Being digital in 2018 : stop thinking that digital is all about the customer

There must be exceptions but digital is often primarily seen as a customer-related matter. Why ?

Because digital as an employee-related matter has already been dealt with. We have office automation tools, emails, visioconferencing, an intranet, business applications. Nothing more is needed.

On the contrary, on the customer side, it’s always possible to go further in the way we engage with the customer and ultimately sell him something. More : the client is a source of revenue, the employee is a cost. So the urgency is on the customer side.

Businesses will always prioritize what drives sales

The available resources are proportionate to this emergency so the marketing function is wealthier than employee-oriented ones. Even more : marketing can do things on in own. Who’s in charge of internal matters ? HR ? Operations ? Business lines directors ? IT ? A little bit of each and even more when businesses have created specific functions. Resources and budgets are dispersed, internal projects require cross-functional coordination and, first, to agree on a vision. Slow and complicated.

So businesses use digital to improve their marketing, their communications, increase their sales and call it customer experience.

In most cases the consequence of the effort made to improve the online customer experience was to show to what extent the “physical” experience was terrible. Stores, branches, they all suffered from the comparison with digital channels. So people don’t want to meet their banker or visit stores anymore ? Maybe, because there are things for which moving does not bring any added value  and people prefer to spend their time doing things they enjoy rather than chores. But above all because the physical experience was a mess.

When one sees a clerk struggling to use an outdated tool to do in 5 minutes what can be done online in 5 second by connecting to one’s account, there’s something wrong. When the online store “knows” us, with a personalized experience, offers and suggestions and the clerk in the store of the same retailer does not know nothing about us, what we like, what we’ve bought before, we feel better online.

Businesses care about internal matters when customers grumble

Digital changed the role of branches, stores, so the role of the people working there changed, as well as protocols and jobs.

In the retail industry, businesses even managed to create wars between physical and online stores, each seeing the other as a competitor. An organizational issue that could and should have been fixed beforehand but online initiative grew up in their silos without any attention to the possible side-effects.

I don’t even mention logistics, which is the most important pain point in e-commerce. In France 44% of people who had something delivered at home during Christmas Hollidays in 2017 had a delivery issue : delay, wrong product or even no product at all because it was available for sale but out-of-stock. Making online stores is nice but having logistics delivering on the promise is better.

The only problem is that nothing was anticipated. Internal issues were dealt-with reluctantly and afterwards because clients were not happy.

In the end businesses started to realize that the limit of the customer experience was the employee experience.

No customer experience without employee experience

Experience is often seen as a qualitative concept and, applied to employees, as synonymous with well-being. This is a huge mistake. If we want employees to experience something at work it must be organized. And through what do they experience things ? Interactions with coworkers, business processes and tools. Saying that’s not true would mean that employee experience only happens when people don’t work.

Put simply: employees can’t give customers what they’re not given by their employer. And that’s not only about customer-facing employees : what drives customer satisfaction depends on all the internal work, support functions, all those that will never meet a customer but have even a slight impact on what the customer will experience. The employee working in front of the customer highly relies on things done by people the client will never see.

One can’t deliver quality when poorly equipped, when their energy is wasted in tedious administrative tasks, complicated process, tools that don’t work and don’t allow a seamless flow of work.

In such  a context, it’s impossible to increase the speed of business either.

More, such situations frustrates employees who know they are wasting energy in the wrong place, that they could do better, and that their own employer which is asking them to do more is tying balls and chains to their feet.

I’ll also add the need to explain, to tell story to help employees make sense of things. We’re going to do something new for the customer ? Why ? How ? Telling those whose job will change that they will get help, support, accompaniment. Give them an overview of what what’s going to change for the customer will change for them. If they don’t have the impression that the road is clear and marked, you’ll get nothing but fears and hurdles.

Digital is a boomerang sent to the customers and that comes back to the employee

Of course the ultimate goal is the client. As Peter Drucker said, the goal of a company is to create customers.

But digital should be an internal matter that projects on the customer. Today it’s a boomerang sent to the customer and that comes back internally at full speed.

So no matter how advanced you are in your digital transformation, start with measuring the impact of your projects on your employees and give them the means to follow instead of suffering.

Photo Credit : Fotolia

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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