Rethinking Customer Success

“63% of organizations say delivering an excellent CX as measured by customer satisfaction scores defines success as a digital-first business” – IDG Report 

Today, we live in a hyper-connected world where information is the commodity, the internet is the supply chain, and the cloud is the warehouse. Most businesses, riding the wave of the digital revolution, need to continuously evaluate how digital disruption is changing client behavior and rethink their client engagement model. This need has only become more pressing since the pandemic and is essentially a prerequisite for success in the new normal.

At its core, digital transformation is about developing new capabilities and leveraging new channels to design and deliver a better client experience. The transformation involves a paradigm shift from the traditional product-centric strategy to a new, client-centric outlook. Too often, companies embark on digital transformation journeys without fully grasping this key idea. These expectations and demands are creating critical new challenges, but also novel business opportunities across the entire value chain. Successful efforts should focus on the diagnostics of business problems and providing value through unique, client-tailored solutions. Exhibit 1 showcases what the new-age client looks for across digital product offerings.

Exhibit 1. The modern client seeks a unified, digitally connected, and consistent CX throughout their lifecycle

Core Tenets of an Effective Digital Transformation

The digital transformation roadmap starts with assessing preparedness of the org’s client and technology functions across critical enablers.


1. Understanding Current Clients and Pain Points 

It is imperative to map out and understand your organization’s data architecture, client data models and tracking of client feedback. This step is necessary not only to identify what is broken, but also to highlight areas that are key drivers of client dissatisfaction and use those to bolster innovation in the longer term. Some sample assessments include:

  • Assess current client data governance practices (comprehensiveness, frequency of data collection, recency) to establish baseline
  • Analyze existing client base to understand which segments drive revenue and loyalty
  • Track and monitor critical pain points and feedback available from clients

2. Clear Value Proposition and Comprehensive Journey Maps

Essential to any digital transformation is the steadfast adoption of client-centric design thinking principles. Start-to-finish client journey mapping offers an intuitive method of highlighting existing pain-points and identifying needs for new features and improvements (Exhibit 2).

Such an approach provides visibility into the key shortcomings and opportunities to improve experience across the CX journey, and ultimately informs the product improvement strategy

  • Identify core value proposition of the brand and points of differentiation in relation to competitive offerings
  • Develop client journey maps to document client interactions across the lifecycle for key products and use cases
  • Establish high engagement touchpoints and areas that drive satisfaction / dissatisfaction across the current journey

Exhibit 2. Sample end-to-end journey mapping of an insurance client

3. Client Centric Mindset and Continuous Improvement Focus

Understanding client experiences and needs is not a one-and-done exercise. A client centric mindset requires a shift from product focused operations to putting the client at the core of business decision making across all functions and hierarchies (Exhibit 3).

  • Assess client feedback tracking, measuring and reporting mechanisms (metrics, KPIs, frequency of tracking, ease of reporting)
  • Identify ability of the org to close the loop on client feedback; Is the data tracked being used to fix identified pain points, and are the improvements being monitored?
  • Evaluate the extent to which client needs and insights are leveraged in day-to-day business operations and executive decision making across functions

Exhibit 3. Shift to client-centric strategy


1. Digital RoadMap Aligned with Tech Capabilities  

Given the goals, timeline, and budget for the transformation, companies should comprehensively assess their current level of digital readiness to estimate what is feasible within the given parameters.

  • This involves mapping out initiatives which are currently in flight and creating a baseline by which to measure progress
  • Companies should take a modular approach to prioritizing front end innovations which then selectively feed the buildout of the back end
  • Using the current state assessment of IT architecture, technology roadmaps and flex capacity, companies can prioritize upcoming enhancements and work to effectively rationalize the current tech landscape for developing a seamless and scalable target state

2. Competitive Intelligence and Industry Outlook

Selecting which initiatives to pursue, alongside deciding the effective ranking of opportunities, requires a rich understanding of the competitive environment.

  • Companies need to be prudent in gathering competitive intelligence, including key offerings in the market, projected shares of wallet and upcoming disruptions in the pipeline
  • Knowledge of mature and emerging technologies, trends and processes in the market is crucial to develop an edge in the competitive landscape. This should be translated into a list of concrete implications for the organization

3. Robust Data and Analytics Function

  • A common data reservoir to better understand clients and cross-analyze client data with other functional data (e.g., product, marketing, financial performance, etc.) is an essential requirement
  • This should be accompanied by sophisticated ML and statistical models that help generate actionable insights and predictions for scalable solutions that are leveraged for decision making
  • Providing easy, intuitive and pervasive access to client data, trends, reporting and insights for employees throughout the org is a key pillar of establishing a client centric mindset

4. Integrated Operating Model and Involvement of Leadership (CIO)

  • Digital initiatives should be infused into the current operating model, linking them to demonstrable business value. The client and technology functions should operate in lockstep, with clear lines of reporting and accountability, and established processes for resolving conflicts priorities
  • The CIO is a critical role in the modern org who can drive change through involvement in the end-to-end digital transformation lifecycle (Exhibit 4)
  • Transformation-specific roles—namely, leaders of individual initiatives and leaders of the program-management or transformation office—who can be dedicated full time to the change effort, are also highly impactful

These client and tech enablers once established will provide the backbone to launch and execute an integrated digital transformation.

Exhibit 4. Where CIOs can impact CX


The end-to-end transformation journey can be synthesized into 4 steps centered around the key target client.

1. Design What Clients Want 

  • Develop a holistic and 360-degree view of each client’s evolving life-cycle and pain points
  • Use analytics to reach clients with targeted messaging, offers, and pricing
  • Instead of pushing products, partner with clients to decide what to offer and how to offer it
  • Let clients be in control of their purchases, asking for their inputs on new solutions and products
  • Develop personalized CX that optimizes client value at each touchpoint
  • Use real-time next-best-action marketing engines to drive cross-sell, up-sell, retention, and acquisition strategies

2. Engage Clients through Preferred Channels 

  • Offer a consistent, seamless cross-channel CX, across all platforms
  • Integrate all voice and non-voice channels to allow conversation to move between channels
  • Track engagement-based metrics (e.g., NPS) to assess performance
  • Enable clients to start their journey on any channel and seamlessly pick up where they left off on another channel

3. Listen to Clients with Analytics-driven Monitoring

  • Track changes in client behaviors and preferences over time
  • Use data-driven analytics and client feedback to search for new and better solutions to exceed client expectations
  • Develop tools and capabilities to continuously improve value propositions, offerings, and services for clients
  • Offer new interactions and client experiences to current clients as well as prospects based on data insights
  • Use digital opportunities and new digital points of contact to simplify processes for consumers

4. Improve Experience through Client-first Firm Culture

  • Make thinking about clients and their needs a clear priority for every employee
  • Offer employees access to client insights, sales and support calls, and client feedback
  • Increase cooperation across all teams to deliver a holistic client experience
  • Market impact of client satisfaction (e.g., NPS, retention metrics) on company’s performance
  • Link employee growth rewards and incentives with client satisfaction

Exhibit 5. Putting clients at the core of your business

Success Story: An Insurer's Vision for Enhanced Client Experience 

Shifts in the financial services sector led a multinational Fortune 500 insurer, with a legacy offline, one-size-fits all client experience to undergo a multi-level digital transformation. The insurer’s approach:

  • Reconceptualized the digital end-to-end client journey and identified gaps in the current state, with a goal of enabling a personalized client experience for target client segments.
  • Developed a suite of digital offerings, following client focused digital innovations and product strategy, enabled with key technologies like virtual assistants, chat bots and simplified self-service
  • Integrated client analytics capabilities throughout the process to capture actionable insights for further process optimization, refined client segmentation and CX enhancement
  • Through an integrated digital transformation roadmap, achieved a single integrated workflow management process, with enhanced agent productivity and ease of engagement with leaders

This insurance giant is a current industry leader, and will maintain its position in the long term, given its expertly executed, timely and future-friendly transformation. To maintain the existing high client ratings, the company constantly assesses and adjusts to changing client needs, enabled by processes that allow it to adapt with emerging industry trends.

Where Most Transformations Fall Short 

There are three primary pitfalls which are often encountered along the journey to digitization.

1. Lack of Vision: Digitization frequently fails due to a lack of a clear vision of the ideal digital client journey 

Frequently, this manifests as a failure to ascertain an end-to-end understanding of client needs. For instance, updating systems to appear in-touch and trendy will not address all the existing gaps and deficiencies in the current state. Alternatively, a lack of awareness of leading and emerging technology trends which are slated to define the future can be devastating; spending time and money on technology that will obsolete next week is wasteful and out-of-touch with client desires.

2. Technology Trap: This is often encountered in cases of inflexible technology stacks and outdated development processes which stand in the way of change and innovation

Digital transformations should be client-centric and unbridled by back-end inadequacies, and thus these factors should not be allowed to stand in the way of the target outcome. There should also be clear policies in place for data governance, privacy, and security such as to eliminate any grey areas throughout the requisite analysis.

This applies to all client data, including metadata (e.g., browsing, likes, scrolls, etc.), social data (social networks and search engines), and their integration to CRM platforms and the cloud. Adequate data analytics tools and internal skills to clean, aggregate, and generate insights from data should also be curated in advance, as attempting to proceed without them would be akin to embarking on a voyage without a map. Even if all these requirements are met, companies frequently falter when it comes to implementation. CX initiatives need to be planned and prioritized in a way that doesn’t clash with other initiatives, system upgrades, and compliance issues.

3. Failure to Spur Ongoing Change: Where to go from here? Once a digital transformation has been undertaken and the results are beginning to come apparent, the process is not close to over 

Even if a digital transformation is carried out well in the short term, the effort will inevitably falter in the long term if a client-centric mentality is not left firmly embedded within a company’s culture. Due to an ever-changing set of client needs, ever-changing set of client needs, transformations must culminate in an ongoing effort that is built to last indefinitely; establishing client centricity as a core tenet is essential to long-run success. Companies often fail to sustain the ideology driving the initial push; digital transformation should not be thought of as undertakings with rigid start and end dates, but rather as the beginning of a new future for the company.

Reaching the Next Level: Client Obsession 

In order to continue to reap the benefits of a client-focused strategy in the long term, organizations need to raise the bar.

1. Establish a mindset shift: obsession with client success 

The client needs to be the hyper focus of employees at every level, from CEO to analyst. The goal is to repeatedly ask the question, ‘how can I make the client more successful?’ in order to improve and optimize existing processes and products and continually innovate for the client. To establish this mindset, client focus needs to be integrated with the values and leadership principles of the company. Clients connect with purpose driven values that go beyond a product line; thought therefore companies must build trust and align with the needs of their clients.

2. Client data as the new currency 

It is crucial to leverage client data both from established models and new digital touchpoints and channels into the end-to-end client journey, via a robust feedback loop. Further, employees should have easy access to real-time client data (feedback, complaints, surveys etc.) in order to determine and prioritize actionable areas of focus. Companies that are able to track and use client data in their models and daily functioning will leapfrog ahead of others.

3. Anticipate needs and think ahead of your clients 

A client obsessed organization is agile, innovative and can effectively plan and create product and brand strategies for the future, based on client dissatisfaction today.

In addition to addressing clients concerns in short term through CX enhancements, the organization should be able to innovate on behalf of the client in the long term. Use client feedback to proactively determine the client’s needs and tailor product offering accordingly.

Exhibit 6. Facets of a Client Success Obsessed Organization

4. Lack of Vision: Digitization frequently fails due to a lack of a clear vision of the ideal digital client journey 

Consider this scenario: a Fintech has an excellent client facing mobile application and omni-channel presence, still a client struggles with access to assistance when they run into an issue. This single negative experience can be the deciding factor of a client’s loyalty to a product or brand. Keeping the end-to-end client journey, from onboarding to client service and beyond, as the focus will enable a shift from short-term transactional client relationships to longer-term engagements that drive lifetime value and referrals.

Assess Your Readiness for Transformation: Questions to Consider 

Undergoing a digital transformation requires adding differentiated capabilities across the CX journey and inculcating a client centric mindset. A list of thought starters is included below to provide a jump start to any transformational planning.

Understanding the Competitive Ecosystem 

  • What are your competitors’ offering and what is your competitive advantage over them?
  • Are there opportunities for partnership or acquisition to boost capabilities and differentiate in market?

Assessing Client Understanding 

  • Does your organization understand your key client segments (driving largest share of value)?
  • Do you have the end-to-end client journey for these clients mapped?
  • Are clients being engaged the way they want? What are the channels where you are most effective at engaging clients?
  • What are your clients’ key pain points with your offerings today? What aspects of your brand resonate with them the most?

Understanding Current Data Models

  • How do your current models leverage client data?
  • What are the current gaps in collection, distribution and analysis of client data?
  • Is your data architecture robust and flexible enough to adapt with changing strategies?

Evaluating Internal Operating Models 

  • To what extent is client data leveraged in day-to-day operations and cross-functional decision making?
  • What are the current protocols in place for collaboration across client, product and technology functions to align on prioritization?
  • How successful are you at identifying and fixing client pain points in the current state?

Staying Ahead of the Game 

  • What emerging technologies are you investing in?
  • How is your organization incorporating those technologies in digitally enhancing client value?


Written in collaboration with Kim M. Sharan LLC

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