Digitization is a profound transformation. When a global bank reinvented its onboarding process for commercial clients, the results included dramatically reduced costs, a market-beating customer experience—and an exhausted organization wondering how ambitious it should be. Could it repeat what it just went through for the rest of its business? How could it possibly do more than one of these at the same time? Would it take years?

Companies that are achieving digitization at scale have found a better way. They have developed a distinct structure that enables them to digitize their most important customer experiences at scale and at speed—in a consistent way, with consistent resources, to produce consistent results. In doing so they transform much of the rest of their organizations, from product and process design through to technology and culture, becoming truly digital businesses.

Crucially, these companies not only understand the digital stakes confronting them—they also act on that knowledge. Think of how consumers behave in the digital world. Most of us will try a new app once, or maybe twice, and if we can’t get it to work, we abandon it. That behavior leaves companies only one or two chances for their digital offerings to make a good impression and win adoption from their customers.

Yet today’s customers do not want digital versions of the same manual, bureaucratic processes they faced yesterday. They search, download, pay, and listen to music all in one go, so why should their electrical service or car insurance still make them run a gantlet of separate steps for searching, price quotation, purchasing, invoicing, delivery, payment, and activation?

Companies that want to win at digital adoption are therefore recognizing that they must reimagine and digitize entire “customer journeys.”

Ask any reasonably complex, large organization how many journeys its customers might experience and the list will quickly grow to the dozens, if not the hundreds. Revamping all of them would be daunting. But in our experience, it’s also unnecessary. Typically, a small number of core customer journeys cover about 80 percent of the customer interaction and 50 percent of the workforce. Digitizing that subset will digitize much of the business with many fewer resources.

The total number of these “core journeys” will naturally vary by company, but a few patterns hold among major industries. For banks, the core usually consists of between 10 and 20 journeys, with account opening and onboarding (across products); payments; mortgages; service requests (such as the ever-popular lost PIN codes); and credit-card issuance as especially prominent. Life and retirement players look similar to banks, with 10 to 20 core journeys across account opening or enrollment, onboarding, servicing, and guidance. The number is slightly smaller for telecommunications companies, where mobile postpaid sales, customer-care requests (such as one-off data usage adjustments), fixed-line provisioning, network repair and maintenance, and prepaid top-ups rank highly in a core of 8 to 15 journeys. For electrical utilities, the number usually drops to fewer than 10, with sign-up, payment, meter reading, and change of address taking the lead.

Streamlined, simplified journeys show impressive results quickly—usually on several fronts at once. Faster mobile-phone sign-ups raised a telecommunications company’s customer satisfaction by 20 percent and reduced costs by 30 percent. For a European lender, time for account opening and loan approval fell from days to minutes, customer-engagement opportunities rose from once a month to three or four times a week, and IT became far more agile, delivering new releases in a month instead of a year.

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