I've been taking regular business trips ‎to Madrid for the past decade. I usually fly with British Airways, but my return flight is frequently a code share flight with Iberia. The two airlines share the same owner and frequently sell services together, but my customer experience as a traveller has remained completely disjointed.

A few years ago, this would hardly have crossed my mind. But today, my expectations of good digital customer service are significantly heightened. I want to be able to load my boarding pass onto my phone, check-in my baggage online and receive a text or email alert about potential delays. Like so many other people, I expect information to be conveyed digitally, at speed, and I expect it to be personalised to my needs.

For businesses looking to win in a digital world, there are two steps to success. First, they need to master new digital innovation to create personalised experiences for each and every customer. Second, and perhaps most crucially, they have to ensure these innovations are delivered reliably.

My most recent airline experience nicely exemplifies brands which deliver on the first but not on the second of these steps. A couple of hours before my flight home from Madrid, I was delighted to receive a text about my flight status. Successful integration between British Airways’ and Iberia’s customer service systems meant Iberia was able to contact me on my British Airways-registered phone number to let me know my flight was on time:

“Hola. Willkommen in Madrid. Es ist 14:05 und Ihr Flug IB3166 nach LHR fliegt vom Flugsteig U55. Wir wünschen Ihnen eine gute Reise.”

Even the best of intentions can get lost in translation. Quite literally in this case, as I don’t speak German. Innovation is hard, but delivering it reliably against customer expectations is clearly even harder.

Small, nimble businesses are frequently better at digital innovation, but they often rely on larger partners to unlock the full value of this innovation for customers. Crucially, larger firms are struggling too. They’re hampered by legacy processes and the complexity of fully integrating new offers, struggling to find the resource to deliver digital innovation accurately and reliably as it becomes mainstream.

In an increasingly digital world, it’s clear that ownership or control of innovation does not create a competitive advantage by itself. The real winners are those who can capitalise on the enhanced expectations of customers like me by properly integrating innovation to deliver a consistent, personalised customer experience. Digital innovation will win customers; consistent delivery will capture their loyalty and keep them coming back.

Success over the next decade will not belong to the innovators alone, nor those who rely solely on the loyalty of their current customers. The digital winners of 2015 will be those who properly integrate innovation and deliver it reliably to create customer loyalty.

 

By Colin Tyler, partner across the US, Asia and Europe at OC&C Strategy Consultants. 


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