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Digital Transformation: The Importance of Customer Journey in DX

The advent of new and emerging digital technologies is disrupting the way businesses have functioned traditionally and is forcing them to change the way they work and adopt new systems, methods and processes to stay ahead of the game. Companies have to realize that their response to modern challenges has to be a comprehensive one and that the same technologies can help them that are necessitating the transformation in the first place. Let us try and understand how this can work.

Any digital transformation (DX) initiative broadly focusses on three key areas:

  1. Customer experience (CX) to satisfy the evolving consumer preferences
  2. Revenue growth by increasing the addressable market, and
  3. Efficiency to save effort, time, and cost

It is therefore not surprising that when it comes to deployments, more than 50% of organizations are modernizing customer touchpoints while about 45% are enabling infrastructure. However, despite CX gaining prominence in all business interactions, almost two-fifths of the companies undergoing transformation miss seeking customer insights before making investments (State of Digital Transformation by Altimeter). This means that as companies strive to become ‘customer-centric’, they do so without understanding their customers.

Although, while digitizing, the customer touchpoints is generating large volumes of data, mapping it as customer motivation is still a challenge. Moreover, the digitally conscious customer today prefers social selling to cold calls, responds to only targeted messaging, and wants proactive customer service. With COVID changing the way we live and work, businesses the world over have their work cut out for them.

So how can businesses understand their customers better? They can start by first defining who their customers are and how their journeys are structured. This is easier said than done in today's complex and ever-changing business ecosystems. Imagine mapping the customer’s thought process, motivations behind their actions, and interactions with the business during the different decision-making stages. Now, armed with this information, imagine bringing together cross-functional teams (workshop-style) to ideate the changes that the business should bring to customer touch-points and how they can be achieved. The result of such an exercise can be an outline of the ideal customer experience but can be daunting to complete.

This is where the Customer Journey Map as a framework becomes useful.  Once you define the overall goal of the exercise, you can select from one of the following maps:

  • Buyer Journey – to understand the B2B buyer’s purchase decision-making
  • Current State/A Day in the Life – to understand the customer’s existing motivations/thought processes/pain points
  • Future State – to outline future customer preferences and give direction to product development
  • Service & Support – to focus on a component of the business (services offered) and customer’s interaction with it

Next, it is important to define the customer/buyer persona. Based on the business’ understanding of its target customers, a profile of the buyer is created and their entire journey is then mapped.
Let’s see this in action by considering the Buyer Journey Map. Typically, to understand the buyer’s journey, we evaluate the following:

  1. Awareness (triggers) of the product/solution – to understand what drives the prospect to take action
  2. Review/information gathering process – to enable the prospect to gain relevant information better than the competitors to make their decision
  3. Purchase criteria – to map the prospect’s needs with the product/service offering to ensure a better fit
  4. The onboarding process (engagement) – to ensure seamless onboarding
  5. Customer experience during the association (relationship management) – to design the best possible experience
  6. Renewal criteria – to stay engaged with the customer during the association period and drive contract renewal

Once the above exercise is complete, businesses can have multiple actionables at each step of the journey. This, in turn, allows them to experiment, track the outcome of each activity, and then replicate these activities to other buyers.

While the Customer Journey Map is an effective tool to understand the customer’s decision-making process, certain factors should be kept in mind. First is the sample size. Since defining the right customer/buyer persona is critical, a smaller sample will always skew the customer profile. This, in turn, will skew the entire journey. Second, the depth of inquiries. Since the framework aims to map the customers at different touch-points, it means that information should also come from across the organization. Third, the temptation to create multiple maps. This can arise when, in an attempt to be thorough, the business ends up splitting the customer persona into sub-sets. Such an exercise may lead the company in multiple directions, thereby diffusing its focus. Finally, the human element. As creators of the journey maps, it is important to guard against biases/judgments that may interfere with what the information is suggesting.