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Digital Transformation and the Customer Experience

What’s the key to a successful digital transformation? Focusing on customer experience. Learn why empathy is essential to building a thriving digital business.


What’s the key to a successful digital transformation? Focusing on customer experience. Learn why empathy is essential to building a thriving digital business.

When investing in new digital technology, most companies focus on the business opportunity and the technical feasibility of the project. But a third lens is often the most crucial: customer experience.

Customer experiences can make or break a brand. And that goes well beyond staffing your call center with polite people. In today’s business climate, your customers’ needs, pain points and experiences should serve as the ultimate source for inspiration and innovation. Digital transformation is about more than upgrading your new tools. It’s an opportunity to fundamentally transform the way your company approaches its business.

Creativity and Innovation

Many companies excel at improving efficiency or execution, but survival today depends on the capacity of an organization to innovate. Innovation propels a company forward, shields it from disruption by a new startup and keeps it relevant to consumers. However, breakthrough innovation relies on something many companies, and their processes, often undervalue—empathy and creativity.

Remember the days when you had to ask the restaurant maître d'  to call a taxi? You could end up standing in the rain for 10 minutes, soaked and wondering if you’d been forgotten. Empathizing with that experience was an important part of Uber’s beginning. This is a great example of tapping into the power of empathy. Transformational businesses like Uber, Airbnb and Apple didn’t start with technology. They first focused on understanding how their customers experience the world—and then set out to solve human problems through technology designed to delight their customers.

To deliver amazing customer experiences, companies increasingly turn to an approach called design thinking, which requires a fundamental shift in perspective. Instead of looking at what your company needs to do and how you can push your product out to your customers, start with their needs and then work your way back to your business. What will your customers’ experience need to look like in five years? Or 10 years? What are the roadblocks in your organizational setup, product setup, processes and business model that are getting in the way of delivering that transformational customer experience?

Co-Creation Puts Customers First

Applying design thinking to digital transformation means developing a process that invites customers to be your co-creators—which isn’t simply a matter of asking them what they want. They often don’t know. It’s not their job to have that kind of vision. That’s the value you bring, and design thinking helps you get there.

From the initial definition of a concept to building the first prototype to bringing a new product to market, innovative companies constantly go back to the customer and often change course based on what they discover. When you co-create with customers, it’s not your idea—it’s their idea, it’s “our” idea. That’s the concept you’re shooting for. Together you’re bringing something innovative into the market.

Design thinking isn’t magic, nor is it some unattainable, pie-in-the-sky idea. It’s a systematic, methodical way for companies to get at those big ideas, that creative juice. You have to go through a creativity process just as you go through an execution process.

Finally, companies that want to be transformational must also develop an experimental mindset. One of the core tenets of design thinking is, “Fail early and fail often.” This is often misunderstood to mean it’s OK to fail. On the contrary, organizations should think of this as decreasing the risk of investment by frequently doing many small experiments. Celebrating the word “fail” in this way also opens the door to surprising discoveries, to trying things others may not have considered—two very important factors in the idea of innovation.

This approach combined with placing high value on customer feedback sends a message that customers hear loud and clear. It says you care deeply about creating an experience they will love.  And that is certainly something to celebrate.

Leadership Digital Solutions

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