Sudhir Singh Dungarpur
I recently bought a product online. As is common these days, I received an email, a text on my phone and a notification on my app from the retailer on when to expect it. On the day of the delivery, at 9.30 pm, when I still hadn’t received my package, I decided to check in with the retailer. I tried calling but reached a recorded phone message and pinging the chatbot was equally ineffective as that too could tell me whether the package would arrive that night. Frankly, at this late hour, all I wanted was to be able to pick up the phone and speak to a real person who would have been able to empathise and solve my problem. Sounds familiar?
Technology is amazing in that it opens up infinite possibilities of what could be. It’s like living in a fantastic world created by the minds of Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and HG Wells — where anything is possible. It’s incredible and unbelievably exciting! No wonder companies are falling over themselves to adopt these new-age technologies in the hope of staying ahead of the game and projecting a “futuristic” image.
While there’s no doubt that technology can help make life easier and improve efficiencies, the mistake we often make is that we forget who our target customer is. It becomes all about the technology and nothing else. Companies lose sight of the fact that they’re not selling products and services to AI or robots but to actual people with real emotions and opinions of their own. This is where they lose the personal connection with their end customers.
That doesn’t mean that we ignore the role of technology — on the contrary, technology is critical in delivering the next level of customer experiences. It is, however, important to keep the customer at the centre of it. In a rush to outdo one another in the digital game, most companies spend millions on adopting a new technology and are then left wondering how they can actually monetise their investments.
Instead, they need to first figure out what it is that their customers really want and then adopt the right kind of technology to deliver it. It is important to know how their customers and employees would interact with the technology at each step to create a unique experience. For instance, in my situation above, when all else failed, I should have been given the option of picking up the phone and talk to a real person. The retailer should have used technology only to minimise human interaction, not completely replace it. But the key question here is, how do you strike the right balance?
Before embarking on a digital transformation journey — however small or large — here are a few important questions a company needs to ask itself:
“What problems are we hoping to solve?”
“Who does it affect?”
“Will the technology improve the user experience?”
“How would it impact business — will it help innovate or improve productivity?”
This is critical to chart the course for digital transformation. Once this is done, companies can use emerging technologies, like analytics, AI and such, to gather data and present it in ways that connect with customers. The only way to achieve this kind of business nirvana is to break the silos within the organisation and bring together business, customer experience and technology. In the effective blending of these ingredients lies the answer for solving customers’ articulated or unarticulated needs and expectations.
So how does one achieve this seemingly insurmountable task of bringing various parts of the organisation together? The simplest way is to create physical spaces — experience/innovation centres — that spark the imagination and promote collaboration and co-creation within various departments. These spaces should be a breeding ground for fresh ideas. They must foster innovation, disrupting the way we work and delivering quality experiences to our customers. They need to be set up for incubation, rapid prototyping and testing — all of which are hallmarks of a truly digital organisation.
The days of following best practices and keeping pace with market trends are over. It’s time for companies to adopt a non-linear way of thinking and working, gather insights and co-create value for their customers — something that they own, something that cannot be replicated. Because the best way to stay ahead of the future is to create it!