Digital transformation: how to avoid screwing it up

Digital transformation is everywhere

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to interact with a company without using some kind of computer. Online shopping for instance keeps on growing at unprecedented speed. Sure, you still go to the local supermarket. But even while you are pushing your cart through the aisles, chances are that you’re using a shopping list on your smartphone and that you pay with plastic or mobile.

Purely offline interactions between merchants and customers are slowly but surely becoming obsolete. It’s part of an evolution called digital transformation and it’s been skyrocketing in the last 5 years or so.

I personally love this evolution. Gone are the days where your only option was to physically transport yourself to a travel agency, a car dealer or a real estate agent. Today most of us consult Doctor Google before we see a real one. Tomorrow you may talk more frequently to Siri and Alexa than to your breathing family members. And in the years to come you will experience unimaginable things in virtual, augmented and mixed reality.

A fascinating future lies ahead, but what worries me in these trends is that companies I visit put a lot of focus on the “digital” part of the transformation, but not so much on the “customer-centric” part of that transformation. And that’s a problem.

Customer-centric transformation done right

What you need to do is put your customer at the center of everything you do. You need to start from the central question: “Which positive impact will my solution have on my customer’s life?” If you can define a good answer to this question, an optimal customer experience and an appropriate digital transformation will follow.

Becoming customer-centric is not easy. First of all, it requires a change of mindset, a radical shift in culture. A couple of weeks ago Sarah Oey, one of the speakers of the magnificent UX STRAT conference in Amsterdam stated it really well: “Good customer experience is not a project — business needs to establish new rituals, habits and instincts.”

Secondly, you need appropriate design methods and techniques. At Human Interface Group, we tackle customer-centric design with our in-house developed UX Strategy framework.

One of the key pillars of this framework is mapping the customer journey. It is a powerful technique to visualize the experiences of your customer with your product or service and what you have to put in place to make that experience stand out from the competition.

The Customer Journey, visualized in experience maps and service blueprints

We visualize the experience of your customer in an experience map. Our experience maps consist of:

  • Phases: the typical lifecycle of a product or service
  • Key activities: the actions customers take
  • Plot chart: the experiences they have with the product or service, either good or bad.
experience map

Good experiences are dots in the green zone, bad experiences are dots in the red one. Obviously, you want to move up the red dots so they become green dots. Some reds are straightforward (e.g. a questionnaire should be short and clear), but others need some cross-organizational thinking, involving people and departments outside your team (e.g. design a secure, easy-to-use login procedure). And in that situation you also need a ‘service blueprint’.

A service blueprint is an overview of all stakeholders in your organization who need to make a specific contribution to the product or service. Our service blueprints consist of:

  • Stages: aware, join, use and leave
  • User activities: what the customer does in each stage
  • Front stage: the touch points that are visible to the customer (website, social media, in-person contact,..)
  • Backstage: the touch points that are not visible to the customer (secure identification, smart algorithms, data processing,…)
service blueprint

In theory you could design an experience map with your product team, but a service blueprint absolutely requires broader cooperation. One may think he knows the ins and outs of an organization, but I’ve never seen a good service blueprint that was a one man’s job.

Even if you have a profound view on the workings of your company, you need to validate what you come up with with other stakeholders. That’s a far safer practice than having to restore all the things you wrongly assumed further down the road.

Creating your own customer journey

It takes skill and practice to draw the whole customer journey, but when done right the ‘experience map’ and ‘service blueprint’ become invaluable drivers for the design decisions you need to take to make your product or service customer-centered, instead of technology-centered.

If you succeed, the customer experience you crave for and the digital transformation you wish to happen will come much more naturally than you could have imagined.

Do you know we can make this happen for you? Get in touch to map the customer journey as the start of your own customer-centric transformation!

Johan Verhaegen
UX Strategist