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Making the difference we need through experience transformation

21st October 2021

Author John Bessey

Why does experience transformation matter? And what’s the greatest difference that connected experiences make for our customers and New Zealand organisations?


From systems of record to systems of engagement

Over the years, the history of technology-enabled transformation has moved from hardware to software to SaaS, with a focus on systems of record.

The experience transformation revolution takes the majority of an organisation’s go-forward investment and looks to put the customer or citizen at the centre of this transformation, primarily leveraging cloud-based systems of engagement and Data & AI.

Whether you’re a consulting business or building your own capability, right now there simply isn’t enough resource available to deliver to the sheer volume of demand for change today. This isn’t specifically a New Zealand problem; it’s a global shortage – and as a result we’re seeing that governments and commercial organisations’ realities are often not just lagging behind their ambitions but also falling short of the rising expectations of the people they serve and employ.


Connecting the inside with the outside: the power of CX + EX

When it comes to systems of engagement, we typically hear a lot about the importance of customer experience transformation, but this is only one part of the story. Total experience transformation (one of Gartner’s top strategic technology trends for 2021) requires a much wider lens – looking at the connected experiences between our internal and external worlds, and considering the experience of our customers (the customer experience), our people (the employee experience), those who use and interact with the systems we create (the user experience) and the ability of our organisation – and the people within it – to embrace the change required for true holistic transformation.

As Tiffany Bova, Salesforce’s Chief Growth Evangelist, puts it: “A truly valuable customer experience can only grow from a vibrant employee experience.”

Well-known for her advocacy for the power of customer experience over the years, Tiffany says, on reflection: “Any chance I got, I would talk about customer experience being the new battleground. I was hyper-focused on highlighting how brands that get this right are rewarded both financially and through customer loyalty. And I think during that time, I was actually doing a disservice to that concept. It was customer-first without any association to the employees delivering those experiences – one might even say, at the expense of all other things.”

At Tiffany’s behest, a recent joint research paper between Salesforce and Forbes Insights (drawing on surveys with 300 companies) found that companies that focus on both customer experience and employee experience saw their revenues grow almost twice as fast as those that focus exclusively on one or the other.


The importance of creating connected experiences: the interconnectedness of people, process and technology

When we think about experience transformation, there are three – interconnected – areas we need to help our customers focus on and deliver outcomes across:

One is people – how people are set up and enabled, along with mindset and culture. The process piece is often the piece we think about most, because it often relates to the implementation of technology. And then there is the technology itself: the platform that the customer or the solution has been built on.

Connected experiences only become truly meaningful when you’ve looked at what your business needs to achieve and then taken into consideration each of these facets as an interconnected whole.

When I think about what experience transformation and connected experiences mean to me, personally, it’s what happens when we successfully bring together people, process and technology together for more joined-up and seamless interactions and make a positive impact, however big or small, in their day or in their lives.


What’s holding us back?

One of the greatest limitations to us realising the full power of experience transformation and the connected experience is that sometimes we think about these things – whether it’s people, process and technology, or customer experience and employee experience – in isolation.

We might look for a solution that we’re trying to fix around a technology problem, or we look at a particular process that we’re trying to fix, or we look at a particular people element. We can often treat these things like they’re not connected, when the reality is that each element is part of an open system. And even when their interconnectedness is recognised, it can be really complicated to figure out how each piece impacts upon another, and to what degree.

So, if we have a closed mindset and we only focus on any one of these aspects as we help a customer through experience transformation, we simply can’t deliver the best, most connected experiences.

Speaking for myself, personally, when I think about the times that I’ve transformed the systems that I’ve been working with previously, in sales or country management roles, I know that I’ve often been quite myopic, focusing on one aspect at a time and not really considering that actually all three are critical, and that you have to think about how each aspect affects the other.


Slow and steady won’t win the race

As organisations, we can’t simply keep our eyes in the boat anymore and be happy with incremental improvement – there’s just too much proof that experience transformation with systems of engagement (like Salesforce), as part of a programme that’s led by your business transformation vision and goals, leads to transformative outcomes that can’t be achieved otherwise.

To realise the full extent of these benefits, we have to think of the open, connected world in which our customers’ expectations are driven by all the other connected experiences they have – it’s a high bar! And the table stakes for us all as organisations is to be as good or better than these experiences. Incrementalism and a bias to systems of record just won’t get us there.

And to be really clear, there is no endpoint: keep investing, keep seeing the returns on those investments and you will flourish. Think of it as a programme of work that finishes, or focus on people, process and technology individually, and you will simply fall behind again.


It’s a journey, not a destination

So often I get asked by a customer, When will we get there? And it’s a little bit like life – it’s about the journey, not the destination. Experience transformation always requires a continual process of improvement across people, process and technology – and, while that may sound old, it rings as true today in the world of experience transformation and connected experience as it did years ago.

If you think of it as a programme of work that finishes or focus on people, process and technology individually, you will simply fall behind again. Keep investing, keep seeing the returns on those investments, and you will flourish.

Those organisations that get – and fully embrace – strategy-led experience transformation will be the market leaders over the next 20 years – it’s as simple as that.