According to Sky News, climate change has thankfully overtaken ‘pandemics’ as the greatest worry for global experts. It seems that the recent COP26 Summit has amplified expert’s concerns about securing the future of our planet. Now, more than ever, is the time for businesses to take a stand and play a key role in reducing emissions and developing solutions that address the climate crisis. In a recent survey, 70% of participants agreed that climate change is a business issue which needs to be actioned and half of participants intended to do something over the next 12 months to reduce emissions.
While on the face of it, this may seem an overwhelming ask, there are many ways that businesses can adapt current processes and proactively support the environmental agenda. Of course, any change or transformation can be slow and daunting to implement, especially if the benefits to the organisation are not immediately clear. However, using cloud services, digital channels and automation technologies can not only reduce carbon emissions but also improve overall customer experience and positively impact the bottom line. It's a win-win situation and here’s how…
Over the last 10 years, there has been a profound change in the tools and software platforms that are available to businesses to enable them to digitally engage with their customers. This has become even more relevant since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A report from Google and Forrester Consulting found that 68% of people are more likely to buy from a business that offers convenient communications and highlights the role of asynchronous chat. Customers now prefer to communicate with businesses via the channel of their choice at a time that’s convenient for them. Delivering this better customer experience through digital channels also results in businesses often reducing their carbon impact, for example, through limiting customer travel, optimisation of business processes and reducing waste.
However, as the number of applications available to customers continues to increase, the number of databases and systems involved in storing and organising data will obviously continue to grow proportionally, this can increase carbon emissions. By using solutions like CPaaS, data and processing is in the cloud on an “as needed” basis and therefore this can be more efficient than having on-premises solutions with their own hardware
These are not futuristic hopes and dreams - the technology and innovation to make these changes exist now. Case in point - here are four ways in which we are seeing customers reduce their carbon impact:
1. Replace paper and post with digital channels
Email has taken over paper-based communications across most organisations; however, replacing paper with digital channels still has some way to go in industries that are heavily regulated or must be compliant with financial standards, as well as those still reliant on legacy systems and software. Yet, it is becoming abundantly clear that a digital-first approach is critical, and organisations will need to assess all digital channels in order to be able to interact effectively with their customers in today’s modern world.
For example, we have worked with NHS trusts for many years to send digital appointment letters – replacing over 5 million postal letters with digital communication, which has led to more than 60% of patients now opting to receive communication from their trust digitally. United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust started using digital patient letters and not only reduced their paper and administrative waste, but also saw their missed appointment rate drop from 5.8 to 4.1% in just five months. A move from paper-based communication to digital channels can truly benefit the business, the customer and the environment at the same time.
2. Optimise communications and scheduling to reduce unnecessary travel for field workers
Many industry sectors employ field workers who must travel in order to do their jobs. For example, gas engineers, couriers and builders all have to conduct home visits. Therefore, utility providers, logistics companies, retailers and construction companies all need to communicate with their customers around times when they will be at home. By automating these customer interactions using a CPaaS platform, businesses can allow customers to choose a slot that is convenient and easy for them, while also reminding customers when it is close to their scheduled time and then providing an option to reschedule if that time is no longer convenient. This is a seamless, automated process that uses digital channels to reach consumers where they are, where they prefer to be, and where they communicate regularly, e.g., WhatsApp and SMS. This increases the chance of the customer being at home and reduces the amount of wasted trips by field workers, resulting in fewer carbon emissions as well as greater customer satisfaction.
3. Use video to reduce transportation and physical resources
The use of video has increased exponentially in the last few years and has become even more prevalent following the outbreak of the pandemic, while forecasts continue to increase further over the next 5 years. Popular video use cases include video consultations in healthcare, remote customer assistance and virtual engineer support. Using video as a communications channel reduces the number of physical interactions that need to happen while also increasing the productivity of an organisation.
For example, our analysis illustrated that the benefits of a doctor hosting a virtual clinic using video consultation for 113 patients could save 1,149 miles in travel distance, 62.5 hours in travel time and 0.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions. For certain use cases, video can be a hugely powerful tool for interacting with customers or patients at scale, whilst providing many environmental benefits.
4. Provide self-service options for customer support
A survey revealed that 88% of global consumers expect companies to have an online self-service support portal and self-service options for customer support. With advancing AI & machine learning technologies, consumers can often resolve their query themselves without having to call a contact centre and if they do need to speak to a support agent, they can seamlessly be routed to the right department who will be able to solve their issue. This increases the operational efficiency of contact centres and lessens headcount requirements, which in turn can create environmental benefits through a reduction in resources required in offices, travel, equipment etc.
In addition, the use of apps for customer self-service can reduce the need for people to physically travel to a high street store or branch, which can create less pressure on transportation systems and ultimately help decrease emissions.
Sustainable IT and business practices and the customer experience are inextricably linked and reducing emissions and improving the overall customer experience through digital automation go hand in hand. Not only will this year’s focus remain around the customer, but it is the responsibility of each and every organisation to make sure our planet is also top of the business agenda. Bridging the gap between sustainability and CX, bringing ‘decarbonisation' to enterprises in a cost-effective and customer-focused manner are key steps to take to protect our increasingly fragile world. At imimobile, and as part of Cisco’s overall sustainability strategy, protecting the environment and our future generations is a priority, which is why the whole of our business has committed to becoming carbon net zero by 2040.