Phil WalshPhil WalshJuly 3, 2018
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9min1452

Being digital must be more than a simple desire to transform a business from a purely or partially analog concern to one that uses today’s technologies.

To become fully digital, leaders must be prepared to turn the business inside out by addressing the needs of front, middle, and back-end operations. Digital business transformation isn’t an easy task, but the end result supports maintaining current customers and acquiring new ones.

Digital transformation may be simply described as the front, middle, and back operations of any business:

  • The front encompasses the digital business and includes interactive, connected products and analytics
  • The middle covers the operations that keep the business moving forward and that the customer never sees, such as software platforms and process automation
  • The back contains the systems and technologies that keep a business humming and relevant, including IT security, engineering and modernization through the transformation of legacy systems

Digital at scale is the process of reinventing the business using digital technologies in the front, middle and end operations to make the organisation perform better, run faster, and make fewer mistakes. All of this is done with the customer in mind: How can we make their journey more enjoyable and get them where they want to go more quickly and with less effort?

What’s in a name?

It’s the first place to start. Building or re-building a business to become digital at scale means looking at the organisation from your customers’ perspective; not necessarily how insiders view the company. This includes how products and services are named. Ensure current and new customers can find you online; simple, descriptive names make that possible.

Many companies that employ esoteric names for products and services that, frankly, make no sense to anyone outside the organisation. While someone in marketing may feel good about their creativity, the fact is very few customers search online for information or products using highly-stylised names (very few companies have the worldwide name recognition necessary to successfully launch and promote product names that become part of the world’s everyday lexicon).

The vast majority of online searches are descriptive and ask how the user can accomplish a task or find a specific type of product, like “where can I get the best deal on golf balls”. 

Consider how customers find the organisation if it uses a convoluted naming structure that makes sense only to the people who created it, or if they can more effectively use keywords that describe what the product or service does. The latter is a customer-centric option. The former is the old way of doing things, and is contrary to old maxim “show, don’t tell”.

Which brings us to the front office.

The public face of the business

The front office is the public face of the company that, once discovered on the internet, for example, must immediately provide an engaging Customer Experience or risk losing business in the time it takes to click a mouse.

In the pre-digital world, the front office consisted of people working cash registers, customer service call centers, and physical point-of-sale displays. In pre-digital, you could make a sale even if your customer service and in-store experience weren’t top notch because your competition was local, not global. Customers had dressed, driven to the store, parked, and entered the building. They had committed.

For example, I’m an avid golfer and, a few years ago, I was limited to clubs, balls and other equipment sold at a handful of stores locally. When I drove to a store, more often than not, I settled with the stock on hand, even when it wasn’t quite what I wanted.

Today, I can find exactly what I want, whenever I want, wherever it is. The world has shrunk, significantly. I can have anything shipped to my home from just about anywhere in the world. I never need to leave my house, and for this reason alone it’s critical to get the Digital Experience right the first time because we shoppers are an impulsive and fickle bunch. If we don’t find what we want, we’ll be checking out the goods at a competitor’s website within a second or two.

Today’s Customer Experience is personalised, automated, and built on artificial intelligence and customer convenience. For example:

  • Instead of cash registers, organisations have different forms of instantaneous online, mobile or tethered payment options
  • Rather than people handling customer calls, companies use artificial intelligence based chatbots that communicate with customers through chat boxes on websites (in some cases, real people continue to answer questions by chat or email)
  • Point-of-sale displays are everywhere: they’re found in search engines, comparison websites, online display ads, the ads that follow users from website to website and, of course, the company’s own website. Each is available every day, all day (and night) long

The customer is always…

The customer is always there and waiting to be wowed, impressed, and otherwise pampered. While every industry has different customer types, the customer is always waiting to be wowed by a flawless experience. This is true whether your focus is B2B or B2C; this distinction, frankly, doesn’t really matter when it comes to digital transformation because while the methods used to interact with the customer may be different, a bad experience results in the loss of that customer, and, very likely, other customers through negative word-of-mouth.

When the entire business pledges itself to digital transformation, you can ensure an excellent Customer Experience. It does little good to have a user-friendly website with an easy way to capture orders if warehouse workers print out packing slips to prowl the shelves for the product.

The only way Digital at Scale becomes Digital at Scale is when the entire enterprise commits and converts.




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