By Laolu Thomas,

As technology is changing the way we live, communicate and interact, it is also transforming the provision of customer experiences, offering new ways for corporations to deliver services and connect with customers. Companies are embracing technological transformation to do more with less — in light of tighter budgets — and also to help their brands do more to help their customers and extend the customer’s brand journey, who today want their interactions with brands to be convenient and quick.

But companies face enormous hurdles in doing so. Over time and practice, they have evolved into bulky complex, and multi-layered organizations that have significant structural and operational challenges. Their size and growth rate have created an institutional aversion to risk, and the incentive to innovate to retain their customers has somewhat slowed down.

While the challenges of introducing new technologies are significant, they are temporary in nature when compared to the long-term benefits of digitalization. Technology enables the exchange of information on a previously unimaginable scale, allowing the entire organization and external service providers to share data and coordinate efforts. It also provides companies with far more data than ever before about what customers need, who uses these services as opposed to who buys them and how they do so.

A buzzword has been floating around many corporate organizations in recent times, with many looking to improve efficiency in operations, provide better customer service and ensure satisfaction. The main reason for this shift is the need to make sure customer loyalty is secured especially in an era that the customer is more aware, has power and is able to make alternate decisions about purchase. Digital transformation. It is the reinvention of business through strategy, vision, and technology to improve business results. Simply put, it’s how you can compete more successfully by making your company more agile, more productive, more mobile and more digital.

Key in recent times has been the speedy mobile penetration across Africa - currently, 44% of mobile subscribers in Nigeria are using 3G technology and 4% are using 4G technology as compared to over 18% 4G penetration in South Africa and 16% in Angola. Mobile technology has made interacting with brands easier for the consumers, delivery of brand promises to consumers, no matter the distance has become the norm so has the requirement to improve work processes for service providers.

With mobile penetration growing at a breathtaking pace; and as smartphones have progressed over the past decade from luxury items to indispensable tools for everyday life, this has become an undeniable tool for connection. They can make interacting with brands easier for the customers and for the organizations, keeping a finger on the pulse of customers in far flung areas to improve work processes and experiences.

A goal of digital transformation is to improve communications and collaboration within your organization. We spend 69% of our workday on communications-based activities, and 60% of that time is spent away from our desks. This plays a critical role in how we make decisions, bring new products and services to market, and provide a better customer experience.

To create a seamless and memorable customer experience, companies are now more willing to leverage the cloud and other technologies such as artificial intelligence, messaging, and mobility to improve communications and decision making both inside and outside their organization.

This is where secure mobile real-time access to critical information from your customer plays a key role in a company’s digital transformation journey. Real-time access to customer need and reactions has become the centerpiece of business effectiveness.

ACHIEVING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Making big changes in a big organization can be a formidable task, but pragmatic lessons can be drawn from the numerous companies that have already transformed the way they do things.

Start with a vision

Transformation starts with a vision and from the top. It’s vital to define mutually agreed goals that have explicit and ongoing support from senior levels. That means focusing on the desired results first, rather than getting sidetracked by new technological possibilities. Automation and technology are merely supports for workforce efficiency, not ends in themselves.

A business case must be made in order to articulate the benefits of inter-departmental cooperation and the nature of any data to be shared. As well, a clearly understood process model should be developed so that everyone involved knows who makes, reviews or approves decisions.

Be collaborative and creative

Genuinely transforming how the customer experiences services requires far greater inter-departmental cooperation than has traditionally been exercised, and developing a collaborative environment takes collaborative thinking. An inter-departmental working group with senior-level support should be established to promote and manage the integration of departments and services.  Achieving integration takes creativity, but models of shared service delivery already exist. It’s often more effective to study successful examples and then adapt them than it is to start from scratch.

At the same time, companies should not be afraid to break the mold. If the rationale for taking or rejecting a particular approach or process is “because we’ve always/never done it that way”, it may be time to find new efficiencies.

Keep it secure

In some instances, companies are stepping into areas that many consider to be a sacrosanct, with the exchange of sensitive corporate data. This can raise ethical issues about the ownership and use of sensitive information. In an ever more closely connected world, it’s essential to determine the confidentiality and security requirements involved in data collection and sharing.

Data security should be incorporated at all levels of transformation initiatives, and teams should be trained to understand when information sharing is mandated, permissible or prohibited. This is not only legally and ethically necessary but can also help to overcome any reluctance to cooperate.

Take it one step at a time

While it can take time to migrate long-established processes to an integrated, digitized customer-centered model, rather than attempting to do everything at once, it makes sense to start in phases. Developing a proof of concept in one service area can produce lessons for other areas.

Maintaining digital transformation

Achieving transformation is one thing; maintaining it is another. An effective digital transformation strategy has to take a long-term approach to ensure that change is manageable and that systems do not become unwieldy or obsolete.

Remember the customer

When processes are re-engineered, it’s important to think behaviorally. In what context will customer have to interact with the brand? Such human-focused measures can dramatically improve the uptake and effectiveness of a new initiative.

Keep it workable

Sometimes, simple is best. Data analytics can be dazzling, but some improvements merely require ways to put data into the right hands. Predictive technologies may not be possible, or even necessary, as a first step; but rather understanding the voice of the customer and giving visibility to them is the critical first step.

It’s also crucial to remember the internal teams who have to execute these strategic decisions - do they have the tools they need? Have they received appropriate training? Is the new system overwhelmingly complex or intimidating?

Choose the right metrics

Digital transformation also involves ongoing performance evaluation. It’s a matter of choosing key performance indicators selectively and then tracking performance against them automatically and continuously.

Good metrics consider the customers who receive services. Did they wait a long time? Did they have to give the same information multiple times? Can they get access to their own records?

Don’t stand still

Digital technologies emerge quickly. A successful transformation strategy includes a plan for constantly learning about promising technologies and for testing them quickly to determine whether and how they might be advantageous.

More fundamentally, data is useful only as long as it is continuously updated. In particular, the predictive power of analytics is lost without current, reliable data.

The early results of digital initiatives that leverage technology and predictive analytics demonstrate that significant benefits can be gained for both the company and its customers.

However, there is the need for companies to adapt their approach to service design and delivery to reap the benefits. They will need to embrace behavioral science techniques to ensure that service interfaces gain user trust acceptance. Similarly, companies must strengthen and reduce each stage of their data lifecycles, including data gathering, sharing and analysis, to enable optimal decision-making and measurement.

Recognizing that each of these objectives represents significant challenges for traditionally-managed and organized organizations, mSurvey offers a solution that helps organizations step away from the old, compartmentalized modes and take a strategic approach to reshaping the delivery of integrated customer experience.