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The Secret to Successful Digital Transformation? Let Your Customers Lead

I know, I know, you’ve heard this all before: Every enterprise needs to undergo a digital transformation. Great digital experiences are necessary to win, serve, and retain customers. Personalized omnichannel experiences are the new table stakes in a highly competitive, digital-first world.

My Twitter feed is jammed every day with a stream of eternal truths like this. You get it. Everyone gets it.

But here’s what too many enterprises don’t get: Shifting from current digital state to future digital state is hard. It requires a balance of expertise, culture, and technology.

And, it requires a deep mindshift that many enterprises haven’t yet realized or are incapable of accomplishing.

The idea crystallized last week when I attended the Forrester Forum for Digital Transformation in Orlando. The big reveal: if you want to be successful with digital transformation, you must shift from being a “customer-aware” enterprise to a “customer-led” enterprise.

Every company will say they put customer experience first. But at a time when digital relationships are paramount, successful businesses and brands are building this into their DNA. They’re creating what Forrester calls a Customer Obsessed Operating Model.

There’s no one right way to become customer-obsessed and to build a customer-led culture. But it’s a concept that’s being put into action by many companies driving digital success today.

CVS Health is doing it. Led by Chief Digital Officer Brian Tilzer, the CVS digital lab team has shifted from an enabler of digital strategy (providing tools and tech) to being the driver of rapid digital innovation to benefit customers.

Tilzer, speaking at the Forrester event, described how CVS leverages digital capabilities to redefine the store experience through customers’ eyes. CVS sends text alerts telling you when prescriptions are ready (creating happy customers and cutting phone calls to pharmacy techs). It’s using scanners to capture your new healthcare membership card (saving a few minutes and mitigating long lines). And, it’s running a pilot project at 350 stores for curbside pickup, so elderly customers and parents with a car full of little kids don’t have to go inside. A CVS app enables online ordering of anything in the store; location-based notifications can alert delivery runners when the customer arrives.

Others are doing it, too. Forrester’s Ted Schadler describes how old-school manufacturers, like tractor-maker John Deere, are shifting to a digital-centric, customer-led mindset. Deere is building software to help customers – farmers – be more effective in planting and tending crops based on big data. Companies that are customer-led are putting developers in call centers to listen to customer issues – so they can hear what customers want, but WHY they want it. And, this creates passionate employees who better understand how their work impacts customers and allows product, digital experience, marketing, and support teams to better serve customers and figure out how best to leverage digital means to do it.

These shifts enable a customer-led mindset that can create desirable new products and services, educate customers at the right time, at the right place, and with the right experience. There are hundreds of opportunities to support customer interactions and behaviors to enhance their experience and boost your business relationship.

My takeaway: Digital transformation efforts and the digital customer journeys you create don’t come in a box. The enterprise needs blend of strategy, technology, expertise, and culture, working together. It’s not just one thing. And, it’s definitely harder than jotting down 140 characters worth of buzzwords on Twitter. Creating compelling emotional connections with your digital experiences requires everyone to be led by your customers.

It’s still early in a game in which “digital” as defined in digital transformation, digital experience, and the like, means more than digital marketing. Far more. Digitalization of business, building customer-led enterprises that rely on new digital interaction paradigms – that’s where the big action is happening next. It’s still blue-sky stuff for many brands.

The good news is that there’s still time for businesses and brands to capitalize on this opportunity to win and serve their customers, and to create new products and services that customers want. And, to use digital content as a strategic asset. Digital content, and the platforms that support content, will power the next wave of customer communications and drive the emotional experiences that make life-long customers. There’s ample opportunity to think customer-first and build strategic plans – encompassing digital content applications and platforms, as well as organizational approaches – built around customer needs, going beyond business as usual.

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