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Customer Centricity Tips for Digital Transformation | @CloudExpo #Cloud

Digital transformation is hard. But get it right and your customers will love you forever.

Seven Extreme Customer Centricity Tips for Digital Transformation

One of the most important tenets of digital transformation is that it's customer-driven. In fact, the only reason technology is involved at all is because today's customers demand technology-based interactions with the companies they do business with.

It's no surprise, therefore, that we at Intellyx agree with Patrick Maes, CTO, ANZ Bank, when he said, "the fundamental element in digital transformation is extreme customer centricity."

So true - but note the insightful twist that Maes added to the customer-driven digital mantra: extreme.

In the context of digital transformation, then, what are some examples of customer centricity we would consider to be extreme? Here's our take.

Extreme Customer Centricity #1: Ditch the IVR

Quick show of hands: who likes interactive voice response (IVR)? You know, "press 1 for sales, press 2 for support," etc. Anybody? The fact of the matter is, everybody hates IVR - that is, except for the call center bean counters who are looking to squeeze every last penny of cost out of the system.

In fact, IVR is all about reducing costs, rather than addressing customer preferences, let alone providing customer delight. Want extreme customer centricity? Ditch your IVR.

IVR aficionados are sure to object at this point and note that IVR has come a long way since the "press 1" days. Today's high-tech IVR has human-like voice interactions, and allow for a range of spoken inputs. So, should we cut IVR a break?

Not on your life. Even today's most modern IVR system is far from customer-centric. I find the oh-so-friendly humanoid voices downright patronizing, as though a fake person will fool me into thinking I'm chatting with someone who really cares about why I'm calling. No thank you!

Extreme Customer Centricity #2: Free Shipping Both Ways

Zappos pioneered this policy, of course. Everybody said it would cost too much, that customers would abuse the privilege, blah blah blah. Zappos made it work and is now part of Amazon, where it continues to blow away conventional wisdom along with its competition.

Free shipping means smaller margins to be sure, but it also means more revenues - both from new customers as well as existing ones. Do the math.

Extreme Customer Centricity #3: No More No-Reply Email

We've all received these emails from our friendly neighborhood big companies - emails that don't permit a reply, because they're being sent from an "unmonitored mailbox" or some such.

Ask yourself: why doesn't that big company want a reply? Answer: because it doesn't want to make it easy for you to interact with it.

Now put on your extreme customer centricity hat. You'd love to have an email response from a customer, because establishing relationships with customers is your top marketing priority. The whole point to email is to facilitate human interaction, after all. So ditch the one-way emails!

Extreme Customer Centricity #4: Digital Signage Should Be Interactive Signage

When I was a kid back in the pre-digital days, moving billboards fascinated me. This early technology leveraged vertical triangular tubes. A motor periodically rotated a row of several tubes to show one of three faces, thus switching the entire billboard.

Today, signage is likely to be digital, from small, iPad-based signs by doors to the massive, Times Square-size screens that shine across entire city blocks. And yet, so many digital signs have no more interactivity than the analog moving sign of the last century.

There's no excuse today for all of these digital signs to have a level of interactivity appropriate for their purpose.

The small signs in Delta Airlines' Sky Clubs indicate how long since a restroom has been serviced, and will indicate when one is out of service. Staff simply interact directly with the sign to make updates via its service management interface.

For larger signs, interactivity must either be a group exercise, or the interaction must take place away from the sign interface so it can be a personal experience. With beacon technology, signs can now know when people are nearby. Why can't we interact with signs from our phones?

Extreme Customer Centricity #5: Mind the Customer Journey

A central facet of digital marketing is the customer journey. This journey takes an anonymous visitor (either online or in a physical location) to becoming an identified prospect to the purchase transaction, and then onto becoming a happy customer (who might buy more) or an unhappy one (who needs some kind of special treatment to be happy again).

For every step in this journey, each customer requires interactions specific to that step. However, in many cases, the merchant in question either has no idea where particular individuals are in their journey, or even worse, does know where they are but disregards that information in its interactions.

Take retargeting, for example. I've lambasted retargeting before, but now let's put a finer point on the problem.

Here's how retargeting is supposed to work: let's say you visit a web site for shoes because you're shopping for shoes, but you remain undecided at the end of your visit. Thereafter, the retargeter wants to feed you ads for shoes similar to the ones you were looking at in hopes of moving you along your journey to the purchase transaction.

Alternatively, let's say you completed the purchase. Now, serving you ads for shoes similar to the ones you purchased is not only pointless, but annoying. Instead, retargeting should recognize that you made the purchase and feed you ads for appropriate accessories instead.

Here's another example. Let's say there was a defect in your shoes, and you tweet your dissatisfaction. In this case the merchant should leverage sentiment analysis to identify your dissatisfaction, and take some kind of action like offering a free exchange to address the problem - maybe via a Twitter direct message, or perhaps an email or a text, depending on your preference. But feeding you more ads will only make you more frustrated with the merchant.

Extreme Customer Centricity #6: Let the Customer Choose the Channel

Sometimes customers like to interact with companies' web sites. Other times they like to make a phone call. Perhaps interacting via social media is more your thing. Furthermore, some customers have one particular channel preference, while others use different channels for different purposes.

Extreme customer centricity requires that companies fully allow for such customer preferences. Does one customer only want to interact on Twitter? Then so be it. Maybe another prefers email? No problem.

One important caveat here: sometimes security or broader compliance issues limit a company's (or government agency's) ability to interact via certain channels. In those situations, it's important to educate the customer on the given constraints, and to provide customer-centric alternatives (like a secure web-based messaging alternative to email). Educated customers will generally prefer appropriately secure and confidential interactions, after all.

Extreme Customer Centricity #7: Incentivize Self-Service without Penalizing Full Service

Ditching IVR? Dealing with responses to customer emails? Interacting via multiple channels? Sounds expensive, right?

Call centers in particular are surprisingly expensive to run - from $15 to more than $40 per customer call. It's no wonder companies do what they can to keep customers from calling, and if they do call, to keep those calls short.

But that's not how to be extremely customer-centric. However customers choose to interact with a company - even if they call in - they should have a truly delightful interaction. So make sure when a customer calls, a real human being who can truly address the customer's need answers the phone - and answers immediately.

If you're wearing your customer hat, you're cheering right now. But put on your bean counter hat, and all you see are exploding costs. Fortunately, there's an extremely customer centric approach to managing costs, even for call centers that actually delight customers.

The answer is to incentivize self-service interactions - but without penalizing full-service interactions. Most of the time, customers would rather use a self-service channel like a web site or mobile app anyway. So for those situations where self-service would be perfectly fine but customers call, email, or tweet anyway, think about what you can do to incentivize them to choose the self-service option.

For example, Comcast uses big data to predict when particular customers are about to call in to report a problem - and preemptively sends them a text letting them know it's working on the issue (with the proper customer opt-in, of course). In this case, proactive information is the only incentive a customer needs not to call.

It's important to note that this principle is all carrot and no stick. Ever call a company and the first thing you hear is how you can go to their web site? Well duh, why didn't I think of that, right? Such disincentives are high on the annoyance factor and low on customer centricity.

Or banks like Bank of America, which offers an account that has no monthly fee if you never see a teller. Go into the branch once, however, and it zings you with a fee. B of A is on the right track to be sure, but penalizing customers for using a teller in those situations where only a teller will do will only antagonize customers. Offer a reward instead for making the self-service choice.

The Intellyx Take

Customer service is no longer a euphemism in today's digital world. It's a mandate. Short-term cost considerations must give way to long-term customer delight. If you don't figure this out, your competition will - and you'll be toast.

Nobody is saying it'll be easy. In fact, digital transformation is hard. But get it right and your customers will love you forever.

Intellyx advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Jason Bloomberg is a current or former customer of Bank of America, Comcast, Delta Airlines, and Zappos. Image credit: Travis Wise.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.

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