Real Leaders

To Earn Love from Digital Customers, Follow This 5-Step Formula

Today’s customer is “digitally driven.” So, if your brand is going to thrive, digital must be at the core of what you do. Add-ons and tweaks aren’t good enough. To earn and keep customer love, you’re going to have to make sure they can access your products and services quickly and seamlessly.

For most legacy companies, this requires total transformation. In the new book, Winning Digital Customers, I lay out a five-step process to help you make the shift.

Step 1: Understand Your Customer

Customer centricity is essential. You must understand your customer on a deep level if you are to create the kinds of experiences that will move their behavior in the right direction. This requires several types of research, such as:

Indirect Customer Research. You probably already have a wealth of customer insight tucked away in various, disparate places within your enterprise, from databases to PDFs to the knowledge in the brains of your customer-facing teams. Start analyzing it to understand what it means and how it relates to the research questions you defined earlier.

Direct Customer Research. Reach out directly to your customers using best-practices techniques, such as customer interviews, observational research (observe them buying or using your product), standardized measures (like the Net Promoter Score), and surveys.

Synthesis of Research into Customer Personas. The final step of understanding your customer is synthesizing the research and creating generalized composites of specific types of customers.

Step 2: Map the Customer Journey

After you complete Step 1, you’ll have the insights needed to draft a vision of a future experience that will inspire customer love and trigger the desired thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You can draft this vision in the form of a “customer journey map”—an infographic communicating the end-to-end customer experience you intend to create.

You’ll need to map your current state journey. This process visualizes the “real-world” experience customers and prospects encounter today as they try to purchase and utilize the products or services your company offers. This is important, because in most companies, nobody understands the whole customer experience. This helps you understand a) what’s good in your customer’s current journey (so you don’t “mess it up”) and b) those areas where customers are having to exert a lot of effort or are experiencing “pain” in their current journeys.

Then, you’ll need to compose your future state journey. Future state journey maps document the vision you want to move toward—a “North Star” ambition of the way the future customer should experience your brand through all the stages of your journey lifecycle. Customer journeys are tools for storytelling, and this is your chance to write the story the way it should be.

Step 3: Build the Future

Once you have the overall customer journey defined, it’s time to start driving the transformation necessary to build the future.

You’ll need to implement transformation of four supporting elements to achieve an excellent customer experience: technical architecture, robust and secure data, business operations, and the organization’s economic business model.

Use Design Thinking 2.0 to build the future. Next, it’s time to embark on a more detailed product development process so you can document their exact features and interfaces with enough detail to implement them. In this updated version of Design Thinking, you’ll build upon the existing framework of the process by incorporating new steps that will take your customer journey map and make it a reality.

Step 4: Optimize the Short Term

Building the future can take quite a while. But there are usually some areas where you are currently “letting the customer down” that you can fix quickly. By focusing on “low-hanging fruit,” you can get quick results within your current reality—no matter how far along you are within your overall transformation.

Doing this work gives you quick, measurable, sustainable financial benefits that can help fund larger transformation as well as demonstrate to key executives that they have a “reason to believe” that your overall transformation program is capable of driving tangible business impact. Second, you improve your customer’s experience, which improves brand perception and demonstrates progress.

Step 5: Lead the Change

Perhaps most importantly, digital transformation requires bold, courageous, and determined leadership. Here are the steps transformational leaders can do:

  1. Overcome enterprise resistance to change. Most people actively resist change, often to their detriment. Leaders of transformation need to become experts at the various flavors of “resistance to change” and tactics to overcome them. To achieve this, you can create a burning platform for change, define clear goals and celebrate signs of success, sustain conviction even when things go wrong, and much more.
  2. Assemble transformational leaders and teams. Begin by finding your “innovation hero,” someone who has the vision and tenacity to make it their personal 24/7 mission to drag their enterprise toward digital excellence no matter how challenging or how much resistance they face. (This will be the person with the “superpowers” of super vision, courage and strength, speed, time travel, and other qualities you’ll learn more about in Winning Digital Customers.) But no superhero does it alone. As a leader, a key part of your job is assembling a leadership team of superheroes, all of whom embody core characteristics, but each of whom brings a special area of strength to the team. Some of the types of specialization you’ll need include: the business leader, the product leader, the user experience leader, the technical leader, and more.
  3. Look to the road ahead. Choosing where to start depends on your situation. The good news is that there are many “right” answers. You might start by assembling an informal digital transformation leadership team. Or start by commissioning research to map out the current customer journey and use that to start building your platform for change. Or start with a specific new product that needs innovation and apply the principles of Design Thinking 2.0 to prove that it can work. Starting any place is better than waiting.

“If you’re a legacy brand, you already have the talent, assets, and history you need to thrive, but lack the customer love. These steps will set you on the path to adapting to meet your customers’ modern needs and stay relevant in the Digital Age.