The Consumer Experience: Why It Has a Big Impact on Business Transformation

CONMay

I have been practicing business consulting for more than 12 years now. All my consulting colleagues would agree that any sustainable business transformation exercise rests on the three foundation pillars of People, Process and Technology (PPT). A structured transformation exercise would require us to understand the business problem from the client’s perspective, benchmark it with leaders, develop / test hypothesis and create the road map. But a remarkable change is being witnessed now which seemingly was ignored in past unknowingly—and that is Consumer Experience (CX)!

We’ve always heard that consumer is king and it decides the winner. But the only function that embraced that wholeheartedly was sales & marketing. While sales & marketing always pushed for consumer first, the rest of the departments kept the prime focus on individual objectives around cost leadership, technology superiority, product / service innovation.

I fondly remember a client project of a major Indian conglomerate where we were working on the operating model redesign. It required me to interview people from almost all the functions plus clients and vendors. While everyone wanted the organization to prosper by bringing consumer delight, no one really demonstrated consumer first in any of their actions or thoughts. Organization wants high share price, Production wants low cost, Finance wants compliance, Sales wants revenue, R&D wants new products and IT wants the best technology applications… but wait a minute! Who is thinking what the consumer wants? 

The consumer wants the best experience. The consumer wants the value. The consumer wants the product that solves an individual problem. Low cost, best technology, new products, compliance are important but they may just accidentally meet client’s needs.

My clients often ask me the question on how to tackle the threat of disruption caused by young age companies—the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Amazon. Many of us get disgusted with the answers like having Digital Edge, offer Super Convenience or Best Cost. While these are important elements they may not serve real potential unless looked from the end-to-end consumer journey and related touch points perspective. Let me give you an example. A large consumer goods company embarked on a digital transformation exercise wherein they implemented a lot of leading age digital solutions for their consumer facing functions.

A sales force software automated the order collection process, big data for assessing the impact of their marketing campaign, or code based interactive YouTube videos. While all this was good, the backend operations team still struggled with supply chain issues, which resulted in stock out situations at retail stores, consumer service teams struggled with resolving consumer complaints due to poor connectivity and functionally dated contact centre software. With all the money spent in digital projects, ultimately the impact was not visible in form of topline increase.

The CSAT continued to remain poor inspite of the heavy digital investments. The same is the case with offering super convenience or best cost. If the disruptive ideas or projects do not serve in enhancing the consumer experience, then it will fail in delivering the performance on the performance metrics that really matter.

The Consumer journey typically moves through the stages of Awareness, Evaluation, Commitment, Purchase and Service during its lifecycle. There are multiple touch points during this consumer journey process. Consumers’ priorities and concerns at each of these stages are different. In the pre-purchase stages, Michael Bosworth categorizes the consumers’ concerns and priorities into four types—need, solution, cost and risk. The consumer focuses on the need and cost aspect more in the awareness phase, solution becomes very important in the Evaluation phase.

Finally the cost and risk concerns are at their peak during the commitment phase just before the Purchase. The business transformation exercise should take this consumer journey perspective and then develop the strategy and roadmap with the pillars of People, Process and Technology. It is an Outside-In strategy more than anything else. Outside-In puts CX first. We need to see, learn and develop the product / service which exactly maps our consumers’ lifestyle, preferences, tastes, profession, demography, habits and even latent wishes.

One of my clients in the housing finance industry developed a consumer portal, which would automate the complete home loan application process. Taking a clue from digital consumers’ very high consumer service expectations, this client developed a huge call center, which would be ready 24×7 to resolve any query they have. They hired us to assess their digital strategy and recommend a way to launch this program successfully. We did a voice of consumer survey to learn their life cycle of taking a home loan. The survey results were surprising.

More than 80 percent of the consumers preferred mobile as a medium. Eligibility & EMI calculator tools, personalized service and consumer reviews are the primary reasons people decide on the company they chose for their home loans. It wasn’t the interest rate. It wasn’t the digital loan application process. It wasn’t the 24×7 call center that consumers wanted. In fact their consumers wanted the service support to be available through self service features on a mobile app rather than talking with someone in the call center. A consumer who accesses the website through a computer will have different preferences than accessing it through mobile wherein everything right from the wireframe, flow, UX, speed, promotion, sharing etcetera has to be designed very differently to suit the consumers’ style and needs.

A business transformation exercise today still requires People, Process and Technology but it can no more start from what the company wants. It has to start from what the end consumer wants. Technology investments cannot be decided by what is trending. People structure cannot be decided by the product categories you have. Process cannot be determined by how the supply chain has to flow. I know it is easier said than done but take a first step today to start thinking from Outside-In perspective and be conscious of putting CX first while making any important decision for your organization or department.

 

Haresh Panjavani is a Managing Consultant with Capgemini Consulting in the Mumbai office. He specializes in the areas of digital transformation, consumer experience, supply chain and operating model design. Haresh has designed and executed projects in consumer goods, manufacturing, financial services, oil & gas, steel and logistics industries. He is global mentor for International Supply Chain Education Alliance (ISCEA).  E-mail the author at haresh.panjavani@gmail.com.

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