Whilst businesses are no doubt aware of the need for digital transformation, whether to initiate it through processes, the business itself (including ‘culture’) or through customers has received less attention. There is a strong case for suggesting that customers are the biggest source of disruption and hence would be an appropriate place to start such a transformation. Indeed, executives believe that changing customer behaviour and expectations are a bigger source of disruption than technology – and this is leaving aside the international cultural dimension to changing consumer habits in Asia and elsewhere.
Perhaps the most important issue for executives to grasp is that technology, whilst disruptive, is essential for understanding, responding to, and anticipating shifting customer trends. The promise of customer-centric predictive analytics can only be achieved if companies merge disparate forms of customer data, or at least allow data to flow between separate departments or systems. Many companies are hindered by systems that are not only non-customer-centric but all too often non work-efficient. Irrespective of industry, companies will increasingly require a nuanced view of customer preferences and to align the insights that flow from this to a new business model.
Customer centric design for new products, processes and even business architecture will become essential. It is even predicted that by 2020, ‘…customers are expected to entirely supplant traditional R&D as the primary source of new product and service ideas[i].’ Customers are set to become key agents in both overall innovation strategies and processes. Since consumers can also become proficient marketers in their own right, the idea of developing an outside-in mindset brings possible cost savings in addition to new revenue generation.
A key place to start lies in amplifying the customer voice within an organisation. This can only be reliably achieved by using real-time data – ensuring the need for a robust data architecture that efficiently captures and standardises data, as well as the ability to extract meaningful insights from it.
Beyond this, companies need to consider how to embed the customer at the heart of their decision making. Having a better handle of preferences is one thing, but how does this impact the wider business? Customer service (including proactive service), crowd-sourcing, the discovery of (perhaps auxiliary) insights from data that add value for customers and ease-of-use all stand out as key areas to investigate in the journey to customer-centricity and an outside-in perspective. Customers do not care whether legacy technology is limiting the ability to connect a to b or if the CIO and CMO of company do not collaborate effectively; all they want is a seamless experience that provides value and satisfies a certain need or desire. Companies should coalesce around this very fact – technologically, culturally and organizationally, if they are to survive and thrive in a digital environment increasingly favourable towards consumers.