​The key to customer-centricity? Become a data company.

Data ​The key to customer-centricity?
Become a data company.

For the past 20 years I've been a student of digital business and marketing. I’ve very purposely spent my career focused on digital transformation from as many different perspectives as possible. No matter what company you work for, you're always working hard to acquire new customers and unfortunately, under serving your existing ones. But, without a deep and long term commitment to crafting digital experiences that enable you to capture, analyze and take action on customer data, you’re flying blind.

Our ultimate goal as experience design leaders is to optimize our experiences, not only to drive significant business impact, but also to deliver the data and insights we need to future-proof our organizations.

As a digital-centric professional, my primary perspective on business is through the lenses of constantly changing technology and customer behavior, and the mountains of data generated by the synergy of the two. While digital experiences aren’t your only valuable customer touch points, they are - or will be soon - the most important ones, not only for customers, but for the survival of your company. Look at your customer experience and satisfaction metrics, I bet they indicate a significant shift in customer behavior - toward digital, and more specifically, mobile channels. And sadly, the majority of you are probably seeing falling satisfaction rates because very few businesses are keeping up.

This is one of the many curses of digital - it’s simultaneously essential for success and remarkably difficult to do well.

Most enterprise organizations are built on traditional models of customer engagement. They’ve worked for so long, and frankly, digital is still in its turbulent transition period (will it ever not be?). Recently my team worked with one of the largest captive finance organizations in the world and they still process millions of monthly payments through the U.S. Postal Service - but that’s changing rapidly. Unsurprisingly, mobile websites and apps are seeing the fastest growth curve, but customer satisfaction scores are falling despite the massive investments in the customer service organization and tools.

Fact: Large organizations change slowly. To see so many of those organizations without strong customer and digital leadership across key engagement touch points in 2017 is surprising. From insights teams who have never worked with digital marketing, to customer service leadership who see digital channels as customer pain points, to overworked IT groups managing such a variety of projects and systems, it's no wonder they lack agility.

Your customer’s changing behaviors and preferences are the single most disruptive force in your industry.

While customer insights, data management, analytics and digital experience management are all deep disciplines within themselves, there are three core focus areas across the customer experience design journey where new data and insights strategies can transform customer-centricity aspirations. While different data and insights inform different efforts, they all combine to provide a complete approach to continuous customer experience improvement and ultimately, serve to future-proof an organization when done right.

1. Pre-Experience Design

Constant Customer Insights

Companies should always be studying their existing and future customers, their competitors and an ever-evolving marketplace. It's no longer enough to rely on a myriad of independent teams across an organization to do their own piecemeal customer research. Mature organizations centralize the planning, execution, analysis and distribution of constant customer insights. It’s essential that digital experience leaders either have budget and expertise within their team — take ownership if none exists today! — or work very closely with an existing customer insights center of excellence (COE) to ensure they get what they need to drive customer experience innovation. We believe that ownership of digital experience insights is the path to business and career success for digital leaders.

2. Existing Experience Design Optimization

Customer Experience War Room

Millions of customers engage with companies digitally every day and the mountains of data they leave behind is a gold mine for customer experience leaders. Sourcing, aggregating, analyzing and activating the data however requires vision, expertise and dedication. While most people think digital analytics across websites, mobile apps, etc. is enough to drive innovation, it only provides us insights on current and legacy experiences. It doesn’t account for the massive amount of other digital and analog customer touchpoint data that an organization gathers. Experience leaders must think more broadly about the customer journey map and define all of the places data can help inform improvement. Only then can a plan to constantly improve existing customer experiences be developed.

3. Experience Design Innovation

The Experience Lab

The goal is to have a team with a deep and ongoing understanding of current and future customers, a competitor’s strengths, weaknesses and experience focus areas that is actively surfacing and prioritizing key insights to inform the improvement and innovation roadmap. From there, we need the team and support to activate our best insights by running experiments. Every experience organization is split between fixing what’s broken, supporting multiple ongoing efforts from other groups and driving their own improvement and innovation roadmaps. Often, it’s the latter that falls off when others require attention and resources, so leaders must set-up the organizational structures and executive buy-in required to shelter and nurture improvement and innovation.

Experience teams focused solely on fixing what’s broken and supporting the myriad of company-wide initiatives required of them are not living up to their potential. For leadership to inspire high-functioning, customer-obsessed teams, they must build rich experiences on a foundation of data, insights and iteration.

Hard work is hard, but the rewards are sweet. Don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to focus on the more immediate and sexy parts of experience design and technology, but without a long term commitment to capturing, analyzing and acting on data and insights, you’ll continue to struggle to prove and improve the results you deserve.

Keep an eye out for future posts that will focus on going deeper into staffing models for supporting constant experience innovation as there are many models and options to consider.

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