CIO Zone

Customers need more than analogue

You have to use digital platforms to engage with customers or you’ll go out of business, says Calton Nhando, digital consultant at IndigoCube.

Johannesburg, 12 Jun 2019
Read time 4min 00sec
Calton Nhando digital consultant at IndigoCube
Calton Nhando digital consultant at IndigoCube

There’s a lot of talk that companies are going digital, that they should go digital, and reports are beginning to appear that some CIOs aren’t convinced of the value they’re getting from their digital efforts so far.

Customers vote with their feet and the polls were in some time ago: you have to use digital platforms to engage with customers or you’ll go out of business, says Calton Nhando, digital consultant at IndigoCube.

That’s a given. But, what do you do and how long have you got?

There’s a pizza place that lets customers order on Facebook Messenger. There’s an AI platform for customer service that any company can use across WhatsApp, which means people are getting customer service in an app they already have and use. Car manufacturers increasingly connect their vehicles to the Internet for things like parcel delivery straight to your car, finding parking, and automatically calling for help should you need it. A port in Italy now uses software to issue policies, taxes, freight accounts and shipping manifests.

IDC estimates that companies will spend 40% of their technology budgets on digitalisation this year. IDG, which evolved from IDC and is now Chinese-owned, in a 2018 report called State of Digital Business Transformation, says 44% of companies have already shifted their focus to leading the customer experience with digital solutions.

Most customers love digital. But I know of a South African medical administrator that maintains a print room and postal sorting staff and mail bins for delivery to the Post Office because the older customers prefer paper mail.

The thing is, customers aren’t buying from companies that are digital or have the latest technologies or even a clever app. They support companies that they feel support them in return, know them, give them what they want but, more than that, make their lives a whole lot easier, better, simpler. Digitalisation is simply a means to that end.

Chatbots and AI-driven customer service may be catching on. More companies will begin to use them as the technology matures, as customers become more comfortable with them, and as the financial efficiencies they drive become unavoidable to compete effectively. But companies will still have to see-saw through the balancing act of making chatbots available 24-7 for the more pedestrian interactions versus making people, who can handle much more complex interactions, available to customer service for limited periods.

Figuring out how to improve customers’ lives drives many organisational digitalisation efforts today. But they don’t really know what their customers’ journeys are, nor do they have a great handle on the customer experience. Almost all business people know they need to get behind this strategy in their own organisations and many are also aware that to do so they need data, specifically, customer data.

That’s not limited to customer details, per se, but includes stuff about how customers interact with and consume products and services, company representatives, information, adverts, articles, other customers and more. Many customers are happy for you to collect the data, but they want you to use it to somehow improve their lives rather than milk them for every penny they have. A lot of customers are happy to pay for better service. A Salesforce Research survey found three-quarters of customers expect businesses to know and understand their needs and expectations. And, most crucially, 70% of the 6 700 respondents said they expect seamless hand-offs and contextualised interactions to win their business. And 59% say they want tailored interactions for companies to win their business.

The trick here is gathering the right data to empower better customer services so that you can prove you have their interests at heart while maintaining their comfort in the knowledge that you’re not invading their privacy or needlessly exposing their data. Exposure could be a problem, particularly in an era of rampant cyber crime. According to the Salesforce Research survey, 62% of people are worried that their personal data will be compromised.

Digitalisation is important, but it must focus on supporting the customer experience at every level, rather than selfish enterprise interests above all. And you have got to be doing it now to help your people develop and sustain the knowledge and capabilities to better navigate the subtler aspects more crucial than plain old technology adoptions.

IndigoCube

At IndigoCube we use our in-depth experience and expertise in combining of skills development, process transformation and leading-edge technology to enable an appropriate level of business agility that allows organisations in the fast-moving digital age to adapt to market demands more efficiently. We focus particularly in the areas of Lean Agile Transformation, DevOps Optimisation, Lean Product Management, Business Analysis 3.0, and Automation to boost productivity and long-term return on investment.

Editorial contacts
Scarlet Letter Michelle Oelschig (083) 636 1766 michelle@scarletletter.co.za
IndigoCube Ziaan Hattingh (011) 759 5950 ziaan@indigocube.co.za
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