Hi Nicolas, tell us about yourself and your background. How did you get to the Digital Transformation space?
I am Nicolas Babin. I have over 35 years’ experience all over the world. I have worked and lived in the US, UK, Belgium, Japan, Germany, and France. I have worked in many areas mainly focused on marketing, digital transformation, and leadership for multinationals like Sony, scale-ups, and start-ups.
At my last job at Sony, our president wanted to make the company more unified. We used the slogan One Sony, one Team which meant we wanted to maintain all the various Sony entities while ensuring we could all benefit from each other. The entities involved were Sony Pictures (Columbia TriStar), Sony Music, Sony Computer Entertainment (PlayStation), Sony Electronics, and Sony Ericsson (back in 2005). I was directly involved in ensuring that Sony Electronics in Europe (my entity) was actively promoting this to transform the way Sony worked. Shortly after, I became Director of Mergers and Acquisitions as well as Digital Transformation for Neopost (known now as Quadient).
Since 2017, I have been involved in many digital transformation projects. I have the technical, marketing, leadership background that allows me to conduct a project efficiently.
Online commerce was booming in 2020; how did it affect brands’ digital transformation plan? – What should be the main focus for brands this year?
Companies have known for many years that they need to transform the way they work. They need to educate their staff on change management. Due to the pandemic, we have learned that these changes must happen quickly. The reason why online commerce has been booming and will continue to do so is because people have been in lockdown situations and needed to order online to avoid getting sick.
I have seen a lot of digital transformation projects evolve quickly because customer experiences and customer journeys have been evolving. For example, I have seen bakeries in France deliver their bread after getting orders via their website. This was something we could not have foreseen before Covid. When people have their back to the wall and need to change, they do it. It is either they change, or they die. Many companies have therefore changed and started to deliver solutions rather than boxes. This online commerce evolution (not a revolution because it started to happen before Covid) has definitely been a trigger to accelerate digital transformation plans.
What I tell my customers today is to capitalize on the changes they implemented during the pandemic. They have changed their way of working; they need to evolve their operations as well. This means that their main focus should be on getting a proper change management plan in place as well as a data strategy. This will allow them to benefit from the power of data in all spaces of business (AI, Blockchain, AR,VR….) In a nutshell, it will allow them to focus more on optimizing customer experience. Customers have changed, so companies need to put them at the heart of their strategy.
Nicolas’ checklist for digital transformation
In your POV – What is the ultimate checklist for a good digital transformation strategy?
The ultimate checklist is rather simple:
- Audit the current situation
- Understand where you want to be and when
- Perform a gap analysis (where you are -what is missing to get you to your goal?).
Once these 3 steps have been completed, a change management plan needs to be done with employees and customers at the center of everything.
How much has the CEO’s role changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?
CEOs and all leader’s/manager’s roles have changed because they need to ensure that despite the distance, companies keep their values and DNA. It used to be simpler when people were all together, but as we saw with Sony and the many employees we had worldwide, distance does not have to be a problem.
Technology helps make the world smaller (with tools like WhatsApp, Zoom, and Teams but also with digital platforms). CEOs and all leaders/managers need to ensure their customers and employees optimize their experience. Digital Transformation has been a key factor to ensuring companies thrive despite the pandemic. Companies that had started their transformation before Covid are the ones that have suffered the least from this crisis.
In your POV – What is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
A good customer experience strategy is again based on 3 points:
- Who are your customers?
- How do they approach you (customer journey)?
- Measure their experience with proper metrics and a clear definition of success for customers, employees, and company.
The main point is to ensure your customers are happy and will stay faithful to your brand. As one of my professors used to say, “it is always easier and cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one.”
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
My biggest lesson in 2020 is to take nothing for granted. Also, even if you struggle, there is always a way to change, and once you realize that change is mandatory, then it happens.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events; what was your favorite one?
I liked several, so I do not want to mention one in particular as I was involved in many. The ones I preferred were engaging and disruptive. A lot of webinars, podcasts, and other online events were similar yet boring because they needed to evolve. Personally, the ones that included some gamification elements were the ones I preferred.
It looks like working from home will stay with us for the foreseeable future; how should Marketing Executives gear up to the changing times?
Marketing Executives have started to change to include their customers’ buying expectations. Marketing Executives need to gear up the same way they geared in the early 1990s when the internet started. The world does not stay put; customers’ experiences and journeys evolve too. With all the technology available today, Marketing Executives need to understand what will fit best for their customers and deploy it smartly and efficiently.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Most of my clients ask me for Net Promoter Score or CSAT score and Churn Rate Score, which are probably the most commonly used metrics. I have to say that with the pandemic in mind, I prefer to use KPIs such as Customer Journey Tracking (CJT) or Customer Effort Score (CES). I strongly believe the last 2 KPIs will be more and more used going forward. Metrics need to fit your business and even if you prefer one over the other, ensure you use the one right for you.