Placing the Customer Journey at the Center of Digital Transformation

Discover the steps for designing successful user experiences

In the current constantly changing digital environment, organizations are facing huge challenges. While the emergence of disruptive technologies has provided great opportunities for the companies that are incorporating them into their business model, at the same time it represents a threat for firms that have not yet managed to transform their processes and services.

In the face of this opportunity/threat situation, the customer experience has become essential. Manufacturing a product is no longer enough; a good experience must be created around the customer, from start to finish. Customer centricity is not a new idea since, for several years, companies have endeavored to turn their sights and attention towards the most important element of the value chain. However, shifting the old paradigms in which profitability and a short-term vision are the most important factors has not been easy. But the situation can change suddenly due to the dynamics of the environment (which is where we are now).

The past year has clearly shown that if businesses do not adapt to digital environments, they are doomed to extinction. There is no generalized solution for digital transformation, so the most important thing is to define the appropriate strategy for each individual case. Copy-pasting solutions from one organization to another will most likely lead to failure. Therefore, bringing together customer experience design and digital transformation is of utmost importance. Specifically, the challenge is to design user experiences (UX) considering the following steps:

  1. Research: This is the starting point of any customer-centric initiative. It includes the design of qualitative and quantitative instruments, data collection through both structured and unstructured information systems. The most important thing in this step is to have sufficient elements to understand the current situation and where we want to go to achieve an excellent user experience.
  2. Analysis: Once we have the data, we apply different techniques and tools to extract valuable knowledge, find patterns, and make predictions: a holistic, systemic analysis of what is happening in our environment. There are numerous tools available – one of the most relevant is the customer journey, a graphic and easy-to-understand representation of the path travelled by a customer through the entire value chain.
  3. Ideation: Based on the findings of the previous step, and always taking a position of customer empathy, the next step is a creative process to ideate possible solutions for the identified challenges. It is important to involve all the areas of the business, both internal and external, in the pursuit of new ways of doing things and, together, evaluate which ones will have a more positive impact on the customer.
  4. Prototyping: There are numerous digital tools, with friendly and simple interfaces, that help to accelerate the prototype development process. Having a representation of the proposed solution makes it possible to conduct mass testing with other customers and receive feedback. The most advanced companies in these methodologies manage to develop functional prototypes in a short time, collecting a large volume of data to obtain clear, decisive feedback from all audiences.
  5. Deployment: Each organization has its own methodology for successfully deploying the solution validated through the prototype. A good practice is to have many versions that apply few improvements in order to assure an adequate control of any changes. Implementing agile methodologies in parallel so as to adapt more quickly to changes is recommended.

The customer journey is a very powerful tool to identify the current situation of services, seen and evaluated from the customer's perspective. It serves to detect areas of opportunity across the value chain, helping us to prioritize our digital transformation efforts. Visualizing the journey as a real-time dashboard facilitates the management of the entire transformation strategy.

The most successful organizations have managed to design excellent customer and user experiences, while aligning their transformation efforts around the entire digital experience. For companies that have not been able to capitalize on technology, it is imperative that they assess the impact of technology on their customer experience. A common mistake is to try to improve internal operations without considering the impact on customers, but focusing on customer-facing initiatives without considering operational efficiencies is equally disastrous. In this interconnected system, short- and long-term visions must be aligned, as should all of the organization’s internal and external relationships.

The authors are Business Intelligence Professor at EGADE Business School (Gilberto Olavarrrieta) and Adjunct Professor at EGADE Business School (Carlos Alberto Rodríguez).

Article originally published in El Empresario.

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