If we take the question that this article is based on then the answer is we can indeed create great customer experience without digital transformation. We do it everyday and we experience it everyday somewhere in our circle; the dry cleaner, the gas station, the gym, where I go for lunch or dinner, the call we make to a service provider to resolve an issue. There is no substitute for the human touch that makes life personal. We also get our daily dose of poor customer experience as well.

My local dry cleaner provides me with exceptional customer experience. They know how I like my clothes cleaned, how quickly I typically want them back and they even replace buttons, fix zippers or anything else to ensure they return the clothes to me the way I’d expect them. They even keep fulfilling my orders when my credit card on file has expired because there is a trust relationship and they’re okay waiting until they see me next to get my updated card info. In short, I never question the customer experience level I receive from them because they have invested in building a relationship with me that is tailored or personalized to my needs.

I use this example because at the core, the best customer experience is one that leaves you feeling your needs were looked after in a personal way. That isn’t often the case on airlines, for example, where there is a cattle car mentality and your food choices are limited to 2 or maybe 3 dishes. Even in first class, while you get the better seat you don’t get a personal chef. Of course, that is all well and good and I don’t think we expect personal chefs on a commercial airline (unless we own it) but my point is that we are trained, whether we know it or not, to expect a specific level and type of customer experience.

“Digital transformation isn’t about replacing the human touch of customer experience, it’s about delivering information that is timely, useful and tailored to the customer”

When you now introduce the whole digital topic it becomes even more interesting. A colleague of mine had a good view on defining the digital economy, or rather it’s intent. He boiled it down to personalization and localization. Step back and consider what we mean by digital. Do we mean the proliferation of mobile devices and the need to deliver a service to that format? Do we mean the desire for information to be available to us instantly, accurately and in the right-sized chunks we want? Is digital about being better at analytics in order to understand our customers? The answers to all these is a resounding YES. But with all these questions we might still be talking about personalization and localization.

While there are services and markets that can and will deliver great customer experience without a digital transformation of their business, I’m not sure they ultimately want to. Customers expect personalization. They want the services they buy and use to be tailored. They often don’t know what they need which is why innovative companies will leverage digital platforms to customize the experience and put options in front of people they weren’t aware of. The power of digital is that we can experiment faster and often with less risk and continue tweaking the experience until we get it right. Technology and a discovery mindset afford us this privilege. We can then localize the experience based on where people are and the culture they live in. One of the simplest examples for me has always been that small, ignored feature on your smartphone that updates your time zone and calendar when you land in another part of the country or out of the country. We take it for granted but it is one less thing to deal with because something thought of that feature and the usefulness it would offer.

“The way to a customer’s heart is much more than a loyalty program. Making customer evangelists is about creating experiences worth talking about.”

– Valeria Maltoni


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