Four Ways to Sell Stakeholders on Digital Transformation


Engaging in online sales without built-in, comprehensive support is a lot like opening a brick-and-mortar store without floor staff. No one’s available to help find a product, explain features or help in choosing between options. It’s an experience that usually requires customers to be independently resourceful, educated and committed beyond reason to a brand, product or service.

Technology can deepen this chasm by frustrating potential customers—or it can build a bridge by surpassing their expectations. And which scenario emerges depends almost entirely on an organization’s desire and ability to design better customer experiences.

Digital transformation of customer service is a rigorous exercise—one thought to be time consuming, expensive and disruptive—and getting stakeholder buy-in can be a challenge. The good news is that many assumptions about this transformation are wrong, and the process is never an either/or proposition. Indeed, the secret to successfully selling a technology-forward organizational upgrades lies in the ability of its evangelist to convince non-believers that such an overhaul will blend offline and digital elements of a business to create a seamless platform that empowers customers to be served how they want to be. And who wouldn’t want that?

Here are four crucial steps to getting stakeholders on board with this—or any— transformational journey:

Clarify The Stakes

That is, make sure everyone understands the risks of not moving forward. Customers are driven away by bad experiences. According to a new PwC report, The Future of CX, a third of U.S. customers will abandon a brand after just one bad interaction, and 59% will take their exit after a small handful of them. Bad interactions can include glitchy sites, poorly trained agents, rigid return policies or a lack of omnichannel service, e.g., no in-store pickup for online purchases. Today, customers value companies that nail speed, convenience and knowledgeable, friendly service—across platforms and contexts.

Marshall Your Facts—In Their Favor

 That is, play to the self-interest of non-believers. Resistance to digital investment is often intuitive, and the best defense against conservative instincts is fact-driven offense that plays to self-interest. Rare is the industry in which there’s a shortage of data demonstrating how companies in your market have increased sales and customer loyalty by embracing digital tools such as SEO, artificial intelligence, chatbots and text/video messaging. And even if you’re proposing that your company be an early adopter, there’s benefit in highlighting more universal customer-experience trends. For example, in its report, PwC notes that a majority of customers are willing to pay up to 16% more for products and services if it comes with great service. Nothing motivates senior management like double-digit margin improvements, which brings us to…

Sell From The Top Down…

That is, court the actual decision makers.  McKinsey reported last year that creating a true customer-service culture requires “clear and ambitious objectives, ear-marked resources and involved sponsorship from C-suite leaders.” All digital transformation, but especially in an area as crucial as customer service, requires cultural change. And cultural change needs to begin—or at least be modeled—at the highest levels of a company.

…But Don’t Oversell Anywhere

That is, be honest and realistic. Technological innovation comes with explicit and implicit guarantees of efficiency, which too often means early converts are those whose thoughts run along the lines of replacing as many humans as possible with AI-driven engagements that promise to maximize. That’s a dangerous, for three reasons: First, because bottom-line-only decision making is as likely to create as many resistance fighters as acolytes. Second, an obsession with costs means too little attention on customers, a.k.a., humans who love digital experiences except when they very much do not. Harvard Business Review (as well as PwC) notes that an overwhelming majority of U.S. consumers would rather talk to a human than use an automated solution. And third, because under promising and over delivering on financial benefits of change builds enthusiasm (and careers); the reverse sparks blame-throwing (and resume writing).

To be sure, executing these four steps is not as simple as writing a list. But by setting the stakes, emphasizing self-interest, courting decision-makers and level-setting expectations you’ll have have a realistic opportunity for successful internal persuasion.