And what you need to beat the digital catch-22

By Jaco Viljoen, the principal agile consultant at IndigoCube

We all know that in the digital world the customer, and their experience, is paramount. But the major issue in the digital era is that the customer experience happens at the speed of automation. When that’s a good experience then all’s well. But when it’s not it’s a major snag. You’ll alienate customers who interact with your business via digital systems at a much higher rate than old-fashioned customer representatives ever could. And trying to recover from such a situation can risk your entire business.

Demonstrating the speed of digital is a small confectionery in the UK that offered a Groupon discount of 75% off a dozen cupcakes. It was a loss-making deal for the confectionery probably with the intention of taking a hit to get widespread marketing, brand recognition, and follow-up customers that would ultimately more than recoup the loss. But when the fairy dust settled the confectionery had to bake 102 000 loss-making cupcakes, which nearly bankrupted the small business.

It’s absolutely crucial to realise that customer experiences no longer pivot on interactions with customer representatives. It’s obvious when you think about it. Customers already interact with digital systems all the time, such as when they buy from a website, track an order online, browse a catalogue, bank, book a gym class, or view their medical benefits via an app. And those businesses are dealing with thousands of customers simultaneously.

The hiccup for many businesses is that they haven’t actually digitalised big parts of their business processes or even entire processes and that results in human interference. That slows processes, encumbers them, adds to their cost, injects error, failure, and disrupts them. So, while its important to have good processes, it’s also good to eliminate people from the processes and tie all of those computerised processes together.

But that’s easier said than done.

It’s important to update processes to improve them and that’s a situation that never changes, perhaps even becomes more important as you engage more with users and customers.

It is crucial that a good customer experience embrace change since it is a given that customers will change as they learn more and continue to engage your business. So you have to have an on-going conversation of some sort with these customers to ensure you keep on top of their desires and requirements. That enables you to keep updating and changing the systems and processes – ultimately the customer experience – that they use to interact with you.

And yet businesspeople want systems that remain the same. Predictable systems help deliver secure, reliable, and stable service to customers.

It appears to be a catch-22.

It is but only in the beginning – and it highlights the fact that this is as much an IT as it is a business issue. And that means both IT and business must mature from their current capabilities to the desired state.

We can beat the challenge by gradually developing our capability over five levels of customer experience (CX) capability. I call them digital business ecosystems that, once you understand them, give you the roadmap to get where you want to be.

  1. Waterfall/Traditional (the lowest level of customer experience)
  2. Hybrid Agile (a combination of waterfall and Agile)
  3. Regular delivery
  4. Continuous delivery
  5. Continuous exploration (the highest level of customer experience, which hints at that moving goal mentioned earlier)

Each level represents your IT capability to improve the software in charge of how customers interact with your business. That could be an app, a website, web portal, or any other software that facilitates the business processes. But it also represents the business’s capacity to be a part of that scenario in lock-step with IT and customers.

It’s a complicated topic. There is no simple answer to how you make it happen in your organisation. It is certainly beyond the scope of a blog post. Drop me a line and I can help you more specifically.