Written By: Susan Smithfield – Corporate Finance
According to a recent study published by Dimension Data, 51 percent of companies surveyed declared that their digital strategy is under development, or even non-existent. Less than 10 percent of organizations said that they have implemented an optimized digital business strategy. Why have companies, while recognising that digitalization is the revolution not to be missed, not even started to shape their transformation strategies?
The common understanding of the purpose of digital transformation relies on the enhancement of the customer experience. And the study reveals that the financial stake is significant for companies, as more than 84 percent of organizations reported an increase in revenue from improved customer experience, while 79 percent reported cost savings. Even so, many companies are failing to achieve their goals because of complications; they are not connecting the customer experience with digital technologies and the traditional customer-experience solutions through traditional telephone interactions or face-to-face. They are working hard to develop and layer a customer-experience and digital-transformation strategy on top of an already existing and complex internal-marketing technology environment.
With a technology landscape that makes it easy to purchase and experiment with new technology, marketing teams have deployed hundreds of new products across the enterprise to acquire, engage and retain customers. Today it is not uncommon to see virtually every department in the company acquiring bits and pieces of marketing technology in support of creating a better customer experience. But without an overarching strategy, companies are in essence creating a marketing melting pot, without coordination and coherence; forgetting about the customer experience, which can go through many channels of contacts. The unified customer experience has not yet been reached by too many companies.
The Dimension Data study reveals that to compensate for this situation, only 36 percent of respondents have appointed a member of the executive committee to be responsible for the customer experience.
Appointing a member of the executive to improve customer experience is one way to start with real strategical transformation. But the study reveals that while 67 percent of companies follow the customer route, only 44 percent use automated processes. Customer paths connected via integrated solutions (omni-channel) are the main technological trend for 2017. Alongside customer analytics, omni-channel solutions are seen as the most important factors in reshaping customer-experience capacity over the next five years. The main challenge faced by companies is that the pace of technology evolution is accelerating, and teams need to permanently adapt and create new products/processes/marketing tools to evolve.
The board member responsible for enhancing client experience will certainly aim for a transversal project or transformation by:
- obtaining a real, executable plan that is easily adaptable to changing marketing and technology;
- setting an organizational structure that ensures centralized decision-making regarding the client experience;
- encouraging innovation and evolution permanently among all teams.
In this definition of business strategy, all product, service and sales goals will have to provide the basic framework and necessary information to support the definitions of customer-experience objectives, and the executive team will be the starting point for organizational alignment. A unified customer experience involves all departments in a company, both online and offline, and as such is perhaps the most critical component of an overall brand strategy in today’s market environment.
Information technology (IT) departments are heavily challenged by the transformation.
Ideally, marketing teams will work across the organization to define and manage the overall experience each customer has with every touchpoint within the company and through every device they use to reach into the organization. With objectives in place, every department has its own role to play in serving the brand’s customer-experience goals. However, this cannot be achieved without understanding and exploiting mass data. Analytics has been cited as the best tool to transform the customer experience over the next five years, but only 48 percent of respondents have client-analytics systems and 36 percent big-data-analytics solutions.
Key needs but also difficulties for IT departments to obtain are:
- a common big-data centre;
- shared marketing technologies between IT and marketing departments, with a framework for defining the organizational process around technology decisions and purchasing.
A balance between efficient IT centralization and the democratization of technology acquisition must be found.
The organization should allow internal teams to rapidly test and try innovative new technologies. IT departments have to ensure that IT transformation is visible across the organization for a number of reasons:
- To manage the security risks of implementing new technology that accidentally exposes or corrupts customer data.
- To enable teams to learn from each other’s experiences with any given technology and to increase efficiency by distributing product-qualification tasks.
- To reduce costs by identifying redundant products or opportunities to better negotiate contracts with providers.
Companies are still struggling to succeed in setting real digital-transformation strategies. If the customer experience is accepted as the hottest topic, why have two-thirds of companies still not nominated a responsible person at the board level? All marketing, sales and IT teams are involved in a piece of this transformation, but strong coordination will have to be developed if companies want to avoid bad experiences for clients, redundancy of costs and possible gaps in systems security.