Digital Acceleration – Foot down, brake off?


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November 22nd will be the fifty fourth anniversary of JFK’s assassination and, for those of us that were alive then; we always seem to remember where we were when we heard the news. Likewise with the first man on the moon, and England winning the World Cup (Yes, really!). So in a new age where we seem to be far less affected or shocked by what once were tumultuous events, will anyone in the business world remember where they were or what they were doing when the phrase “Digital Transformation” finally had its last conference or blog outing?

Before you accuse me of technological heresy or journalistic hyperbole, I have to admit to even using the phrase myself recently, albeit somewhat ironically. And it’s not as if each individual word doesn’t have meaning or value. Consultants have been gorging themselves at the transformation buffet for years and I think we all know that change wouldn’t go amiss at most (all?) businesses). But like many other 21st century words and phrases this one is getting way past its sell- by-date (there’s another one!). It feels as if despite all of our best efforts, many of us just don’t know what it means. Or at least don’t necessarily know what it means for our business.

Digital Doubts – The numbers just don’t add up

While I’ve had these dark thoughts for some time, they were crystalized for me at a conference hosted by Liferay in London recently, where a diverse range of businesses shared their digital post cards from the edge. Some interesting and sometimes alarming statistics emerged, including:

47% of companies haven’t started to embark on digital transformation.

85% of enterprise decision makers feel they have a time-frame of two years (2019) to make
significant inroads on their digital transformation before suffering financially and falling behind their

88% of companies believe that they don’t have the right technology in place to execute a
digital strategy.

50% believe that legacy systems and inflexible technology are major roadblocks to an
effective digital strategy.

In the cause of simplification and drawing on experiences from the world of customer interactions, here’s a scenario that I believe will resonate and provide insight into a common operational nightmare.

My system’s slow today

Despite, and perhaps because of, the hype surrounding digital, and the fading promise of the smooth, seamless, channel shifting journey, there remains for many customers and practitioners a huge disconnect between customer experience ambition and operational reality. The elephant in this room is often the old and creaking legacy technology, defined in many dictionaries as “of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system.” As a customer, the big clue is when a customer service agent says “my system’s slow”, followed by the even more awful, “bear with me.” Contact centre agents are equally perplexed and there is a lot of cutting, pasting, toggling, swearing and leaving, usually in that order. I can truly feel the pain and embarrassment that comes with slow, cumbersome legacy systems, when what the customer really wants is effortless, fast and effective service.

A Painful and Lengthy Journey

The challenge that most businesses face is that information and customer contact data and history reside in different places, in different forms and now across many channels. And is often held captive by these much maligned legacy systems that are expensive to replace or modify. So when customer and colleague frustrations finally surface in the boardroom digital transformation moves swiftly to the top of the agenda. This usually means embarking on the traditional process of requirement gathering, vendor beauty parades, costly RFP development and lengthy and complex procurement exercises, by which time many of the constituents have lost the will to live. And the “project” often dies with them. This, as statistics suggests, is what prevents many businesses from taking the leap into what they believe is the unknown.

There has to be a better way.

Digital Acceleration at the Speed of Right

It would be naïve of me to try to suggest that there is a simple solution, but there is a far less expensive and time consuming one that you should consider. However, it will require that you put your foot down and move with more agility. This is a five step program that starts by understanding the current customer experience (CX), and using that as a benchmark to define and document the strategic, operational and technical challenges that you face. This will be the first milestone to create a customer experience management (CEM) solution that has immediately demonstrable and quantifiable benefits for customers and the business.

1. Discovery – Current State Evaluation & Customer Requirements

  • Understand current CX, operational challenges & technology landscape
  • Develop paper prototypes of ideal advisor desktop screens & customer on-line screens & create wireframes
  • High level review of current technology infrastructure & potential integration points

2. Conceptualisation – Create a high level solution and benefits

  • Define the expected benefits of a fully operational CEM system and confirm requirements that will form the
    basis of a Proof of Concept (POC)
  • Expected value documented, both operational & financial
  • Confirmed list of requirements that will be shared with potential vendors to form basis of POC

3. Exploration – Vendor selection & briefing – Create live demo environment

  • View demos from a number of potential vendors, to be assessed against predetermined criteria to aid the selection of vendor(s) to go to POC
  • Hackathon day with selection of vendors and formalised approach for assessment criteria
  • Desired outcomes of POC confirmed & agreed with of vendor(s) to go to POC vendor, with roles & governance approach documented

4. Proof of concept in a trial live environment

  • Chosen vendor to go into a trial live environment to demonstrate & begin training on system to advisors, team leaders & support
  • Vendor briefing day to finalise scope & system requirement for configuration
  • Demonstrable POC to show capabilities to wider teams
  • Roles, next steps & governance formally agreed

5. Go Live – Option to go in to production & scale

  • Chosen system implemented with a live trial for super-users, further system configuration, roll out of a full system trial alongside an ongoing evaluation
  • Hands on trial for super-users and test access expanded across role based capabilities
  • Briefing sessions for advisors, team leaders & support
  • Full system trial with use of real customer data
  • Evaluation & value documented (financial & operational)

With the right support and prioritization this can be accomplished in 30-45 days.

This approach can be vital for those organizations looking at implementing cloud based model offices and innovation hubs as a way to conduct discovery exercises and fast track strategic, procedural and operational developments. This enables them to trial these concepts in “what if” scenarios that can mirror customer behaviour, colleague actions and determine acceptance of the proposed changes or any obstacles to their introduction. Even if an organization needs to go to tender, they can go with a much clearer idea of requirements, and knowledge of the “art of the possible” that can significantly reduce procurement time frames and costs.

The end result is that these solutions can make life easier, quicker and satisfying for customers, smoother & less time consuming for colleagues and more cost effective for the business.

So why don’t you get started, and put your pedal to the metal. 2019 will be here in no time. Will you still be in business?

Image Source: Pixabay

Gerry Brown
Gerry Brown aka The Customer Lifeguard is on a mission to save the world from bad customer service. Gerry takes a unique approach that helps businesses focus on getting back to basics with four fundamental principles that are vital to underpinning a successful customer experience strategy: Culture, Commitment, Communication and Community. Gerry has spent over 35 years in key management roles in the UK and Canada and has worked with some of the largest companies in Canada, the UK and EMEA, including O2, SONY, Sage, Screwfix, TUI, BSkyB, Bell Canada, TELUS, and CP Hotels.Gerry is a member of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) and the Global Speakers Federation (GSF) and speaks authoritatively and passionately about the practical, proven, customer service strategies that produce lasting, memorable and measurable results.


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