How Data-Driven Customer Experience Strategies Accelerate Digital Transformation


The cloud has forever changed the world around us, making innovation more accessible and businesses more scalable. B2B technology buyers now expect the same exceptional customer experiences at work that they receive from consumer brands at home. They want the ease and simplicity of streaming the latest movie on Netflix or one-click ordering on Amazon with same-day delivery options. Customer experience has become essential for B2B companies. For businesses that need the innovation and scalability of the modern cloud experience, understanding customer experience is critical.

Given these expectations, and spurred by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, net global spending on digital transformation is expected to exceed U.S. $2 trillion in 2022 with 79% of businesses reporting increased budgets for the effort, according to market research firm International Data Corporation.

Companies today are spending on digital transformation to meet this new market demand with a tighter focus on customer experience, a concept that involves everything from the level of service provided to customers when they engage with sales and marketing to the experience of using and accessing a company’s products and services.

Market research indicates that customers are willing to spend more on companies that provide a streamlined, simplistic customer experience. As companies digitally transform to meet this new reality, they should build their strategy on a foundation that leverages data to build deeper connections and relationships with their customers.

An effective strategy should be guided by a north star, a robust data governance plan, a strong data framework and an ability to adapt to data and the insights gleaned from customer feedback and product telemetry on how customers use their products and services.

Establishing a guiding principle

We know customers want a simple, cloud-like experience wherever they use products and services – in the cloud, on premises or in a hybrid cloud environment.  The first step in developing a data-driven customer experience strategy is to define a guiding principle or north star.  For many, it’s centered on digital transformation. Share the north star across the company to get key business partners aligned with the goal. 

With this north star defined, as a team, collectively ask: “What data is going to help us meet the need for this improved cloud-like customer experience that our customers want?”

The key is to identify this early on and work backwards from there. This will help identify specific data elements that are needed to provide the experience customers expect when interacting with the company or using products and services.

Defining a data governance model

Data is the fuel for digital transformation, and customer data is what companies can and should leverage to provide the improved customer experience behind their investment in digital transformation. How a company handles customer data is also a part of the customer experience. Market research shows that customers will trust and share data with companies that have a strong data governance policy.

Such data governance policies should include clear rules on how companies handle, protect, and share customer data and who within the company is responsible for various types of customer data. These policies build trust, and customers will be more likely to share information and feedback with companies they trust in exchange for an improved customer experience.

To understand customers’ journeys, it’s important to build relationships based on integrity and trust and how you handle data is key to this. For example, collecting customer data through conversations, feedback, and surveys as well as product use. Anonymizing the customer data for analysis to protect individual privacy and to be able to use the data more easily across an organization is an important step in building a data governance model. Establish clear guidelines on who owns what data within the company and who is accountable for how the data is handled.

Creating a data framework

A robust data framework follows from a strong data governance policy. All companies, large and small, can access and collect data from several sources to glean insights on customer experience. Some of these sources may reside outside the control of the employees directly responsible for customer experience but offer vital input to providing an improved customer experience. 

As an example, a robust data framework allows companies to share insights from data analysis across engineering, marketing, sales and services teams to improve customer experience. Such insights can include how customers use a company’s products, what works and what doesn’t. These data points can also inform product redesigns to quickly resolve friction points.

Evaluating customer feedback

Most companies measure the success of their customer experience program with a single metric, the Net Promoter Score, or NPS, which measures customers’ loyalty to a company. But customer experience extends far beyond NPS. A robust strategy for digital transformation built on a foundation of data-driven customer experience is to constantly listen to all customer feedback and consider that feedback to drive further customer experience improvements.

An ear for customer feedback allows companies to build a detailed, real-time picture of customer experience. These insights can drive continuous improvements to how companies develop, market, sell and support products and services, while improving the customer experience across the entire customer journey.

Customer experience is now table stakes for B2B companies. Companies can and should invest in digital transformation to provide the data-driven customer experience all customers expect in today’s market.

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As NetApp's Head of Customer Experience (CX) and Digital Go-to-Market Strategy, Biren Fondekar spearheads the ongoing transformation of NetApp's CX and the digitization of traditional operations by generating new business opportunities, revenue streams and customer services through the adoption of new digital technologies, including NetApp's Active IQ, which has become the cornerstone of the company's digital services roadmap. In addition, Biren oversees the company's productivity improvements, which have resulted in significant savings in operating costs and a positive response from customers and partners. He also currently leads several ongoing growth and business simplification initiatives that continue to help NetApp win new customers and boost its industry leadership in reimagining customer experiences.