Cristiano Grassini Grimaldi joined leading hearing care provider Amplifon as global digital transformation director last year to help the baby boomers’ business focus more clearly on customer needs.
While a project to reimagine the customer journey in its 8,600 worldwide hearing centres is still in the early concept stages, the company’s website has been completely overhauled to reflect a more empathetic approach to understanding the customer journey. The digital transformation will also see the company use an after-care app to keep customers engaged.
We started our discussion about the company’s transformation by asking Grassini Grimaldi what had been the biggest challenge encountered in using digital tools and channels to put the company’s focus firmly on the customer.
Grassini Grimaldi: I always find the biggest challenge in any digital transformation work is the organisation itself. You need to get an organisation focusing on the customer and not itself, so you need to question assumptions of how a traditional business like Amplifon operates. You need to challenge the thinking and the culture of the company.
The clear learning from getting our people together from 21 countries was that digital channels would allow us to reorient the customer journey. For us, transformation has been about connecting emotionally with our potential customers so we can offer a better experience throughout their journey, from researching online, to visiting us at a store, to interacting with us in-store, and then receiving after-care. It’s about being human-centric.
CMO.com: Tell us about the customer journey. How does it stand out? Clearly, hearing aids are not an impulse buy and involve a lot of research and consideration?
Grassini Grimaldi: The major factor for us is that our customer journey is very long. Typically, someone will be a baby boomer of a senior citizen, and they’ll start to think they have a problem with their hearing, but they don’t want to do anything about it.
They will then typically spend five or six years putting off action until they have a defining moment, such as an important business meeting where they couldn’t hear the other person, and they then decide they have to do something about it. There’s still a stigma about hearing loss and wearing a hearing aid, so people put off taking action.
CMO.com: How does such a long customer journey inform your transformation work?
Grassini Grimaldi: We realised that, with such a long customer journey, our website is incredibly important. Our previous site was very dry and just told people about us.
We had to connect with our customers emotionally. It’s no good just to tell them about us, we need to show that we get the journey they’re starting out on, we understand what they’re going through. We had to look at where the pain points are for someone who is typically denying they have a problem and then, when they are ready to take the next step, wants to understand what their options are.
We spent—I would like to emphasise that we are still working on it—a long time working on our content, getting the tone of voice right and the imagery to be understanding and empathetic as well as talking about our products and service.
CMO: How have you reimagined the customer journey when each person may be at a very different stage, many of your visitors may not be the customer themselves but a concerned relative?
Grassini Grimaldi: Influencers are hugely important for us, just as much as the customers themselves. Typically, an influencer will be carrying out research for a loved one, and so we realised we had to speak compassionately and directly to them as well as the customer. So we split the site into three distinct sections: one part for those wanting information for themselves, and those who want it for someone else, as well as a section for people who already have a hearing aid.
CMO.com: What work have you done on transforming the user journey when they realise they need help and move beyond the denial phase? How will the in-store experience be altered?
Grassini Grimaldi: We’re working on making the in-store experience far more interactive. Instead of a one-way conversation between an audiologist explaining what a person’s choices are if they need a hearing aid, we’re aiming to give people that information up-front through the website so the conversation is two-way.
It’s a big decision for someone to take the next step and book an appointment online, and so they don’t want to be inundated with information when they arrive. We want them to have some background knowledge so they feel better informed and far more involved in the consultation.
CMO.com: We’ve talked about online, what about mobile? What have you learnt there about baby boomers and senior citizens’ use of the channel?
Grassini Grimaldi: I think one of the big mistakes brands often make is that mobile is just for millennials. Our research has shown that baby boomers and senior citizens are committed mobile users too. Our older customers tend to favour tablets because, typically, they’re used to them as a device to communicate with the family, particularly Skyping grandchildren.
We think the mobile version of our website works well for giving people the right information and allowing them to book an appointment.
With the app we’re developing, we’re more focused on after-care because we think people need to have quite a commitment to your brand before they will download your brand on to their smartphone or tablet screen. It’s going to play a major role in helping people stay in touch with us and help them understand and get used to their new hearing device.
CMO.com: That’s for after-care, but has your digital transformation work changed how you approach the start of the customer journey?
Grassini Grimaldi: We’ve been doing a lot of work to convince our people that, as part of our digital transformation effort, we need to rely a lot more on digital channels for awareness. It’s been a challenge because the company has obviously been very successful for a long time with traditional channels.
Part of my job is proving to our people in many different countries that digital can do just about anything a traditional channel can. Search is incredibly important for us, so we need to be putting a lot more work into SEO and PPC as well as some very well-targeted display. When somebody starts their search for hearing information, we have to be there on page one so we can hold their hand and take them forwards through our website, where we can show we understand what they’re going through and we have the expertise to help them.