In my last blog I focused on five key areas where successful companies have changed the way they think and behave to achieve successful digital transformation. These areas were: customers, competition, data, innovation and value.
This blog focuses on the first of these - how we need to rethink the way we approach and manage customers in the digital era.
In the digital era, it’s the customers that call the shots
In the 20th century, businesses were built on a “mass market model” - mass production and mass communication to a passive group of customers. Communication was one way with brands controlling the cascading of messaging that influenced how their products and services were perceived by the target market.
Today, in 2018, we're are in the middle of a profound shift in customer behaviour and its effect on how we do business. Professor David.L Rogers* calls it the “Customer network model” and it shows how current and potential customers have access to a wide variety of digital platforms that allow them to interact, publish, broadcast, and innovate—and thereby shape brands, reputations, and markets.
In the move from analogue to digital, our customers are just as likely to connect with and influence each other, as they are to be influenced by the communications from your company.
Let me ask you, do you use apps like Booking.com or TripAdvisor etc. when your out travelling? If that’s the case I’m quite sure you would pick the hotel, restaurant or entertainment that most people have given a high rating, i.e. you would listen more to other customers than to the company that offers the service.
2 ways to manage customers in the digital era
Focusing on two main points in this digital age could be the make or break for your company, namely; customer experience and customer value.
1. Customer experience drives customer loyalty
According to a study done by Gartner, today’s customers;
- Complain more
- Are less loyal
- Tell more people about their experience
- Use more channels
- Want privacy and insist on being treated personally
The results show that 81% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience, 97% are multichannel users and 52% of consumers have switched provider in the past year due to poor customer service.
It also reveals that consumers that are satisfied with how their complaints are handled are 6x less likely to switch, 5x more likely to recommend and 3x more likely to re-purchase.
This is why customer experience must be one of the core focuses in the digital age. In the digital era a company needs to be more accessible to the customer, engage with them, adapt their offer to customers’ needs and become a part of their conversations.
2. Customer value – Let the customer be your innovation partner
In todays connected world, it's all about providing additional customer value. It could either be through an innovative product or an innovative way of delivering your product or service to the customer. It's through the perceived customer value that you find your differentiation.
In the move from analogue to digital we face customers that are far more interactive with dynamic networks and we need to treat them accordingly. The digital platforms and the access to customer data gives a company an excellent opportunity to let the customers be part of building your path forward. So rather than seeing the customer only as a target for selling your product, think of them as the best focus group, brand champion or innovation partner!
Your brand needs to be carried by every person in your company
What does this mean to a company? Well, I would say that it's more important than ever that every part of your business understands the meaning of the word “brand”. I often hear that “brand” equals “logo” developed and managed by marketing.
However, as we can see from Gartner’s research into the customer experience, “Brand” is much bigger than that. It’s delivered by everyone in the company and drives the customer loyalty.
To constantly improve the value you bring to customers, you need to break departmental silos, share targets, focus throughout on the customer journey within your company and be agile to act on customers behavior.
Creating the right environment for digital transformation
Digital transformation is about creating the environment within a company for digital strategies to flourish. In the digital era you have access to tools to get closer to your customers so you can be more accessible to them, engage them, adapt your offer to their needs and become part of their conversations.
This may require cultural change so that everyone in the company embraces the brand values and understands their part in their delivery.
Only then can you reap the rewards that digital transformation will bring.
*Rogers, David L.. The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age (Columbia Business School Publishing). Columbia University Press.