Why digital strategy equals customer experience

Former RSPCA chief digital officer and now head of marketing and digital for Smartclinics shares how digital strategy is about awareness through to advocacy

An organisation’s digital strategy ultimately needs to come back to customer experience and the journey from awareness to advocacy, RSPCA’s former digital chief claims.

Speaking at the Chief Digital Officer Forum in Sydney this month, former RSPCA chief digital officer and now head of marketing and digital for Smartclinics, Christian Bowman, pointed to the raft of synergies between customer experience strategy and digital strategy.

For example, both are data and sales driven, and need to be driven by the user experience, he said.

“Whether it’s the research side, observation side, design phase or advocacy, both are one and the same thing,” he said. Bowman also noted customer journey mapping is increasingly being used in the digital space to help understand the program of work needed to be undertaken inside an organisation.

In addition, customer and digital teams are analytics obsessed, technology enabled and great communicators, he said.

One of the challenges around digital strategy, however, has been where it should reside within an organisation and who takes leadership responsibility for it.

“I’m sure many have been through that battle of where digital strategy should sit in terms of different departments, such as the planning department, technology or in marketing,” Bowman said.

“Some organisations have brought in a chief digital officer to remove this noise and to attain leadership around developing a transformation strategy and really, to get some work done.”

But there is a risk there are too many chiefs in the boardroom, Bowman said.

“There’s the CIO, CEO, CFO, CMO, CDO – but someone behind the scenes has an important part to play in terms of where the adoption of technology is going,” he said. “Rather than a battle, let’s focus on what we can learn from each other.”

“And ultimately it comes down to customer experience – from awareness to advocacy.”

In a separate panel debate during the event, Bowman in fact suggested chief digital officers would eventually make themselves redundant as digital is naturally diffused back into every aspect of the business.

In the meantime, though, there is still plenty of work to be done on getting organisations attuned to what digital means for their business. Bowman pointed to the misalignment between company vision and the purpose for digital as another major barrier to digital transformation success, something he again brought back to customer values.

“If your organisation is not customer centric, or have a purpose that doesn’t align to where your market is heading, you’re going to run into barriers,” he said.

“If you want to change your approach and adoption of digital, you will need to ensure that purpose and vision is in line. That’s a real challenge if you don’t have an executive advocating for digital strategy. But if you can get a clear customer-focused vision, as well as a vision for the future…then you have something to work towards. And if you get that right, all decision making can be relevant.”

Besides vision and purpose, Bowman recommended creating an environment for learning within the organisation. He pointed to methodologies and practices such as the ‘jobs to be done’ framework, design thinking and lean as example of ways to promote innovation that also encourage co-creation with customers.

“How can you look at things from a different, customer lens – from an emotional, personal, functional aspect?” he asked. “Creating an environment for learning means you step away from thinking you know everything about your customer and all the different segments, and gets you to focus on customers and become great listeners and communicators.

“If you give your customers a voice, and then a platform so there is an opportunity to learn from each other internally and externally, I believe you can create and maintain remarkable and meaningful relationships.”

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