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Don’t “just put it online”!

More and more corporate leaders are moving their business processes and customer touchpoints to digital. On the whole, that’s great: digital experiences are what customers expect, and after an initial investment, they tend to be more efficient and less costly than traditional processes.

However, leaders need to consider the customer journey when moving things online. When moving processes, purchase events, or other customer touchpoints into a digital experience, there is a lot of opportunity to make improvements. That opportunity only exists with some diligent thinking.

It’s story time

I once worked with a company that had physical sales offices. Any customer coming into an office was asked to fill out a form – on paper – with some basic information. A sales leader for that company asked me simply to “make the form into a web page”. His vision was to replace the paper forms and clipboards with an in-store laptop, so customers could fill out the form online.

All he needed was for someone to create the form online – or so he thought.

In reality, this plan had some gaps. Namely, where was the data supposed to go when someone filled it out? There was no budget for a full application, just a single page with a form on it. And what happens if there is any kind of technical problem with the in-store laptop? What if three customers come in at once; are there three laptops?

There were definitely some technical and logistics issues to work through. That’s completely normal, although not all leaders consider them (that’s why we have project managers and IT professionals).

Consider the customer!

What really got me was that we should be thinking bigger. So a customer walks into your office – someone who is, right now, interested in your products. You’re going to shepherd them to a form (paper or digital) before having a conversation? Why not ask the relevant questions during a conversation, or have them fill out the form after an initial conversation? It seems a poor customer experience to walk into a store and have a form pushed at you.

And if the form is really crucial, why not offer it outside the office? Make the form part of a contact process when making a sales appointment. Send customers home with a link after they’ve had a good in-store experience.

Yet the sales leader’s response was, “we just want to put it online”.

Simply putting things online doesn’t make them better. In some cases, it could make things worse. The key to any good digital transformation project is to deep-dive into the actual process, the actual customer journey, and use technology to improve that. Follow the experience, and the solution will come naturally.

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