Digital Transformation Focused on the Customer

Digital tools such as online ordering, mobile apps, loyalty programs, and payment solutions allow restaurants to make bigger promises to their customers than they have in the past—but with these bigger promises comes a bigger responsibility to create and deliver the experiences your customers truly want and need. These bigger responsibilities demand digital transformation.

When done right, digital transformation is like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly: a true metamorphosis, and much more complex than what you can see from an external perspective.

While what you may have observed in your primary school science class is a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly in a few weeks, the process of this transformation happens inside the cocoon, behind the scenes. Within the cocoon, a caterpillar completely transforms its makeup as an organism and what it’s capable of doing, so that when it comes out of the cocoon, it is enabled to fly.

We define digital transformation as the intentional calibration of people, processes, technology, and measurements in order to drive business results AND reimagine what the customer experience can be.

  • Your People: Your internal teams and external partners need to be aligned, both culturally and tactically, to change the way you do business for the benefit of the customer.

  • Your Processes: Your internal systems, structures, and strategies on the back end impact every part of your user experience on the front end, and must be recalibrated to exceed customer expectations.

  • Your Technology: Your websites, mobile applications, back end systems, integrations, and online solutions enable your connection to your customer, and must be evaluated with a mind to how the customer expects to connect with your brand.

  • Your Measurements: Your numbers, KPIs, and data points that you use to define success are the denominator of your people, processes, and technology—you must align your measurements to the “why” of your transformation: organizational improvement that benefits the customer.

Without making intentional updates to all four of these factors, cohesively, digital transformation initiatives fall short for the customer. If a restaurant invests in online ordering for the first time, they will likely see revenue increases initially. But without this technology being aligned with their people and processes, it will not enable the experience their customers want, and the revenue will eventually suffer as a result.

Consider the customer journey map: if a customer places an order online for pick up, you can assume that they expect their food to be ready quickly and for it to be fresh when they arrive. An online ordering system that is not aligned with employee training and backend order routing will not be able to deliver on that expectation, and the customer will lose trust in your business and be much less likely to return.

Your UX-forward design of a new platform is what Forbes and TechCrunch will write about, but the backend, operational system and employees that you align with this technology are what will make this platform truly function the way your customers want it to.

Why Transform?

Why does a caterpillar become a butterfly? The caterpillar is born and predetermined by its nature to eventually become a butterfly. This is where your organization and the caterpillar are different, because your company doesn’t have a predetermined direction of maturity. What kind of company you become is more like the maturation of humans: all children get older and turn into adults, but what kind of adults we turn into is the product of our environment and the choices we make as we experience and respond to the events of our lives. Similarly, companies must be aware of the environments in which they operate and then choose how to respond to events and experiences in their marketplace.

Since 2014, digital ordering and delivery has grown 300% faster than dine-in traffic. According to a report from Toast, 73% of diners agree that digital restaurant technology improves their customer experience. As customers indicate more and more that they want digital touchpoints with restaurants, it is up to restaurant leaders to respond with solutions that will create these experiences for the customer.

On August 19, 2019, 181 top CEOs in the Business Roundtable released a statement in agreement that the success of companies is not just determined by profit—that beyond making a profit for its shareholders, a company must create value for its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, and the community, in order to mature into a truly successful organization. Incremental organizational change that solely drives profit will not lead to success without aligning stakeholders to transform the organization in a way that creates value for the customer.

Barriers to Transformation

Part of the reason that 84% of digital transformation initiatives fail is because the initiative does not transform the business; because it gets siloed to either the marketing or the IT department and does not extend to key stakeholders at the organization. We’ve established that for transformation to occur, it must be intentional and this requires buy in from every facet of leadership in your organization. If transformation is the goal, we must first hold leaders accountable for setting the environment where transformation can happen. The caterpillar is a master leader—it sets the intention, finds a safe space, creates the cover and support in a cocoon, and gives itself time to transform.

But much like the caterpillar, your organization exists in an environment that can be unpredictable—there will likely be roadblocks and challenges, just like a cocoon may be threatened by storms, wind, and predators. The key to withstanding these challenges is to keep your vision for transformation at the forefront, socializing and reiterating it to ensure that how your organization overcomes these challenges measures up against the vision.

Once aligned with your vision for transformation and given time, accountability, and support to transform, your people, technology, and processes will be enabled to create a paradigm shift that will truly make a positive impact on the customer experience.

The First Step

The first step in a digital transformation initiative that is truly transformative is determining where you are today, where you want to go tomorrow, and, most critically, what is the value you will create for your customer when you get from here to there. Remember, your direction is not predetermined. You need leadership to set the vision, and sometimes you need to enlist outside experts to help you see what is possible and overcome challenges.