Where data meets culture: Customer-centric digital transformation

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If you’re focused on digital transformation, you’ll know that to build a truly customer-centred culture, you need the right customer data. We can get richer, more holistic data than ever before, meaning we can compile an authentic picture of what our users and target customers want.

But with that data comes a huge amount of responsibility. In this article, I’m going to explore how you can build a customer-centric culture that respects your customer data.

Gather the information you need

I like to start by checking the data strategy is aligned with a company’s goals and brand. If they’ve got clarity on who they are, where they stand in the market, what they want to achieve and where they need to work harder, then they’re ready to go ahead. If not, it helps to clarify that information before you go any further.

Once you’re aligned, it’s time to review your personas or audience segments– outlines of your current and target customers – and scenarios – the tasks they’re trying to complete. Are they proven by research, up to data and aligned with your corporate strategy? Have they been checked against real customers lately?

For example, for the Bank of England’s recent website redesign, we crafted seven personas ranging from investors and IFAs to students and educators. Their characteristics and motivations informed the information architecture, content and design for the whole project. When it comes to scenarios, you’ll often find personas’ needs align or overlap.

Then you can map your customers’ touchpoints and journeys. We use a tool called a service design blueprint to do this. It plots the people, resources, functionality and data that support each customer interaction along a journey, so it shows you where any obstacles or hiccups might occur.

It’s really useful to have a data layer in your service blueprint, because it helps you see exactly what data point(s) you need to inform how you handle each moment.

Usability testing – user interviews, ethnographical studies, exercises like card sorting – will complement any quantitative data, like website performance. This qualitative data gives deeper insight and richer context to your customers and their situations (if you’d like to find out more about the methods in UX, download our free UX handbook).

Once you bring these insights together, they should form a meaningful, holistic picture of your customers’ functional need (what they’re trying to achieve) and emotional need (how they’d like to feel while they’re doing it).

Protect that data

Your customers might be ready to trust you with their data – as Mary Meeker’s 2019 report said, 83% are willing to passively share and 74% are willing to actively share data in exchange for personalized experiences – but that trust engenders responsibility.

Customers expect us to guard their data with care and compliance. We’re living in an age where data breaches are rising: in the first half of 2019, 4.1bn records were exposed. There's a growing culture of data regulation in Europe – GDPR and the ePrivacy regulation that’s on the horizon – and a breach can come with massive fines; just look at the cases BA and Marriott are fighting.

So we have to protect our customers’ data with robust and up-to-date tech stacks, extra security layers like multi-factor authentication and partnerships only with third parties you can trust.

And then there’s staff education, too. A reported 60% of UK data breaches in the first half of 2019 were down to human error. Mistakes included misuse of the bcc field and falling for phishing attacks – ouch.

Your data strategy needs to consider all aspects of security and compliance, with process and training to back it up. Because if your customers can’t trust you with their data, these days they won’t trust you at all.

Share insights about your customers

The easiest way to transform into a customer-centric company culture is to talk to your team about your customers.

If your people are hearing consistently about what customers want and need, they’ll understand how important it is to prioritise and protect them.

This is one area where it’s key to lead from the top. Set up reporting so everyone gets the data (compliant, of course) that they need. Share your 'Voice of the Customer' insights consistently and company-wide: all-hands, team meets, standups, project reviews. Bring UX researchers and customer support into project teams as advocates for your customers. Create posters, customer principles and playbooks.

You can also place customer insight front and centre on your intranet, include insights in email bulletins or Slack channels, even print postcards or flyers with the latest insights and put them on people’s desks.

Ensure that everything from your vision and mission to more hands-on tools and strategies are developed around your customer. When Cyber-Duck developed these design principles for the Bank of England, we made sure that they spoke directly to the customer needs that had surfaced through user research. Your UX team can educate people about their research process, so staff can see how insights are obtained. And consider what you can share with external partners or suppliers, to give them context too.

Implement from those insights

Of course, you need to underpin your talk with action. It’s key to show your teams that customer insight is driving the business.

Companies that build customer-driven iteration into their processes and ways of working walk the walk. They’re stronger and more successful as a result.

They put learnings on the agenda at project status or review meetings. They identify opportunities for learning or improvement at retrospectives. They look for edge cases and non-conformities (NCs) and opportunities for improvement (OFIs) so they can build solutions to meet those needs. They assign clearly to individuals, who are empowered to deliver. They’re not scared to celebrate failure, because they know that’s where they can learn the most.

You can encourage a culture of advocating on behalf of the customer and continuous learning from them too. In fact, that’s a great way to get started. What one thing could you do right now that would improve things for your customer today?

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