Technology Transformation in the Age of the Customer

We are in an “experience” economy, where companies that create, sell and/or deliver a positive product or service experience enjoy competitive positioning and premium pricing advantages.


In today’s competitive landscape, the pace of commoditization is rapid. There are fewer “leaders” than there used to be, and the “chasers” are a lot faster.

To compound things further, technology has created a form of disintermediation in the value chain; sellers no longer “control” a selling discussion. Customers and potential customers have the ability to leverage publically available digital content on the internet, as well as readily engage with cohorts online via social media, in order to educate themselves and preliminarily short-list a set of sellers from whom they will consider buying. And guess what? It may not be all on the criteria you would like them to use.


As a result, it is more challenging to clearly differentiate your value to customers and prospects. The race to the bottom line and competing solely on cost is not an environment for growth and is a situation sellers wish to avoid.

Avoidance only comes by completing one (or more) of three options:

  1. Product and service offering innovation: bringing new and/or different products and services to market that the competition cannot provide
  2. Operational excellence: optimizing operational work steps in order to reduce the cost to serve and therefore improve margin and/or pricing flexibility within current margin targets
  3. Experience innovation: becoming easier, more collaborative, more flexible and more responsive than the competition


The above considerations are the typical order of focus. Everyone starts in the same place, but should they? Sure, innovating on product and service offerings creates the most obvious differentiation in the market (and therefore unquestioned premium pricing), but how lasting is that? Remember, the chasers are getting faster and more informed every day, as it is easier to imitate than innovate.


What if you instead (or at least equally) prioritized looking at ways to innovate the experience you create within the market? Wouldn’t that “lift all boats” (products/offerings) versus having to build the next boat? Moreover, if experience were indeed that important, wouldn’t the effective management of those experiences represent a significant operational excellence target and end goal?


Organizations need to consider customer experience management and experience innovation as two of the most important competencies required to transform and grow in this experience economy. While there are very real and complex organizational considerations and experience design methods involved in aligning the customer experience, operationalizing a focus on customer experience through appropriate technology use is equally important.


The digital technology innovations that Baker Tilly focuses on with

our clients fall into three primary consideration areas: Engagement effectiveness, engagement efficiency and engagement intelligence.


Engagement effectiveness

Historically, customer-facing solutions (i.e., CRM) were modular and created for specific functions, partly due to the different pace or maturity of needs in the market, and partly because they were focused on the operational steps of the organization, not the interaction with the customer.


Increasing and improving engagement with individuals in today’s market (both current and potential customers) — in its most effective form — employs the use of digital experience/feedback management platforms in concert with more familiar, functionally aligned solutions (e.g., CRM). These digital experience/feedback platforms are aware of the core engagement pathways along which current and potential customers engage with the organization, even when they are distributed across many different departments and technical solutions. These platforms allow organizations to manage a mapping of key engagement points that are instrumental in creating positive impressions and experiences, and more importantly, recognize the key data triggers in transactional and informational systems that are evidence of that engagement.


What is possible with this “data clarity” of the customer’s experience/journey is the ability to assess customers at the point of engagement and provide personalized surveys based upon the engagement that just occurred. The results of these surveys allow triage of customer experience complaints, as well as in aggregate serve as the basis for potential future innovation and change of an experience.


Engagement efficiency

As organizations begin to examine the customers’ experience and, at a much finer grain, look at the design of these experiences to meet the expectations of today’s buyer, the focus must be on activating these experiences in a cost-effective manner.


“Over promising” on experience and “under delivering” does not buy any credit with customers and actually may adversely affect the experience more than doing nothing. The operational implication of delivering the types of experiences desired by customers today is that the pace, frequency, volume and data generated through the process are significantly greater.


In order to adjust to these increasing demands, organizations should be looking to “automation technology,” with Robotic Process Automation being the most familiar variety of solution in the category, as an addition to the IT portfolio. RPA provides value by combating the need for additional labor in situations where “live engagement” is desirable by customers but occurring in volume that outstrips the capacity of the organization, as well as where the customer-facing interaction is lengthy and dependent on data intake accuracy. Combining Artificial Intelligence, specifically “conversational AI,” with RPA allows the organization to recommend the next best action during the engagement with the customer, without the aid of an actual person.


Engagement intelligence

Driving customer and market insight and measuring the performance results of your organization requires informative data and analytical tools to support effective decision-making. The payoff from mapping and designing the customer experience then delivering and monitoring it with technology results in a significant amount of data with regard to customer behavior and perspective at critical engagement points.


As with relying on RPA to handle volume from an engagement perspective, organizations must also apply AI solutions to aggregate, transform and digest this data. These modem capabilities in data management and analytics, combined with this increasing amount of data, are unlocking new pathways to customer and market visibility.


Today, all markets are “buyer’s markets” and growth is primarily dependent upon creating differentiation from the competition through positive experiences. In order to preserve value by creating long-term relationships with existing customers and enhance value by effectively engaging prospective customers for growth, organizations must focus on embracing digital transformation through employing available technology in key categories. 


Digital experience/feedback management platforms, Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence and data analytics all play material roles in growth when leveraged in a strategic, proactive manner.


Todd Wilkerson is a director in the consulting group of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP and Jeffrey J. Vrabel is a partner within Baker Tilly’s manufacturing and distribution group.  


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