Digital Technology
Apr 06, 2018

In a digital world, your operations are your brand

Today, it takes more than products and messaging to capture customers.

Today, your brand doesn't thrive – or die – at the hands of your marketing department the way it did during the Mad Men-era. Back then, advertising created brands by selling consumers on aspirations of what a company stood for, as well as the fantasies that could be stoked through its products.

That was perfectly fine for the time. However, much more than advertising goes into shaping brands today – and, increasingly, brands are being built through customer experience (CX). As Ad Age notes, “Consultancies are rising fast by gaining a foothold in marketing departments and wooing chief marketing officers with their vast array of strategic and data analytics solutions to big business problems that traditional advertising can no longer solve alone."

Your CX today includes not only your company's message and product, but also the entirety of your customers' journey when they get in touch with you. The quality of that journey depends on engagement – the full-body-contact sport that every part of the organization plays a role in defining at each customer touchpoint. For instance, in a banking institution, this includes how the bank sends financial statements, how effective the fraud prevention team is in contacting a customer about a suspicious transaction, and extends to even the quality of the parking facility in front of a branch. These things often matter more than some appealing yet ultimately ephemeral advertising statements.

Behind all of these engagement touchpoints is a combination of processes, systems, and people in operations. Your advertising agency and marketing department alone can't shape your brand perception anymore.

What the non-marketing mega brands have in common

The impact of these dynamics on CX is already visible in industries where operational strength overhauls the customer proposition. Amazon showed that it could upend the retail industry with a strong operational muscle, combining e-commerce, data, and logistics for a seamless experience that redefined how people shop. By shopping on Amazon, customers recognize it as a brand with a user-friendly website, comprehensive selection of products, and rapid shipping options. Now, fewer and fewer people want to get into a car and drive to their local store. Famously, founder Jeff Bezos stated that you only need a marketing budget if you can't think big enough. That's the Amazon brand now.

In healthcare, Kaiser Permanente is using big data in unprecedented ways to improve the health outcomes of patients. The organization takes its vast database of patient health records, processes the information using the latest in artificial intelligence, pattern recognition, and predictive analytics, then gives providers access to tools to diagnose and treat patients. This application brands Kaiser Permanente as a leader in big data for healthcare.

The iPhone is the epitome of a product designed around human experiences. For instance, iPhone users enjoy the simple payment system of the App Store, where just the touch of their fingerprint can complete a transaction. Behind the scenes of the fingerprint sensor is a complex process that includes email accounts, credit card processing, and the cloud. These parts comes together to create a seamless experience that Apple is known for.

Meanwhile, the automotive world is on the verge of a seismic shift, where technology is redefining the in-car experience (yes, that's a big thing now). This experience relies on a lot of operational support, including real-time updates of maps in navigation, the Internet of Things (IoT) – which is creating a more visible and accelerated spare parts supply chain – and continuing breakthroughs in mobility-on-demand from players like Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar.

It isn't just about consumer brands.

In the business-to-business (B2B) space, we're seeing a lot more companies emphasize user-minded operations. Insurance agents now interact with carriers and brokers in increasingly sophisticated ways, and demand an appropriate CX. What's more, human resource systems have evolved their experience to make employee engagement more gratifying. Organizations are even developing trading systems with human emotions and experience in mind.

Bridging the CX-to-Operations divide

In this new CX-driven world, customer journeys are becoming organizing principles for the digital transformation of an enterprise, from the front to the back office. In the front end, companies want to deliver easy-to-use web and mobile user interfaces. In the middle office, internal staff supporting customer engagement want systems to make their jobs easier. For instance, in a loan agency, underwriters are looking for ways to simplify risk assessments for an insurance policy or a loan. The focus on a customer's journey is even impacting the back office, where a lot of data sits in systems that were never designed to be used in the front end – think of customer profitability, or even just payment history across products whose data is stored in heterogeneous formats in different systems. Changing these large enterprises operations is a daunting effort in itself, due to the complexity of legacy processes and systems accumulated over decades. The issue is further compounded by the hype around digital technologies and what they can do, which tends to wind up confusing senior executives in charge of the transformation.

Fortunately, a new class of professional services and technologies are emerging. According to analysts at Forrester and Gartner, CX design and analytics will see a significant boost in 2018. Consulting firms that can help companies optimize their CX and user experience (UX) will be in high demand. But so too will the technologies that can help redesign and build business processes across front, middle, and back offices such as an intelligent business process management software (iBPMS), as well as professional services that deliver that transformation. Together, these parts will shape the flow of work that supports the customer experience.

The Mad Men era has come and gone. CX will be what defines brands in the new digital world. The companies that will eclipse their competition are the ones that can operationalize a scalable digital-enabled experience, shaping their customer journey and their brands in the process.

About the author

Gianni Giacomelli

Gianni Giacomelli

Chief Innovation Leader

Gianni serves as Chief Innovation Leader where he drives and sponsors Genpact’s strategic initiatives aimed at sustaining clients’ transformation into digitally-enabled companies. He also co-leads the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) efforts to set up a Collective Intelligence Design Lab.