Wednesday, 26th June 2019
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Don’t be blinded by technology: Prioritise your customers

Businesses are increasingly in a fight against time to adapt their structures and processes to facilitate on-going digital change. In fact, leading analyst firm Forrester predicts digital technology will drive 47% of business revenue by 2020. By Gareth Stephens, CEO of UK and Middle East, 4C.

Yet while making these changes is important to meet the growing expectations of today’s customers, implementing digital transformation can be a daunting process. Businesses must ensure they are not blinded by the sheen of new tools, but maintain a strong focus on providing truly engaging experiences.

The question is: how can this be achieved?

Customer-centric change

Companies that successfully manage digital transformation are not defined by their ownership of the latest technology, but the ability to direct that technology towards customer needs. There are numerous examples of technological innovations with purported business applications that have seized the headlines, but not necessarily lived up to their promise. For instance, in 2013 Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos claimed the company would be making deliveries using drones within four to five years, but at the beginning of 2019 this aerial delivery scheme is still yet to materialise; largely due to safety and logistical concerns about the use of drones around crowds of people, especially in cities.

Other less-publicised efforts have made better progress with last mile delivery issues. Announced in January 2019, Amazon’s Key for Garage, looks more promising: allowing packages to arrive safely and securely while customers are out of the house with help from a connected garage hub. Firms should resist bringing in smart tech for the sake of seeming advanced; problems must be accurately diagnosed before effective treatment can be applied, which is the strength of Amazon’s Key for Garage.

For instance, a common complaint among consumers is being stuck on service phone lines for prolonged periods of time before issues are addressed. In recognition of this conundrum, a company called Digital Genius is on a mission to offer a solution through the application of AI that automates the customer call experience, and frees up time for staff to handle more complex cases. This is a great example of how technological evolution can be implemented to the benefit of consumers; utilising cutting-edge customer-centric tools to improve service quality while dramatically reducing waiting times.

A customer is for life

The modern economy has moved on from slick salesmen shifting huge quantities of products and then sitting back on their commissions. Consumers expect an ongoing relationship with businesses that sees their unique needs persistently addressed before they voice them. As a result, goalposts have shifted: success is less about a quick sell, and more about long-term partnerships. Customer service is the priority, which means continuously relevant and personalised communications.

In the digital age, even industries where product and end-user were once inherently separate are being re-oriented around customer relationships. Take automotive manufacturing; increasingly the purchase of a car is not simply a goods transfer, but also a service purchase that involves additional features and support.

Indeed, cars are moving away from the actual experience of driving: now functioning as both computers and a means of transport, they are only set to become smarter thanks to internet of things (IoT) integration. By 2040, Fortune has projected that 95% of new vehicles sold will be fully autonomous; fuelling a rise in the use of cars as mobile offices for commuters. And in the context of this shift, manufacturers must be in constant communication with customers to gauge changes in behaviour, and make relevant updates in response. Manufacturers will have to approach their products more like Steve Jobs than Henry Ford.

Change needs to be data-driven

In 2017, The Economist made waves when it claimed data is the new oil because of its immense value to businesses. Although the publication was referring specifically to the power accrued by tech giants such as Google and Amazon, the high value of data holds true for all businesses. And the important difference between oil and data is the infinite nature of the latter resource; analyst firm, IDC, has estimated that global data volumes will grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes in 2025; an impressive 60% increase in the space of seven years.

Yet the coming flood of data compounds an already sizeable problem for businesses: too much of a good thing. Two-thirds of businesses currently do not have the capability to analyse the data they are gathering about their customers, which means signing away the advantages conferred by this intensely valuable resource.

By adopting machine learning techniques, businesses can sift through their data at a remarkable rate, before analysing and organising it with business intelligence tools. This wide-ranging store of information can then be harnessed to glean important insights into how customers behave, and power tailored services catering to that behaviour.

Giving digital transformation direction

Digital transformation is primarily about adapting to developing customer habits and demands; technology is just the vehicle for achieving this. Consequently, the first essential step for businesses is finding out what customers need by conducting an analysis of readily available data. The value of any changes made based on these insights should continue to be viewed through the lens of the end user, which will help businesses reach the ultimate goal of creating customer-focused companies, not simply companies with the most advanced technology.

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