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Big changes can be extraordinarily rewarding, but they’re rarely easy. This certainly holds true for companies investing in digital transformation. 

These companies are incorporating new tools and processes into their business and IT models to provide better experiences to customers, no matter where they are in the customer lifecycle.

Customer expectations have never been higher. They want to engage with companies through mobile devices and across social media, and they expect helpful, personal responses in real time. 

Brands see profound benefits when they're able to satisfy these kinds of customer expectations, such as increasing loyalty and conversions, expanding and better executing efforts to match customers with where they are in the buyer journey, and introducing clear and distinct competitive advantages. 

But implementing these new digital solutions often means the upheaval of traditional practices within a business. And the bigger the company, the steeper the challenge.

When done correctly, making a strategic set of digital adaptations to meet current customer needs is undoubtedly worth the effort, but four stubborn roadblocks stand in the way of too many companies that undertake digital transformations.

1. Your Executive Team – and/or Existing Company Culture – Isn’t Buying It

Before change happens in the world, it must happen within us. 

This isn’t just waxing philosophical. It’s critical that both the C-suite and the company culture as a whole earnestly believe that the digital transformation effort will deliver better customer experiences. If the exec team isn’t convinced that digital transformation is worth their full backing, and if management and staff don’t buy into the changes, expect rocky roads ahead.

Introducing new practices into a company requires a careful deployment plan and clear, energetic cooperation from company leaders. 

Put yourself in the shoes of a customer rep at a business in the process of a digital transformation: You’re accustomed to answering calls and asking customers questions to determine who they are and identify their issues. But now you’re being asked to get that information off a computer screen using a digital experience platform. 

And the job has shifted to include serving customers through social media as well. You recognize that these are more powerful ways of providing service. However, if certain parts of the process make your job harder — and if you don’t see the new processes being refined and governed by leaders with a clear vision — it’s easy to become sour about the makeover. 

A successful digital transformation requires not just getting customers on board, but first winning and maintaining internal support as well.

2. You Lack a Full Understanding of Your Customers

Now put yourself in the shoes of the customer who will interact with the results of your new digital-first efforts. Too often, companies fail to put big changes through their paces and misunderstand what customers want from their digital customer experience. Businesses are especially prone to this if they lack a complete view of their customers across all of their interactions with the brand, and therefore don’t fully understand their customers’ experiences.

With any new experience you offer your customers, it’s important to conduct user testing and to apply all input and analytics available to create a truly user-centric experience that performs well for the customer

If customers aren’t using and enjoying the fruits of your digital transformation, the strategy needs to be redesigned to offer more value and conform more closely to customer expectations and requirements.

3. You Don't Know Who the Boss Is

Unclear ownership of a digital transformation initiative can invite internal conflict, quickly dampening its chances for success. 

When departments act like independent units with control over their slices of the customer information and the company’s digital experience, it creates a recipe for a disjointed end product. 

Your digital transformation requires a unifier, empowered to reorganize company efforts across departments and enable collaboration around singular goals. Too often, efforts will falter between internal company parties that were never put on the same page. Which leads us to …

4. You Didn’t Mind the Gaps

A big, big advantage of digital transformation can and should be freeing customer information that has been locked up in departmental silos. 

In an ideal digital experience, every rep has access to all of the company’s customer information, no matter what platform the customer is using to communicate. This means having a comprehensive view of customer touchpoints and making it possible to present a single, knowledgeable, relationship-building face to the customer, even across multiple interactions and mediums. 

A digital experience platform is the powerful repository that houses this complete collection of customer information, but it’s less effective if siloing leaves gaps in that knowledge. 

This doesn’t only apply to business units. Control of the digital transformation needs to reach beyond the IT department that provides it. New technology needs to be distributed, supported and integrated with legacy processes for easy use and access across the business.

Digital transformation is not unlike a caterpillar pulling all of its resources together, melding its strengths through a deliberative process and emerging with wings. It’s disruptive and a heck of a lot of work, but ultimately leaves companies more equipped. 

Remember, though, that digital transformation takes more than technology. 

It takes the vision and energy to see the correct path forward and follow it through to the end. It requires building a culture where every face of the brand is excited to take advantage of new tools and to do things in new ways. It demands listening to customers, thinking like them and delivering experiences they desire. It needs every corner of the company to work as one, and the leadership to push roadblocks out of the way. 

If you can do that, you can create a company and a level of digital experience well worthy of your customers’ loyalty and business.

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Title image "Struggle" (CC BY 2.0) by  trix0r