Serious about understanding your customers? Democratise technology

Providing high-quality customer experiences is critical to success in today’s digital landscape. It is no surprise that over 80% of businesses are talking about the benefits of a customer-first approach, according to our Digital Experience Economy report. These organisations understand that technology will be a key driver in the race for customer-centricity. However, being truly customer-centric and creating exceptional user journeys needs the input of employees who interact with customers on a regular basis. By democratising the way technology is used and developed, employees can be put in the best position to make changes that will continuously deliver high-quality digital experiences. So, what needs to happen to make this change?

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To democratise technology: Empower employees

The insight from employees who spend the most face-to-face time with users, such as customer service teams, must not be underrated. They will have a clear, and unfiltered understanding of the latest frustrations customers are experiencing, more so than those at the C-Suite level. These unique insights can help provide a fresh perspective on what is negatively impacting the digital journey, that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Employees are more than capable of dealing with these challenges. Results from our research found that 91% of decision makers already agree that employees across the organisation are capable of delivering a constant flow of new ideas to improve the digital customer experience. This is where we are seeing experimentation come into its own, giving employees at all levels the opportunity to test out new ideas, based on scientific data, as opposed to a hunch. It is essential then for the management team to provide employees with not only the opportunity to share their thoughts about ways to develop the business, but the training to help them use their data and technology to bring these ideas to life.

However, realising the full value of contributions requires cross-team collaboration. The value of an individual’s idea can be lost all too easily if the rest of the organisation is working in silos. To effectively democratise technology it is necessary to marry data from other parts of the organisation, ensuring that new ideas are developed in a way that considers all parts of the customer journey and isn’t limited to one department’s perspective.

Define digital transformation

Management teams need to be able to clearly communicate what they want to achieve from going digital. The organisation as a whole must make smart and informed decisions and this can only happen if there is a clear focus to deliver against.

The Digital Experience Economy Report found that 40% of business decision-makers, a concerningly high figure, don’t fully understand what ‘digital transformation’ means, or how to ensure their organisation is adapting for it. Further to this, 58% of business leaders agree that the definition of digital transformation and what it means is not communicated clearly enough by leadership teams.

It is clear that the communication around digital transformation must be improved. This has to begin with teaching all employees what it is possible to achieve with new technology, such as machine learning for example. If employees can see these tangible possibilities, they are far more likely to support the adoption of new technologies and approaches. Without this support, any technological deployment will struggle to deliver anywhere close to its full potential.

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Make failure the hallmark for success

It is pivotal that any company as a whole recognises, and embraces, a culture which celebrates experimentational failures. Taking the lead from organisations such as Amazon and Google, who have instilled a culture of embracing failure, will help organisations stay in sync with their customers. Even some of Amazon’s initiatives have been dropped in the past, such as ‘Block View’. The ability to embrace the lessons to be learned from failure allows such companies to make the many tiny changes and improvements that ensure they are fully in tune with what the customer wants.

This culture allows teams to meet real problems flagged by customers with meaningful changes. Crucially it also encourages employees to contribute their ideas without the fear of being overlooked for important decisions in the future.

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Creating an environment where technology and ideas can be truly democratised will be the blueprint for success for organisations across any sector. It is the most effective way to get behind the rhetoric and really understand the customer. This starts and ends with giving a voice to the team. It isn’t a one off change or a quick fix; customers won’t stand still so neither should businesses.

Jil Maassen is Senior Strategy Consultant EMEA, Optimizely

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