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Digital channels and engagement have accelerated immensely, as companies have had to shift their mode of operations to accommodate the current environment. For example, leading retailers have had to rapidly embrace digital transformation initiatives to replicate the traditional, in-store experience. They have looked to digital solutions to enable customers to shop far more efficiently and effortlessly, with hope of establishing a smooth, end-to-end experience. According to McKinsey, 80 percent of businesses believe that their core business model should now be entirely digital in order to remain economically viable.
In the current landscape, speed is considered a top priority. Customers want products and services in an instant, and the same can now be said for businesses. Within B2B, expectations have never been higher. Companies require solutions fast and expect information even faster. The more successful service providers and customer experience (CX) leaders have reviewed their product offerings with their channel partners, keeping a real-time pulse on customer and business trends. In fact, they have probably had to consider entirely new solutions and completely redesign CX journeys as expectations or circumstances change. The current challenge for companies is to understand which trends will last long term.
Digital transformation: hype cycle vs reality
Digital transformation (DX) has steadily become an everyday buzzword since the start of the pandemic. Companies have relied on service providers to deliver cloud solutions and help them advance in their digital transformation journeys to ensure they can continue to provide their services to valued customers. As revealed in a recent report by Gartner, 69 percent of boards of directors accelerated their digital business initiatives in response to the pandemic, with the sales process and customer experience being some of the key drivers.
The pandemic has been a catalyst and encouraged this ‘hype cycle’ with regards to digital transformation, and it has become difficult for customers to separate the hype from reality. As the pandemic has shown, digital transformation is very much a process, not a race. Whilst COVID-19 has accelerated 71 percent of companies’ digital transformation plans, only 36 percent are considered somewhat successful. Many of these initiatives are rushed.
Most companies simply approach CX transformation projects all wrong, picking a technology and implementing it at speed, with no real idea of how this will improve their customer journey or digital experience. In fact, vendors often provide a ‘unified solution’ as opposed to focusing on and providing real solutions for their customers’ business. When designing a digital transformation or cloud strategy, it is important to consider the initiative from all angles, as well as consider all parties involved. Unifying an experience by establishing a seamless operation model improves the workflow for teams, but leaders need to consider those vital touch points – those key moments of interaction with the customer – and consider how they can perhaps be improved. This will involve reviewing the operational model, removing any pain points, and identifying the needs of the business, establishing real objectives.
Future cloud strategies require ‘hyper personalisation’
With all of this in mind, vendors and channel partners have a responsibility not to push the latest or most fashionable technology solutions onto their customers, but to actively solve the challenges that they are facing. If improving digital experience management and the overall customer journey is the objective, then the service provider should consider themselves as a consultant, working with their customer to devise a cloud solution that is specific to their business – a ‘one size fits all’ approach is no longer viable. Offerings should vary from industry to industry, and customer to customer.
Moving forwards, vendors simply need to be more flexible, and perhaps consider tailoring their product offering to ensure that they are responding to their customers’ ongoing concerns and needs. Naturally, this will require more technical solutions and perhaps even collaborating with another supplier to ensure their problems are indeed solved. Matchmaking a customer’s business with the right technology, regardless of who or what it is, will also be an imperative. Either way, both parties should prioritise a more unified experience for the end user, and ensure all deliverables are met.
How to approach a CX programme
In reality, when designing a new CX programme, companies need to establish clear business objectives from the start, before considering any complex cloud solution or adopting any transformational technology. This will likely involve reviewing their own operational model and reconsidering all the touch points across the business or sales cycle.
Organisations will need to review CX programmes on a regular basis with their chosen service provider – what works on one occasion may not later down the line – and as COVID-19 has proven, customer expectations can change rapidly. By reassessing their operational model, companies will be better prepared for all outcomes.
With regards to digital experience management, offline and online processes will need to be far more consolidated and aligned. As businesses look to build their omnichannel suites and elevate the customer journey to the next level, each touchpoint or process needs to be considered very carefully, with teams prioritising the most important engagements.