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Why brands need to move from being customer-literate to customer fluency

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Why brands need to move from being customer-literate to customer fluency

customer fluent

I hate thinking the worst of people, I really do.

Try as I might, however, I keep imagining a Zoom call in which an executive for a large technology firm says something along the lines of, “Well, of course this pandemic is a tragedy, but it’s also a great opportunity for us.”

Now that we’ve been forced to use digital channels for all kinds of activities, for example, vendors who are already benefiting from increased usage want to make sure they maximize this moment as a proof point in the marketing they’ve been doing for so long.

In many of the interviews I’ve done recently, there’s been an underlying theme of, “Well, COVID-19 has been kind of good for us.”

All this might have coloured my perception when I looked at a new report from consulting firm Accenture this morning, which suggests companies are still not moving quickly enough on digital transformation, despite what’s been going on.

In “Honing Your Digital Edge,” Accenture suggests that it’s not so much a matter of increasing investments in technology as improving the way in which the workforce is trained and coached in using them. It called this “digital fluency,” which it defined as follows:

If someone is literate in a language, they will understand the basic tools of speech such as reading and speaking. However, if someone is fluent in a language, they will be able to create something new with the tools, such as craft a poem or engage in robust conversation. Being digitally fluent is no different. Digital fluency allows people to build on technological foundations and not just work alongside them, but also unleash newfound creativity and ways of working.

Accenture’s survey of more than 5,000 workers showed that digital fluency has tangible benefits. It said 68 per cent of digitally fluent companies lead their peers in customer satisfaction.

As I looked through the data, though, I couldn’t help wondering whether the advice from Accenture would be more actionable if we thought in terms of customer fluency instead.

Say that again?

Many firms today, I suspect, are customer literate, in that they can see the data about customer journeys and the quality of their experiences at a high level.

Customer fluency would be different. You would barely need to look back at your personas, if ever. Your survey research would largely be about confirming what you already know.

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Adopting new digital tools would also be less onerous for customer fluent firms, because they would immediately see how the technologies could be harnessed to address a customer pain point, versus what it means for their internal operations.

CX professionals certainly need to ensure they have digital fluency, but they also have a role in cultivating customer fluency across their organizations.

Accenture used four archetypes to talk about the kinds of workers that have unique needs, tenures and comfort levels with digital technologies. This included the “Remote Collaborator,” the “Disciplined Achiever,” the “Adaptive Team Player” and, best of all, the “Relentless Innovator.”

I imagine the same archetypes are similar in their degree of customer fluency, and the need for the right kind of leadership to guide them and develop their skills.

Languages constantly evolve, in ways that are more difficult to perceive than the introduction of new technologies. The question is whether digital fluency actually equals customer fluency, or whether mastery of the tools will still leave gaps in how brands serve their community. This is a conversation CX leaders have to start having, and they’d better be able to understand what they hear.

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