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Tech Check

Which digital challenges will your business need to address over the next 12 months?

I’m probably taking a risk by opening with such a well-worn cliché but 2020 really was a very difficult year for all of us.

However, amongst all the challenges, technology has played a hugely positive role in defining the way all of our businesses have been able to operate.

More specifically technology has been instrumental in improving the way we interact with our customers, almost all of whom now primarily interact digitally with their preferred suppliers.

As a result our use of new technology mushroomed during 2020 and technology did well to keep developing ahead of demand.  This is a trend that is expected to continue at an ever faster pace during 2021 so we thought it may be useful to summarise some of the key trends you should be aware of:

1. Offering a fully digital-ready experience 

Almost three quarters of consumers consult more than one chancel before they make a purchasing decision and just as many want to interact with more than one department in the business they are buying from.  Customers also want to be able to engage with that provider in the way they want whenever they want to.

This means that you have to continue to maximise the digital side of your customer service and customer experience.  These tips may help as you start to consider how best to do this:

Start with your customers in mind: It’s easy to get carried away with so much tech available but make sure what you are planning to do is what your customers want.  Support your decisions with data and make sure this data includes a real time view of your customers’ opinions.

Personalise your customer experience: The more personalised your interactions are, the more loyalty you will engender. 

Embrace change: It is hard to embrace new technology if you don’t believe in what it can do.  If you can create internal culture that understands the part technology will play in what you are trying to do, the chances of it succeeding will be much higher.

Eliminate silos: As customers want to interact with multiple parts of your business, you need to make sure your processes and interfaces allow this to happen.

Offer the smoothest customer journey: How can you make it easier for customers to jump between different channels, different platforms, different departments and different product and service groups?  How easy is it to move from your speaking to someone online to actually speaking to someone?  Maintaining a human element is essential.  However much people love their devices, eventually they will want to speak to someone so that needs to be as easy as possible.

Align your processes: If there are marked differences between the ways your various channels look or operate, these need to be standardised to provide a consistent and seamless experience. 

Assign KPIs to every change you make: There is no point in making changes if you can’t measure the impact.  Make sure you can track the outcomes your actions have achieved so you can make more informed decisions as to what needs to be refined, enhanced or even revamped moving forward.

2. Making innovation a joint responsibility

Whereas once innovation was seen as the preserve of the IT department, the responsibility now needs to be shared with the different parts of your business.

Different units will have a different understanding of what customers want and how they want it delivered so the more disciplines that are involved, the more likely it will be that you come up with the very best ideas.

3. Composable enterprises

According to Wikipedia a composable enterprise is “an approach to design that embraces the API (application programming interface) economy and delivers business functions using a modular approach”.

But what does this means in English?

It means businesses need to start viewing themselves as a series of specialist micro-services rather than the provider of one product or service.  Once you’ve broken yourself down in this way you can re-think and rebuild the way you join up the various parts and take those new composites to market.

The results will also let you breathe new life into the way you partner with other entities to make your customers’ lives easier and improve their overall experience.

A very simple example of this is the recipe websites that allow you to order all your ingredients and utensils for almost immediate delivery without even leaving the house.

This adds an incredible level of value for both the user and the partners and is a model we think is going to gain huge traction across all sectors during 2021.

4. A greater emphasis on micro-services

Following on from the previous point, it is predicted that more and more businesses will start to view and promote themselves as a series of micro-services.  This will require some adaptation.

According to experts operating in this way allows businesses to adapt more quickly and more effectively to the demands of their customers and suppliers by allowing them to pick and package exactly what they want.

5. Increased automation

Automation is probably at the top of most people’s lists when they’re asked how to innovate.

Automation increases efficiencies (and profitability) by freeing up your resources to tackle more business critical issues and according to McKinsey almost 60% of organisations are currently involved in at least trialling new methods of process automation somewhere in the business.

However while pretty much everyone can see the enormous benefits offered by automation, there are a number of preconceptions that often dissuade senior executives from automating:

  • Automation requires complex programming which will be expensive and time-consuming
  • Only techies can be involved which either means tying your IT people up to the detriment of the rest of the business or outsourcing which is again expensive
  • Integrating newly automated processes with your existing infrastructure is difficult
  • If automation is going to work, everything needs to be done at once which will disrupt the business

In our experience all of these objections can be tackled by an experienced project management team who understand how to break a project down into manageable and implementable steps.

6. Improve your customers’ digital security

Customers will always have more loyalty to businesses that have a strong security record.  In comparison, the companies who have suffered headline grabbing cyber-attacks during the past couple of years have also suffered an inevitable decline in their customer base as a result.

It is no surprise therefore that many businesses have said digital security will be one of their largest investments in 2021.

7. Closing the ‘data divide’

According to a recent study by integration specialists MuleSoft, 72% of customers will consider changing a service provider if they receive a “disconnected experience”.  When you compare this to the fact the study also identified that only 28% of a company’s different applications are likely to be integrated, you can see where the so called ‘data divide’ has appeared.

If they are going to protect their customer bases and, by extension, their revenues, businesses will have to address the data divide by finding the most effective ways to integrate and unify the data held across the business to create a single view of their customers.

8. Making even greater use of data analytics

Many organisations are now investing more than ever before in analysing the data they are collecting so they know what they need to do to improve their customer experience.

However, the value of the results is always going to be directly linked to the quality of the data being analysed and international research giants Gartner estimate companies lose over $15 million per year by basing decision on poor data.

While the main criteria to use to ensure the quality of your data remain accuracy, relevancy, completeness, timeliness and consistency the following more practical tips may also be helpful:

  • Introduce more rigorous controls for your incoming data
  • Avoid duplicate data
  • Add greater traceability into your data pipelines
  • Maintain quality control by assigning the task to a dedicated team