Dean Afzal, Global Director, B2B Industry Marketing, SAP, discussed what it means to be a digital company in today's global marketplace in his presentation to Argyle's E-Commerce membership at the 2016 Leadership in E-Commerce Forum on May 24 in Dallas. In his presentation, "Becoming a Digital Company Is No Longer a Luxury or an Option – It Is a Requirement to Stay in Business," Afzal examined how a business can thrive in a global marketplace that demands digital.
According to Afzal, businesses that remain flexible and open to change will be better equipped to respond to the rapidly evolving customer experience framework.
He pointed consumers, companies and industries are changing day after day, too. As such, businesses must consider data-driven decision-making to ensure they are able to implement effective strategies based on customer feedback.
Of course, no business strategy is guaranteed to be a surefire success. And businesses that maintain immense flexibility will be able to course-correct their plans as needed.
"It's not just about implementing a front end system. Because when it's about transforming a company, it's the business processes that sit behind everything, and it's the organizational changes that you need to manage."
A business should strive to get as close to the customer itself. Ideally, using mobile and digital technologies will help a company bridge the gap between itself and its customers, but a business also must be prepared to change at a moment's notice to ensure its customers get the assistance they need at all times.
"Digital disruption is forcing companies to change how they do business," Afzal said.
In addition, Afzal recommended five best practices to ensure a company can stay connected to its customers:
- Deploy a top-down customer-centric vision -- A great customer experience starts at the top of an organization and spreads across the organization as well. Business leaders who prioritize the customer experience can ensure a customer-centric vision remains present at all levels of their organizations.
- Embrace the omni-channel experience -- Enabling omni-channel access to customer billing information, usage patterns and other information empowers customers with added control. Furthermore, Afzal suggested organizations create a "single customer source of truth" that provides product information, marketing offers and educational content consistently to streamline the customer experience across all channels.
- Use data to guide your efforts -- What good is customer experience data if business leaders don't know how to use it properly? Instead, Afzal noted organizations can collect customer experience data and share this information with all departments. By doing so, employees will be able to understand how customers think and feel about a company and work toward making immediate and long-lasting customer experience improvements.
- Explore end-to-end transformation -- The digital consumer is evolving, and companies should tailor their business processes to this consumer. This will require a company to redefine how it operates and the support it provides customers, and ultimately, may enable a company to better connect with its target audience for years to come.
- Use best practices from adjacent industries -- Companies across all industries can learn from one another, particularly when it comes to improving the customer experience. And with an ongoing push to drive customer experience improvements, a company will be able to bolster its interactions with customers both now and in the future.
Afzal noted an ongoing commitment to innovation and change may help a business become an industry leader as well.
"Change requires that you change everything," Afzal said. "Transforming your business is not about a program or set of projects, but it's fundamentally a mindset change."
Also, Afzal pointed out business leaders should be unafraid to make dramatic changes if necessary.
SAP, for example, once distributed white papers and use cases to customers to showcase its products and services. However, Afzal noted the company discovered this content failed to meet consumers' needs.
"Transforming your business is not about a program or set of projects, but it's fundamentally a mindset change."
Comparatively, SAP began providing its customers with "bite-size" pieces of content that highlighted the value of its offerings. This enabled the company to better connect with its clientele and drive revenue growth.
So what can business leaders learn from this example? According to Afzal, it is insufficient to make simple front end changes to a business if they fail to deliver proven results.
Conversely, he recommended taking a broad view of a business to ensure that a company can implement the right changes to its business processes at any time.
"It's not just about implementing a front end system. Because when it's about transforming a company, it's the business processes that sit behind everything, and it's the organizational changes that you need to manage," he said.
A long-lasting commitment to evolution and change, Afzal said, may help a company stay up to date on the latest technologies and ensure its customers receive dependable support day after day.
"As businesses, we can accept, we can adapt and we can advance," Afzal pointed out.
As Global Director of B2B Industry Marketing for the Customer Engagement and Commerce division of SAP, Dean oversees Global B2B Marketing to help prospective customers make informed decisions for their digital transformation journey. Previously, Dean has worked as a management team member at multiple start-ups that produced significant market disruption and multi-million dollar acquisitions – Gaikai (acquired by Sony), and iCrossing (acquired by Hearst). His unique blend of Industry Marketing, Product Management and Business Development serves as foundation for penetration into new markets using customer centric and industry driven strategies. Dean has over 15 years of digital experience working in M&E, Hi-tech, Energy, Consumer Services across B2B and B2C and three years as a Principal Consultant at SGK.