I have heard individuals refer to our age as the Information Age or give it a new moniker like the Knowledge Age or Digital Era. Regardless of what you call it, most of your organization’s efforts, insights and observations now need to revolve around your customer. This is why I personally prefer the phrase that some are starting to use by calling it the Age of the Customer.
On my first day at AGENDA17, a digital transformation business leadership conference, it quickly became clear that ever-changing market conditions are driving everyone to better engage with their customers, predict customers’ needs, and create more enduring customer relationships. By everyone, I mean both traditional, customer-facing, front-office departments — such as sales and marketing — as well as perceived back-office areas, such as HR, operations and IT.
I believe IT departments are uniquely positioned to be key enablers of customer centricity across organizations. IT enables both front-office and back-office capabilities, and can help lead the transformation to a more customer-centric organization. They are uniquely positioned in terms of capturing and understanding the data, providing the tools, and delivering the innovation, allowing a company to provide the serendipitous ‘aha’ experience customers desire. When an IT department takes the lead in becoming customer-centric, they help drive the entire company in this direction.
During an executive roundtable discussion at AGENDA17, I asked for quick show of hands on how many organizations operated on a traditional efficiency and productivity model versus being measured on business model and revenue. I was pleasantly surprised when more than half the room lifted hands for the second option. The emphasis on innovation outcomes and revenue instead of efficiency shows a shift towards delivering better experiences to customers and employees.
However, a few common concerns were still brought up by even the more progressive companies in the room.
Several participants shared concerns about how to effectively address all these changes. They face challenges with how best to enable this shift, and drive alignment among their workforce. As a long-standing proponent of Organizational Change Management (OCM), I was glad to see so many leaders now recognizing its importance.
In times past, I witnessed many companies not pay attention to this crucial need (or only paying lip service) while they made significant (read disruptive) changes to their processes, organizational model and technologies. The reality is, change must be addressed in a deliberate way that gets to an employee’s individual emotional needs, job skills, training, understanding of their role and how they fit into the new model and how things will operate in the future. If not done correctly, employees will go back to operating the way they always have and leave executives wondering why they spent all this time and money on change only to see the same results in terms of customer experience and productivity. Firms that embrace organizational change rigor, will see greater returns, employee satisfaction and productivity.
A second concern was how, even though they understand the importance of IT in driving customer centricity, organizations struggle with how to quantify customer centricity and fully drive it through their organization.
I shared how NTT DATA Services works with clients to measure customer friction, which we define as any interaction that has a negative impact on a customer’s experience, and inject customer centricity throughout their operations and organization
We help our clients measure customer friction across five categories and assign it a mathematical score. Similar to a golf score, points are added for any area that has a negative impact on a customer’s experience. Having a quantifiable metric allows IT operations, and ultimately the business, to provide laser focus on how to remove friction (reduce the score) and drive a better customer experience. This brief video shares more details about our Customer Friction Factor.
We also discussed a new solution NTT DATA is working on, which goes beyond DevOps by including real-time, end-user feedback into an organization’s application development processes and tools. This allows IT and the business to provide tightly aligned capabilities and tools to their employees, which in turn can drive better customer experiences and innovation.
No matter what we call it, we are in an age where we all want — and need — to understand more about our customers, map their interactions, understand their friction (pain) points and improve their experiences. This knowledge defines the new operating stakes and is one of the only ways to create meaningful, long-term mutually beneficial relationships.
It was great to have the opportunity to learn from the other participants at AGENDA17 as well as to share my perspective on how to create a more customer-centric IT operation. I look forward to continuing the discussion and seeing how these participants put the recommendations into action across the different industries and geographies they represent over the months ahead. I invite you to share your thoughts on customer centricity in the comment section below and to learn more about NTT DATA’s Customer Friction Factor Service and related offerings on our website.