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February 26, 2018
Give customers what they want (P.S. Do you know what that is?)
By: Elaine Turville

An earlier blog post introduced the three pillars of digital transformation we’re exploring with our partners at the USDA: process transformation, change management and technology—all underpinned by user-centered design. This time I’d like to focus on one of the key factors in optimizing digital transformation: understanding how customers and employees want to engage with you, and how you can meet those needs via a new digital platform.

When thinking about what customers want and how they prefer to engage with you, assuming they want something “Amazon-like” is the easy fall back. But do you know for certain your customers value that? What parts of the experience matter most? What elements would make their experience with you easy? Authentic?

Those questions aren’t meant to be rhetorical; they need to be tackled to deliver the authentic experiences your customers desire. The good news? It isn’t hard to figure out the answers. It just takes an investment of time.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Know the who. Start by clearly defining who your customers are. Describe them and their characteristics, and then organize them into groups based on common interests.

  2. Uncover the what. Once you have a good sense of who your customers are and how they can be segmented, go to each group and ask what they want. Sit down face to face where they work and live. Interview them over the phone. Bring them together for formal or informal focus groups. In using some or all of those tactics, aim to find out for yourself how they interact with your tools. Invite them to show you how they want to interact with you. Above all, leave assumptions at the door and prepare to be surprised by what they teach you.

  3. Collaborate on the how. Keep engaging customers as you develop new approaches and tools. Co-create with them by sharing mock-ups and soliciting candid feedback. Do they like what they see? If yes, why? If no, what would make it better? Go back to fix the problems and incorporate new ideas before soliciting feedback again. Once you feel confident, pilot the ideas with a broader cross-section of customers, and continue to iterate.

Along the way, don’t forget other key people in any digital transformation: your employees. Ask for their direct input on what works, what doesn’t and how you can better serve customers. Get their vote on how they want to interact with customers and how you can make their job easier and more seamless. Then keep them engaged as you iterate, pilot and continually improve.

It reinforces the important reality that digital transformation doesn’t start with technology. It starts with people. In my next blog, I’ll explore another key factor: how process transformation improves your odds for organizational buy-in.

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