In today’s rapidly advancing marketplace, the attraction of new technology can lure even the savviest business person down a road of tech-for-tech’s-sake, rather than choosing solutions that truly solve a customer need or move the company forward. Although no one—even tech giants like Google and Amazon—has a map of the digital future, all companies do have a compass: the customer. They should remain a company’s True North, no matter how many new technologies may still emerge.
Indeed, customers are at the heart of the digital transformation. They are the entire reason businesses need to adapt, and they need to be the ones driving the change. Follow these five tips to keep customers priorities’ and preferences at the forefront.
Stop focusing on digital transformation
The new technologies emerging today are tools that can help companies connect with their customers—nothing more, nothing less. Focusing on “digital transformation” just to modernize your company will get you a lot of invoices, but not much impact. It’s no longer enough to build a mobile responsive website or create an app to accompany your product. Both of those things need to provide value—they need to solve problems the customer needs to have solved. Every technology decision you make must be strategic, and the strategy needs to revolve around your customers. Every time.
Start at the start
If you’re knee-deep in a legacy culture that favors silos and bureaucracy, you’re going to have a hard time adjusting to the modern work mindset. Succeeding in today’s digital marketplace means revamping your culture, right from the very core of your business. In more simple terms, if your culture doesn’t buy into your vision, or if they do not understand it, you will have an immensely difficult time moving your transformation forward. Anyone whom has ever worked for a manager that they didn’t like or understand knows this inherently. Progress is not a patchwork process. It may require re-evaluating everything—from the services you provide, to who is providing them and how they do it.
I feel like this is said a lot, but it warrants repeating. If you want to succeed at digital transformation, you have to build an organization that embraces change. At this point you may feel like you have seen a lot of change, but you’ve only seen the tip of the digital iceberg. More changes are coming—lots of them. Which is why focusing on one level of advancement or transformation is so shortsighted. To succeed today, companies need to get used to change—namely, the changing demands and preferences of their customers. If you want to survive the digital transformation, don’t get married to anything but your mission. Focus on building long-term vision but support it with short-term customer-centric goals.
Learn from the leaders
The smartest companies today aren’t waiting around for someone else to discover the next tech disruption in their industries. They’re right there at the front lines trying to revolutionize how they can be of service to their customers’ needs. CVS is using mobile app technology to make filling prescriptions and customer orders easier and faster. Apps like GrubHub have changed how people order take-out, and Uber has completely redefined what it means to hail a taxi. If you want to stay ahead in the market—think ahead, like them.
Know your customers
There is a lot of talk today about moving from a customer-aware mission to a customer-obsessed one. In other words, the focus is not just keeping customers moderately happy, but in anticipating their needs—and then blowing them out of the water. But as my colleague Shelly Kramer has said so succinctly: knowing your customers is not a one-day, one-and-done thing. That means taking time to research and understand why they want what they want, and to deliver it before they ask. That’s where things like deep learning and machine learning can help sort through mountains of feedback and make it useful. After all, big data is pointless if it isn’t used, especially as it relates to your customer base.
We are working in tricky tech times. The changes we’re seeing in business are like none we’ve ever seen before. Focusing on the wrong target could have drastic implications. That’s why it’s never been so important to make our customers the center of our business decisions—at least, if we want our companies to survive the digital transformation.