Are you missing the blocks that count?
– Insights Based on Recent Travel (Mis)Adventures in Italy –
Italy – Prime international tourist destination renowned for its atmospheric historical centers, gastronomic experiences and giving visitors a taste of La Dolce Vita. Whilst sensory life experiences are ripe for the picking Italy-wide, getting anything done on time or as expected in Italy can be an exercise in extreme frustration for the outsider. With an Italian background myself, I get to spend longer than average periods of time with family and friends there – a valuable opportunity to stray off the tourist track, to talk with real people openly about life, politics, business, and to see and hear more about the raw underbelly of what it takes to get the job done in Italy today.
Now, not being a functioning participant in the business world there I can’t pass comment on the strengths and weakness of the small business ecosystem locally, but two things are clear even to the visitor: Scratch the surface of Italy’s rustic glamour, and you’ll see businesses doing it beyond tough, especially in Southern Italy; and spend any time there as a customer trying to get anything done and you often end up having a pretty raw experience.
Today we read and talk a lot about the potential for digitally transformative technologies to allow SMEs to provide the “seamless customer experience” the digital economy needs to drive business survival, growth and economic betterment in general.
But what happens when you get used to and expect the seamless experience, and then suddenly find yourself road blocked? Your business, travel, or leisure agendas held up – cause unapparent? What’s the hold-up/issue? Is it them, or is it me? Have the seamless experience front runners around the world set the bar too high?
Indeed many businesses, including the tourism industry in Italy, would seem to have all the “experience” boxes ticked.
After all – Italy has one of the world’s best ratings as a travel experience, it attracts outstanding user reviews, it inspires a constant stream of value-adding content that is shared and repurposed by the travel industry the world over, and it is getting ready to offer visitors and industry well above average base-line connectivity (95 percent of Italy’s population set to have ultrafast broadband by mid-2018 – almost two years ahead of its original schedule – but that’s a whole other discussion there…)
What’s stopping these and other business around the world from making it that final mile into seamless-town? Well my recent experiences in the Italian context highlighted two often overlooked building blocks:
1) Charming customer service is different to being truly customer-centric, and;
2) Processes need to be consistent (and existent) to actually generate outcomes.
It’s the Form-Over-Function argument – you might eventually (although perhaps not always) get your customer their desired outcome – but what of their journey to get there? And why and how is that journey often so vastly different from one day to the next, one customer to the next, one place to the next, and one hour to the next?
In talking about getting SMEs digital transformation ready these are two of the most often recurring themes – making the customer experience king through true customer centricity, and building robust processes that both inform and guardrail the quality of customer experiences each and every time.
Looking at these two critical instruments through the Italian lens, however, really highlights what it means when these two elements do not always operate in tandem.
I recently read a quote that I love:
Amateurs have goals and professionals have processes.
I have no doubt that all businesses the world over share a virtually common set of goals – sustained growth, profitability, legacy building, some measure of community good – the difference lies in how they set about achieving those goals, and the ecosystem that is in place to facilitate this.
Taking this one step further, I would suggest there is a further subtle difference amongst digital age businesses; are you set to remain the professional digital-amateur (you know your business and your industry but you lack the customer-centricity and processes to drive forward), or are you ready to take the leap forward into newer territory as an amateur digital-professional (you might have been in business a long time but recognize that to become a digital-grade professional, you’ll need to transition to adopt new mind-sets and processes.)
Where does the digital customer experience you offer your customers place you on this spectrum?
Want to read more about Customer Experience on the Maxsum blog?