Digitalization has become the key factor in most businesses achieving more by making the most of the tools available to do more in this increasingly digital age.
An all too common mistake made by businesses and organizations, when adopting the transformation to a digital first methodology, is that they consider only the processes of the business and how it operates.Back in 2010 industry experts predicted that digitalization would play an increasingly important role in customer service, satisfaction and retention. In 2018, just 8 years down the line, it’s very clear how customers are using technology to buy, shop and communicate with and about businesses more than they do in person more than ever before. High street shops, banks and many other services have become a digitally lead environment which has had a disastrous effect on many businesses that didn’t plan to thrive by using technology in this blooming digital culture.
The question businesses must ask, as part of their digital transformation planning, is have they adapted enough to meet the customer’s ever growing digital expectations?
Too often digitalization strategies are designed only within the context of the obvious benefits of digitalization, company improvements. e.g. saving costs and streamlining processes via automation and communication. Yes of course this is great business practice, but it leaves out potentially the single most vital component of the business, the customer.
Your digitalization strategy must consider what is most important to the customer and what might be most convenient to them in their journey dealing with you. Something as simple as a customer logging in to update a simple detail like a change of address must be easy. My example required uploading copies of photo ID, in a selection of 3 file formats, none of which I could do on my phone with any degree of ease. I ended up, after wasting my valuable time, calling and adding the additional expense to the company of a person dealing with updating my details.
As a customer I will not be returning. Not because the price wasn’t great, it was. Not because the product was wrong, it was perfect. It was even shipped for free and arrived very promptly a day ahead of the expected delivery. But I now know that if I have an issue it is going to be a battle to get it sorted out and I can forget doing it in a spare moment on a train or as a passenger in a car on my phone because that just doesn’t work. (it probably does but my experience has put me off)
Simple customer frustration kills business.
On the point of frustration, don’t forget what you are up against as the everyday bench marks for customer service and satisfaction. Customers have now been thoroughly spoiled thanks to companies like Apple and Amazon who have spent almost unreal amounts to create a swift, seamless user experience and Business to Business customers are fast expecting the same levels of service. This is not all bad though it is just steering you in the direction of a full circle consideration of all processes when composing your digitalization transformation strategy. Customers expectations due to these pioneers could be seen as demanding from companies in nearly all industries to radically overhaul business processes with a customer first digital focus.
The expectation of digitalization success is becoming more of the customer facing side than the day to day business operations, with their requirement for intuitive interfaces, around-the-clock availability, real-time fulfilment, personalized treatment, global consistency, and zero errors without compensation. It’s more than a superior user experience you must aim for with digitalization. When companies get it right there is an upside, they can also offer more competitive prices because of lower costs, better operational controls, and less risk.
Yes it will start with the design of automating existing processes, we often find clients like to migrate processes one at a time and existing processes like marketing requests and approvals and service desk requests are great to start. But the true digitalization aim will be to react to the data produced and ultimately reinvent the entire business process by cutting the number of steps required, reducing the number of documents involved, avoiding any repetition of data entry, developing automated decision making where ever possible, be that the assignment of a task through to a supplier choice, and dealing with compliance, regulatory and other issues.
This process, as described in another article, can be unsettling and staff can initially be resistant to change. This is not how it will be when you enthuse your operation by including them in the entire evolution of the digitalization. They must be told that to be a success digitalization requires that old wisdom be combined with new technology and skills. They will grow and evolve; their skills will be needed to ensure the ongoing success of the business. Training will be provided as knowledge is key to the success e.g. a logistics manager can help set up route reporting, delivery note automation with valuable input regarding stock management and location or a merchandising manager can learn to program a pricing algorithm. New titles for the exciting new roles such as data scientist may be needed and more. Their input will make them the inhouse experts for these new roles as they will have created the way the tec automates processes to enable them to do more.
Examples of successes of digitalization and the customer experience can be seen all over the place. To give one prime example would be Mortgages. When I first applied for a mortgage I had to take a day off work to visit a broker in his office and complete 3 application forms by hand. The broker would photo copy original proofs of ID and post these off to the lenders (as the tec then being a fax machine was not wholly reliable) and await their response by post. A couple of weeks would pass before I heard anything. I spoke with a friend last week wo told me one bank digitized its whole mortgage application and even the decision making process. He reported it had cut the cost of processing new mortgage applications by 70% and sped up preliminary approval from several days to just one minute!
Let’s come back to what customers want from you and your digitalization. There is a difference in age groups expectational desire as customers, but, the UI (user interface) and the UE (user experience) journey that you design will help satisfy the entire spread from traditional to the swift and single point of contact to resolve expectations of millennials. For example, the difference between someone younger looking for an immediate resolution outside of office hours and an older individual whom would rather discuss with a person or get a personal response is really not much, the outcome is going to be the same but the satisfaction level of how the outcome has been delivered will be quite different. Digitalization enables you to know the subtle difference by having the machines work it out for you and automate what should happen next where ever feasible.
Regardless what you think of it or how far down the digitalization road you are in your business, one thing is for certain, digitalization is transforming the customer experience. If you want to keep ahead in terms great customer service and retention, then a customer facing digitalization strategy needs to be a part of the over all business transformation plan. The one thing that doesn’t and will never change for successful businesses is a strong customer focus.
Even with digitalization, it’s still all about the customer. They do pay the bills after all!