Over the past 12 months, organizations across all verticals have been scrambling to adopt digital tools and solutions in a bid to overcome the constantly changing challenges brought about by the coronavirus.
“The pandemic has been a catalyst that’s opening the doors to digital adoption and transformation,” said Mike Small, CEO – Americas, Sitel Group. “We’ve seen that in responding to this crisis, 2020 has absolutely accelerated digital agendas. They are CEOs’ top priorities.”
The Digital Age is Now
During the course of this year’s EmpowerCX virtual CX event, Small was not the only speaker to note that solutions that may have not even been on the table in 2019 were implemented in months or weeks as businesses have pivoted to align themselves with customers. This is due to the many questions as well as the many physical restrictions caused by the pandemic – which accelerated the move into digital channels.
“The convergence of automation, self-service and [artificial intelligence] AI is going to continue to dominate the industry in the coming years,” stated James Bednar, VP Solutions and Innovation, Sitel Group. “COVID has helped organizations overcome the cusp of the hype and arrive in a digital reality where these tools and technologies now have clear use cases and offer tangible business results.”
Different Organizations, Different Digital Needs
However, according to Josh Rogowsky, VP, Collections at Sitel Group, no two companies are at the same level of digital maturity. So, not every organization has been able to easily integrate new tools, solutions or functionalities into their existing operations.
“Some organizations are still starting out on their digital journey,” Rogowsky said. “That’s why it’s vital to take incremental steps. Simple solutions such as online chat or two-way SMS are great ways of moving carefully into the digital realm.”
One of the initial digital steps all organizations should be taking – no matter how complex their business or the types of interactions they habitually have with their customers – is towards a greater focus on self-service.
Focus on Self-Service
“Self-service is now an essential element of CX but the key to its success is knowing what is the right level,” explained Cris Kuehl, VP, CX Consulting & Analytics, Sitel Group. “There are any number of elements that can be handled via a knowledge base, chat or a chatbot. But there are certain aspects that will still require that human to human element. So it’s crucial that your self-service solution has a clear escalation point to a live agent.”
Just as important is the customer journey. The path from problem to issue resolution has to be clear and it has to feel seamless. Digital tools exist to ease rather than increase customer effort.
“The digital option has to be easier than all of the alternatives,” warned James Bednar, VP, Solutions & Innovation, Sitel Group. “This is especially so for self-service. It has to be easier than the human-assisted alternative.”
Removing effort to increase ease is the essential ingredient in a digital solution that reduces dependence on and traffic into live channels for non-essential interactions – such as for tracking an order status, changing a password, updating details or scheduling appointments.
Transformation Takes Time
However, a digital journey is a marathon, not a sprint and it can take more than just time and money to arrive at a point where a transformation is bearing fruit.
Failing to realize this can lead to the digital equivalent of applying a Band-Aid to existing operations or processes or, worse still, lead to project failure.
“In recent years, I’ve witnessed digital adoption fail to take hold in organizations because the business takes on a very large digital project,” explained Ash Peeran, Solutions Director, at Sitel Group. “They also underestimate the amount of management and understanding needed to oversee the project and they don’t know how to build in and plan for return on investment or cost savings.”
Take a Step-by-Step Approach
And this is a very real issue with digital adoption. If you are adding new channels, such as online chat or a chatbot, how do you put KPIs in place to gauge a channel that has not been used before?
“This is one of the reasons why it’s impossible to take a big bang approach to digital adoption,” added Bednar. “Digitalization is achieved step by step and by deploying solutions that incrementally unlock benefits and return on investment.”
“We’ve seen too many digital dead ends,” said Small of organizations who don’t have the right type of help in their corner. “The deployment of new channels or new technology without first identifying how they’re going to add value – and how they’re going to scale.”
This is why organizations shouldn’t risk going it alone or reaching for an off-the-shelf tool in their pursuit of digitalization. In addition to the imperative to embrace digital, this pandemic has highlighted the need for professional partnerships so organizations can leverage the necessary expertise and understanding to develop and deploy genuine solutions.