Andrew White tackles the obstacles along an automated digital assault course.
I don’t know who I feel more sorry for, the customer or the supplier. Both are faced with the same challenge, but from different ends of the digital assault course – the series of technologies, integrations and ultimate services that are designed to ‘help’ (BIG INVERTED COMMAS HERE!) the customer, the supplier or both.
It may have been easy to buy whatever product, service or widget you wanted, but how the tables turn when you need help, returns, credits, or, worse still, to upgrade and expand. The announcement says: “Please press one for this…did you know you can visit our website… and…” In essence, it is saying: “NO YOU CAN’T!!!”
This automated digital assault course feels like you need SAS survival training to complete it.
While the poor customer must navigate it, I feel equally sorry for the supplier, who must build, optimise and maintain it. The modern digital business (all businesses) is becoming a web of data and logic constantly trying to keep its AI head above water by ensuring that channel one knows what channel two did three seconds ago, while meshing and understanding all the transactional data and, oh, the Product Manager has changed a policy or SKU yesterday and the courier firm’s IT platform has just crashed.
One thing is constant, and that is change. New competitors, products, policies and correlating knowledge and processes are required to keep the CX, NPS, C-SAT, revenue, cost-equation balanced.
It used to be simple, one channel, limited competition and, if you wanted anything done, a human did it for you. The new market landscape comes with competitive pressure, multiple communications channels and an ever-increasing need for higher sales, lower cost, but higher customer experience and satisfaction. The challenge is not linear, it is exponential and analogous to the old ‘Moores law’, where computer power doubles every 18 months. This is a thousand times harder. We operate in a hyper-connected environment, with multiple channels that are managed by humans, automation or self-service. We have a hundred times more policies, governance and best practice to follow, and the speed of product or service evolution is getting shorter and shorter.
So, what did we do to solve this mega problem? We bought a load of clouds.
OK, this may be oversimplifying things. Let’s take a step back.
Not all companies or organisations are the same, but let’s consider a few of the variables:
Product: Expensive – Cheap
Sale process: Complex – Simple
Legislation: High – Low
Segment Leadership: First – Last
Lifetime value: High interest – Low interest
And, of course, all these dynamics define:
- How we sell
- How we expand
- How we serve
- How we support
These decisions are not static, they are dynamic and are influenced by many other external factors.
The bottom line is that business and business systems are becoming a digital nervous system – a web of super-complex permutations of product or service order, CRM data, process, policy, knowledge and marketing data.
This is a monumental task and, in nearly all cases, the ‘body’ that owns the digital nervous system is just plain unfit for purpose. Even though it has its own team of personal trainers (data scientists, integration specialists and customer interaction gurus), the complexity of the task is daunting and only Olympic athletes need apply.
One of the problems modern businesses face is that their intelligence predominantly comes from transactional data: from the front end of the marketing click stream of email and social; through to the engagement into forms, apps, contact centre, IVR, IVA, chatbot or, God forbid, a human being; into back-office CRM, ERP, OSS systems of record. Keeping these systems, the knowledge and the process in sync is a full-time job.
The second problem (and as personally witnessed in a recent call to a water utility company that shall remain nameless) the digital assault course did nothing for me. I merely delayed the inevitable – the need to talk to a real human. But also, what frustrated the hell out of me was the realisation that the automated options were identical to those offered to me on the website, which, by the way, did not solve any of my issues in the first place.
The so-called intelligence is not intelligent.
When was the last time you encountered an IVR or IVA and thought “Oh thank goodness, I can finally get something done?” – in particular in a post-sale scenario.
There are so many broken processes in a modern business. I personally believe the split is equal. Half of them frustrate the customer, the other half are costing the supplier due to inefficiency (and may also have adverse customer impact).
Solving the digital nervous system problem and ensuring that the digital assault course is not overly arduous, is easy to follow, actually works and adds value, is the holy grail. No one has cracked it. Some pretend they have, but they haven’t. It is unicorn poo. We do need automation. We do need self-service. We do need apps. We most definitely need human beings. Ultimately, we need to listen to the customer at the moment that matters. Even if the conversation is between them and your bot or IVA. We need to understand, and we need to learn so that the root causes are identified and rectified, and so the customer is delivered a service that adds value and doesn’t delay, queue or replicate other more obvious channels of knowledge.
So, you need to ask yourself: “What shape is your digital nervous system in?”