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Digital Transformation How-To Guide #12: Customer Engagement in your Digital Transformation

Author by Bill Topel

Author’s note: This twelfth post in our series on Digital Transformation continues to lay out what a truly modern approach to IT “looks like”—this time with regard to Customer Engagement.  

Customer Engagement in your Digital Transformation

Customers are key to any growing business. Customer growth means additional revenue; additional revenue means new products, territory expansion and more profits. Customer reduction means reduced revenue, loss of profits and typically loss of jobs. So, we can all agree that customer growth is a good thing.

As companies look at ways to expand customer value, they’ve used many approaches. Customer quality scores and satisfaction are measured and turned into metrics; customer panels and focus groups are assembled and used to review new features and functions; eCommerce platforms are implemented and expanded to provide more online services and content; and digital data and content is assembled and sold/provided to customers to add yet more value and integration. But in 2017 this is still not enough.
Amazon, Uber and AirBnB have set the bar high on how businesses sell to customers and will treat them in the future.
Successful companies today have already mapped the customer purchase journey. They have defined how customers can find information, research options and make a purchase. Online content, forums and blogs deliver additional information that customers can use to validate and confirm their purchase decision. Experts confirm that most customers say that if they cannot find validation information, they may not proceed with the purchase. So, at the end of the day, it is no longer good enough to just have the best product; you must be able to deliver an overwhelming amount of value—and in the online world we live in, the value is delivered through content published that supports your product.
Beyond online content, companies also must face the reality that operational efficiency is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have. Manual processes reduce throughput and limit growth. If your processes are not automated, you will not be able to take full advantage of growth periods and grab market share.
Finally, as companies review future products and services, the reality looms on the horizon that companies are expiring at an alarming pace. One hundred years ago the lifespan of an S&P 500 company was 67 years; by 1980 that number had reduced to 25 years. By 2010 that number dropped further to 15 years…and by 2020 75% of all S&P 500 companies will be new.
The reality is that technology innovation is driving businesses to expand into new markets and is creating new businesses models to dominate their industries. Your company is either a business leader or follower. There is no second place, you either win or lose. Let’s face it: silver doesn’t mean you lost gold, it means you lost.


Current Customer Engagement challenges

So, the future is clearly defined: you will either survive or parish based on the decisions you make to adapt your business model and leverage technology. So, the $100 question is not whether you will move forward—but what is preventing you from moving forward? While every company’s journey is different, it is my opinion that there are some common themes. The following three areas—Business Models, Technology Adoption and Transformation—represent the largest challenges facing customer relations today.

Business Model & Expectation are Changing

  • Decline of the Brick and Mortar Business – In 1998 most experts would have told you that the traditional storefront was dead and all transitions in the future will be online. Just a short 15 years later the reality is that successful business have found a balance between the traditional store front and online commerce. As a company, you need to create a balance between the physical buying and delivery experience and the online shopping experience. Online information, the physical experience and options of store pick-up, return and purchase is the new norm. 
  • The Well-Educated Consumer – Any company that has ever lost the information battle with a well-informed customer will tell you that information is king. The degree that customers have researched, reviewed and compared products is at an all-time high. Customers rarely purchase anything of value without shopping, comparing, rating and reviewing all options. We live in the first era of information value, and it is only the beginning. Twenty-five years from now, there will be nowhere for companies to hide; product information will be as available as air and water.
  • Consumer Expectations are Soaring – As customers become more educated, the reality is that expectations are off the charts. Products need to deliver specific value within tight tolerances or customers simply move on to the next option. The days of driving around and looking at options are over; if something is wrong, you simply stop using the product and return option one and move on to option two. Companies must deliver ultimate customer satisfaction or die due to limitless consumer options. 
  • Work Styles are Changing – As companies look to expand, finding, hiring and retaining talent is becoming a challenge. The millennial workforce has been conditioned to expect technology options at work that rival the consumer/home experience. They also expect the option to study, work, socialize and learn in a fluid environment where the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. world is not just for work. It has been perfectly acceptable for them to multi-task on Facebook, review for an exam that is tomorrow and watch Netflix through high school, college and grad school—why would they think that they cannot enter the work place with the same options?

Technology Adoption Issue

  • Adapt to Business Change – Let’s face it, the days of the five-year-old roadmap are over. Platforms that connect companies to customers need to be in a constant state of improvement with agile backlogs that are constantly being reviewed, refined and prioritized. Competitive pressures are constantly moving the playing field and changing what customers are looking for.
  • Unpredictable Technology Costs – Mobile, social, cloud and AI are just a few of the technology options that have waylaid budgets. The reality is that the future is unpredictable and will change at a moment’s notice. The traditional method of budgeting basic platform upgrades and enhancements is over. As customers see new technologies in consumer applications they expect these features to be available at work.
  • Lack of Integration between Systems – Platforms that don’t connect data and make information access simple are yesterday’s news. If you are going to help customers, partners and employees find information and drive the appropriate outcomes, your corporate platforms need to deliver value and that value will come from integration. If your users cannot cross the boundaries of ERP, CRM & HIS and easily find the information they need, your systems are not adequate.
  • Collaboration Falls Short – If Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have taught us anything, it is that being social can provide profound change and value. Employees and customers expect that they can connect with anyone they need to, when they need to, in order to answer questions or resolve their problems. Sounds simple in spirt, but getting system and business functions that have never worked together to collaborate is challenging, and the platforms they use have never needed to connect information.

Transforming Your Customer

  • Optimized Relationships – If Digital Transformation is going drive value for your company, you need to look at ways that internal and external relationships connect people and your platforms deliver value. Digital Transformation has nothing to do with technology; it has everything to do with driving new outcomes that enhance and improve your business.
  • Collaboration – Talk with your customers and employees, not at them. Simple advice. The reality is that collaborative technologies must be leveraged to improve existing relationships and drive new ones. Your company should be looking at where improvements in relationships can deliver better value in your products and services and then apply new technologies to drive change.
  • Universal Communications – From the CEO to the newest college hire, companies need to constantly focus on communicating company directions, key changes and new offerings. The days are gone when only a few people understand and worry about the future of the business. Technology has leveled the playing field and is helping drive conversations across the organization in a manner where everyone’s value adding to the journey.
  • Automated Processes – Mundane paper-based or manual processes are slowly giving way to new automated processes that deliver streamlined decisions, constant awareness and value. Every time we touch and retouch something we are wasting time. All business transactions need to be able to drive value, alert all necessary teams and be achieved for future reference.
  • Secure – Ask Sony, Equifax and the DNC about how security changed their world and you will get a clear and consistent reminder. Leave nothing to chance: secure your environment
  • Mobile – The thought that the mobile experience needed to be different than any other experience is no longer correct.  The reality is that all experience are mobile from the beginning. A cell phone today is no longer different than any other device; it needs to be able to access the information when, where and how a user’s needs it to.
As companies build their Digital Transformation plans for improving the customer and employee journeys, there are specific and common themes that top companies follow.
  1. Transformative companies optimize customer relationships, leveraging the right channel for each customer interaction and manage relationships centrally in a transparent system.
    • Engage with customers via various channels (email, social, IM, etc.)
    • Track all customer touchpoints and relationships centrally
    • Enable secure, mobile access to democratize relationship management
    • Empower your workforce with real-time dashboards visualizing relationship KPIs
  2. Transformative companies communicate effectively and efficiently. They confer virtually and leverage the guaranteed availability of the cloud.
    • Integrate communications capabilities into LOB applications
    • Leverage reliability, simplicity, cost predictability of cloud computing
    • Enable flexible work scenarios with simple remote access
    • Collaborate effectively with robust virtual meetings
  3. Transformative companies optimize customer relationships, leveraging the right channel for each customer interaction and managing relationships centrally in a transparent system.
    • Publish information relevant to your customers, partners, and employees
    • Co-author content from the desktop and the mobile device
    • Discover content surfaced by machine learning algorithms
    • Share seamlessly with colleagues and customers alike
  4. Transformative companies automate processes to achieve operational efficiencies. They must enable employees to spend time performing high value work.
    • Optimize operations by automating manual processes across the business
    • Approve changes in a systematic and controlled manner
    • Enable employees to spend time on creating business value
    • Harness technology as a scalable and competitive advantage
  5. Transformative companies recognize they must build their business on a foundation of security, and defend against evolving security threats.
    • Classify business data and secure it appropriately, at rest and in transit
    • Centralize access control and identity, while making them cloud-aware
    • Manage devices in a consistent manner, regardless of OS
    • Evaluate defend against security threats with machine learning
  6. Transformative companies push the boundaries of mobile computing. They emphasize mobile access in their technology initiatives.
    • Provide ubiquitous access to business data across mobile platforms
    • Secure data on devices, in both BYOD and traditional scenarios
    • Deploy consistent settings and applications on mobile devices
    • Enable flexible work styles, while providing simple access to applications and data
Ultimately, Digital Transformation consists of three simple ideas—not so simple in practice. 1) Look at your existing business functions and how they affect your customers and employees, what is working, where are the opportunities; 2) Identify where and how changes in your current state can drive improved outcomes and document those outcomes; and 3) Leverage technologies and process changes to maximize the future state and drive the documented outcomes.

Bill Topel

Bill Topel is Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Concurrency. Responsible for defining the strategic direction and operational management for Marketing and Sales.

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