The need to digitally transform and remain competitive is driving companies to continuously differentiate. In their pursuit to differentiate, they have realised the need to recreate and maintain a high degree of personalisation, with a near individualist customer experience.

Companies have often launched break through ideas, which could exponentially grow their business, only to realise later that these ideas have failed as they were not adopted by their customers. These brilliant ideas may have been truly transformational backed by great prototypes and successful pilot projects, but they did not factor for real life customer experiences.

While start-ups have nearly mastered the art of incorporating customer experiences, incumbents are moving equally fast to improve their customer experiences. Their initiatives could range from design thinking, to reinventing how customers experience or interact with their business, to an agile based approach.

There are five interdependent factors that drive a company’s digital agenda. These are Ideation backed by innovation; Business Processes that need to be re-engineered or even reinvented; Technology Platforms that need to be upgraded or rebuilt; Business Consulting to understand the business with its associated driving factors; and most importantly the User Experience which drives adoption and the customer experience journey. Ironically it is lack of prioritising the user experience, is what sets companies for a failed “Ideation to Adoption journey”.

The incumbent companies lagging behind haven’t fully realised the disruptive impact of a poor customer experience. They still live in a world content with building a wow user interface, without understanding and monetising their customer experience journey.

In the digital era it is about knowing “how your customers will react while experiencing your products and services”. Gone are the days when companies could settle on just knowing “why their customers buy their products and services”.

Today, it is about knowing how they evaluate and buy; what channels and platforms do they leverage; and how do they digitally share their post-purchase feedback.

Forward thinking companies opt for ethnographers and cultural anthropologists to understand their customer experience journey, to know what triggers their reactions or buying decisions and to improvise on providing a seamless and consistent experience. They understand that knowing their customer experience, like any other experience in life, has to be accumulated over a period of time.

While building the customer experience it is imperative to fundamentally establish who the customer is.

For instance, a bank could be deploying a mobile application for its online recruitment and talent management, in this case the employees are its customer. The same bank could be upgrading its mobile application with new features to up/cross sell its new credit card or mortgage products, in this case its customers are its existing and new retail customers. A government agency could be deploying new online services which are also mobile enabled, in this case its customers are its citizens and resident expatriates.

The customer experience journey and its associated complexities will depend on the type of customer. They could vary from employees, suppliers, partners to public end users not limited to citizens of a country but probably global digital citizens of the world.

At a recent CIO round-table hosted by TransSys Solutions in association with Computer News Middle East (CNME), CIOs shared an interesting perspective of what drives Customer Experiences and Adoption. For their internal customers, the approach was driven more from benefits, cost efficiencies and productivity gains backed by an organisational change management plan. But when it came to external customers it was difficult to accurately know how an experience would be received and accepted. Their approach was to pilot a prototype and then to launch it in its simplest form. Based on the continuous feedback received, they would release improvised versions following an agile life cycle.

There are five fundamental steps companies could take to redefine and strengthen their customer experience journey:

• Understanding the various interactions customers have with their products, services and ecosystem by taking an empathetic approach to customers

• Rethinking, visualising and rebuilding the Customer experience Journey

• Cultivating an “Agile” culture with a “Kaizen” like approach within the company

• Launching a MVP — Minimum Viable Product and upgrading it iteratively at regular intervals, instead of a waiting for a complete product

• Implementing collaborative technologies to promote real time collaboration and collective ownership across all functional stakeholders

The quality of all interactions a customer has with various products and services will define their customer experience journey. Higher the quality of these interactions, better will be the customer experience and stronger will be the customer loyalty and competitive advantage.

The writer is the Executive Vice-President of Dubai-based TransSys Solutions. He can be contacted via Twitter @Stephen_Fdes