What is Customer Experience?

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: September 23, 2021

The overall customer experience is something that can and should drive any sort of digital transformation. What exactly is customer experience and how do we factor that into our transformation?

When we're helping clients on their transformation journeys, one phenomenon we find is that they're very inwardly focused when they start the project. They focus on all the things that are wrong with their operations, all the inefficiencies, the pain points that teams are experiencing. Oftentimes they tend to lose sight of the customer experience.

It is pivotal to understand the impact of a digital transformation on the customer, even if the new technology is only internal. Everything ties back to revenue.

What I want to show you here is the whole concept of customer experience, what it is, and how you can incorporate that into your digital transformation journeys. Let's start with the external and internal focus of a customer.

External vs. Internal Focus

As I alluded to, oftentimes organizations think inwardly. They look at those inefficiencies, the pain points, the broken and manual processes, duplicate reentry of data, and while there certainly is a customer impact inherently on those broken processes or those inefficient processes, the focus oftentimes is how often can we fix those pain points that we feel as an organization internally. It's subtle but important to shift that lens and understand the perspective of your customer.

It may lead you to the same conclusions in some cases that, "yes, we're inefficient. Yes, we have manual reentry, which is subject to error and problems that affect the customer." It also may be that you're not thinking about everything that you should be addressing as part of your transformation.

One of the key things to do is to add that extra angle into your analysis when you're looking at your transformation, You want to be sure that you’re not just addressing those internal needs, but also trying to anticipate what the external needs of your customer.

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Business Process Mapping

One of the easiest ways to address customer experience, in a way that most of us can relate to, is to look at your business process mapping, the business process management, or the business process improvement function. Most teams recognize inherently that they need to map out their processes and requirements, the future state definition, but most don't think about let's do that from the perspective of the customer journey.

Even before a customer is a customer, there are some questions you need to ask yourselves about how your convert interest to business:

  • What does that first touch point look like?
  • What does the experience look like or what should it look like?
  • What are the pain points of how they interact with your organization now?
  • What are the ways we can improve that going forward?

This all begins with your marketing automation, from the very first communication you might have with a prospect, to your CRM system, which is your customer relationship management.

When you think about how they work through the sales pipeline or cycle and the CRM domain, you want to map that out. Certainly, if you're providing service through ticketing or tracking customer complaints through a system like ServiceNow, you might track those touchpoints there. But even your backend operations like invoicing, manufacturing, distribution, warehouse, and shipping, etc. may not seem like they're directly impacting customers, but they are!

As an organization at your entire business from the customer perspective. Something you should ask yourself is what does that experience look like and feel like, and what should it look like and feel like? We need to be able to modify those processes to enable that vision.

It's not that much different than what you might do for your internal business processes. However, you're looking at it from the perspective of the customer and you're going to prioritize differently based on those things that impact the customer the most.

One way to think about is if it's a pain point or process improvement opportunity that solves a problem both internally and externally, then this potential optimization might be prioritized higher than something that's strictly an internal fix.

Those are the important things to think about. It is a fact that you can prioritize your business process improvements because it's also enabling a better customer experience.

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People, Process, and Technology Improvements

Once you've defined potential process improvements and the future state process map from a customer experience perspective, now you've can start prioritizing. You can also be evaluating potential tools, enhancements, and software deployments that might better enable your customer experience. Most importantly, you should be activating organizational change management strategies in parallel.

For example, if you're a B2B manufacturer, you're selling to other businesses. You may find that an e-commerce solution could be a good tool that you might deploy to provide a better customer experience. Potential customers could then go online and look at the specs for the different products you provide, like what a retailer might do in a business-to-consumer environment.

It's important to think outside the realm of the “normal” operational efficiency mindset and also identify how we can provide that better customer experience. Which by the way, will also lead to efficiencies, higher effectiveness, and ultimately higher profits.

Evaluating your business journeys through the perspective of people, process, and technology will enhance not only your internal experience with systems and but also help convert customers and increase ROI.

Customer Experience Transformation Roadmap

Once you've defined all those potential improvements from a people, process, and technology perspective, now you put it together into more of a formal, more structured, transformation plan.

What is that customer experience transformation plan going to look like? Here are some questions to consider when crafting your plan.

  1. What technologies are we going to roll out?
  2. When are we going to roll them out?
  3. When are we going to activate process improvements?
  4. How are we going to tie this all together?
  5. How are we going to incorporate back-office-type stuff that maybe doesn't have a direct impact on our customer experience?

You want that overarching digital strategy and a clear digital transformation roadmap that includes your customer experience enhancements. These are the questions you need to be able to answer as you build out your plan. If you can clearly answer these, with executive alignment, you are on the right path.

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Customer Experience Resources

These are a few things to consider when defining what customer experience means in general and, more specifically, how it should influence your business transformation.

Whether you're looking at customer experience, enterprise technologies, business process improvements, change management improvements or all of the above - you can find all those resources in the 2021 Digital Transformation Report. I encourage you to check that out.

I hope you found this information useful and if you have questions regarding customer experience or how the customer journey can enable digital transformation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. I am happy to be an informal sounding board as you move through your digital transformation journey.

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Author:
Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

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