of innovation and continued refinement
Innovative digital organisations are characterised by their ability to respond quickly to new opportunities and ideas and continuously foster a working environment where change is expected and welcomed. Any business that resists change, at an individual or enterprise level, will kill any hope of innovation and will likely not survive in an increasingly digital world.
It is every employee’s responsibility to continuously do what they can to help shape and foster a culture of innovation, but without strong leadership from the CEO and down, little change happens. While agile development, design thinking, and continuous delivery are all great, they will not add much value if the process and product innovation is not part of the corporate culture. Vital to driving innovation across the enterprise is to consider the following three essential activities:
- Communicate that innovation is every employee’s responsibility. Relentless focus on understanding and responding to customers’ ever-changing needs is the ultimate driver for sustained business success and should be the main objective for the organisation’s innovation focus. A world-class innovation culture includes a widespread awareness of customer experience and a pledge to customer value delivery at all levels.
- Ensure that change is the new normal. In a fast-phased world where competition is coming from everywhere, an innovative culture must drive the business to look for innovations on an ongoing basis. One must be aware of the limitations of adopting new ideas but also have a willingness to let go of old ways of doing things in favour of what is required to stay ahead and continue to deliver customer value. It is not a coincidence that the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has dropped from 55 to about 20 years since 1960.
- Foster enterprise-wide support for cultural change. Only if the entire leadership team is committed to fostering a culture of innovation, including constant experimentation that often leads to failures, will you succeed. Do not make innovation a side effort, but instead encourage employees to spend time on trying out new approaches and allow them to learn from their failures. As a leading digital organisation, you will operate across organisational functions and likely also work closely with partners. Make sure that new ideas for process changes, the introduction of new technology, or innovative new services can come from everywhere – even your customers. Many businesses have started to co-create products together with their customers.
Will you step up or run the risk of becoming irrelevant?
C-suites and Boardrooms need to do what it takes to transform the business to deliver increasingly better customer outcomes rather than being stuck in the past and do things as they have always been done. Any business’s continued survival, irrespective of industry, depends on its ability to throw out old habits and embrace the new rules of doing business in a digital world.
Few business leaders will be willing to outsource critical digital skills to vendors. Simultaneously, organisations will need digital strategists with enough technology insight to understand quickly evolving markets and work with the rest of the C-suite on steering strategic investments.
Start putting technology at the core of your business and operate it with smart processes and the best digital talent you can attract and afford. Good luck winning in the digital economy of the future!Put technology at the core of your business and operate it with smart processes and the best digital talent you can attract and afford. Provide the best customer experience #customerintelligence Click To Tweet
This is the second part of my blog series on customer experience and how to stay relevant in a digital world. If you would like to start with part 1, please read - 5 strategic dimensions that will make you succeed in the digital world.