Digital Transformation – why it’s no longer optional for businesses

Source: Enterprise Times

Author: Iain Banks

The acceleration of digital is unlike anything we have seen before and is shaping the new normal. Business leaders are saying during the pandemic that they accomplished in days what would have taken them a year.  How did they achieve this?

Businesses have quickly deployed digital strategies to provide their customers with a range of communication methods beyond voice. We’re seeing how digital technologies are being used to completely reimagine the business landscape. Communications technology is at the heart of this transition to a flexible remote working model for employees, and a seamless, digital customer experience for businesses at large.

According to Contact Babel research in June, 51% of contact centres have reported an increase in email use, with 47% reporting increases in webchats and 37% report an increase in social media use.

Zendesk research also highlights that customer support tickets have seen a huge surge in usage on messaging channels such as WhatsApp, which has increased 148% since late February.

Brands without a digital strategy were most affected.  A recent UK study commissioned by Olive on 2,000 consumers and 500 banks reveals that many customers feel let down by their banks’ lack of online services and support since lockdown, with 58% unable to access the help or online banking facilities they need from home, at a time they need them the most.

With high street banks only open for limited hours, the most common complaint since lockdown by a third of customers was not being able to get through online when needed. Thirty per cent criticised their bank for failing to respond to their query in real time.

Olive’s report follows recent news on the temporary failings of the online banking systems of major banks, which left thousands of customers unable to access banking services and customer call centres during lockdown.

In such competitive times, businesses cannot afford to lose precious revenue and offering a seamless digital customer experience is a matter of survival with businesses facing questions such as;

  • How can we fulfil orders quickly?
  • How much of the business process needs human interaction?
  • Are there ways to rework so that the customer experience is contactless?
  • How do we ensure the consumer has a positive customer experience interacting with our brand?

Before any solution is in place here are seven key questions to ask;

Question 1 – When was the last time you had an amazing customer experience?

Go around the boardroom table and ask each director to share a recent customer experience they enjoyed and describe why it was so memorable.

As the late Steve Jobs said; “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” Drawing upon your own experiences is a good first step exercise because it helps identify “universal moments that matter” from the customer perspective and lets you explore what real-world CX success looks like.

Question 2 – What does a successful digital transformation look like for your business?

(For example: seamless omnichannel communications, more user-friendly systems, reduced operational costs, increased revenue, etc.)

List out everyone’s priorities and talk about ways a digital strategy can help meet each objective, for example take pressure off of agents by offering self-serve for some queries.

You may find IT leaders prioritise omnichannel communications where historical data and context is transferred between channels seamlessly and securely. Whereas, the business team may want to find new ways to reduce operating costs, deliver greater ROI, and contribute to a healthier bottom line.

Question 3 – Which channels do you want to encourage your customers to use the most?

Rank the channels you would most want to encourage customers to use when interacting with your brand (i.e. agent voice, webchat, email, mobile/SMS, social media, IVR/AI self-service, branch office/store, etc.).

Break down your current customer base by age in 2020. Write the approximate percentage for each category:

  • Silent Generation: Age 73 – 94,
  • Baby Boomer Generation: Age 54 – 72
  • Gen X: Age 38 – 53,
  • Millennials/Gen Y: Age 22 – 37,
  • iGen / iGen Age 8 – 21.

Research shows channel preferences change based on age. So, before you decide which channels you want to invest more in or drop, it’s important to consider the age breakdown of your customers with channel preferences.   You should then align your strategy accordingly. Otherwise, you may not deliver service the way your customers prefer to connect with you, and they will take their business to a brand which does.

Question 4 – What key metrics do you want to improve during your digital transformation?

Talk through and rank the customer experience metrics that matter most to your company. For example is first call resolution important or that all customers are answered initially and given a range of options for a call back or other contact channels?

Brand metrics can also be linked in, such as an online survey or ability to stay on the call after to complete a short survey on brand awareness, asking what other products and services are customers aware of and how they feel emotionally about the brand, are they likely to shop again etc.

If you don’t have a shared understanding of what success looks like, you won’t know if you’ve achieved it. Aligning on the same key performance indicators before the transition makes it easier for the organisation to focus efforts and realise true success.

Question 5 – How does your company proactively reach out to customers?

Think about what additional information, services, and solutions your customers find helpful. Perhaps it’s sending an SMS message to their mobile phone with a package tracking number or emailing a follow-up message to an insurance question with a link to their policy.

Think about the cloud technologies you will need to establish and maintain such personalised 1:1 communications.  What channels do you use? Are your outreach efforts personalised? What prompts the need to reach out?

Customers want brands to engage with them on their terms. Taking the time to plan out proactive ways to interact with your customers – on topics of interest to them, in their preferred channels, and at times convenient for them. These factors are key to differentiating your brand from competitors.

Question 6 – How do you envisage training employees on your new technology and systems?

Often, leaders hyper-focus on researching and investing in the best technology to bring their digital transformation to life and fail to think through how to train employees on all of it. And as a result, their big investment delivers very little return. When this happens, workers are frustrated because they don’t know how to use the technology to do their jobs effectively.  This then results in customers not experiencing the superior service  the technology was supposed to deliver.

Question 7 – What are your biggest barriers to effective change?

Deciding what to change is one thing, making the change stick is quite another. Look at each business unit and discuss areas where you may need to implement structured change management programs to ensure everyone – from manager to end-user – is onboard from start-to-finish.

Achieving a successful digital transformation is a multi-year, multi-person investment. Often, the process for getting people ready, willing, and able to accept and embrace new ways of working is the biggest challenge of all. Thinking through ways to overcome organisational change barriers before starting on the digital journey will help you complete the entire transformation on time and within budget.

What next?  A digital-first, customer-centric approach.

Reducing customer effort and enabling employees lowers cost to serve, creates happier customers, and develops brand advocates. Digitally transforming your business is a key enabler of moving from effort to effortless. It’s not just about ensuring the best customer experience. A truly effortless experience ripples throughout an entire organisation – across strategy, people, processes, and technology.

An Enterprise Times Article

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