Recently I had the opportunity to share my thoughts in a conference about AI in Customer Servicing. I have taken some of the content and sharing it here. While there is a lot of technology tools available to make processes more efficient, I feel there is a need to look at the fundamentals before investing big bucks on some new tool. In this post I am attempting to simplify one of the most commonly used term nowadays – Digital Transformation. These are purely my personal thoughts, assimilating from various interactions with practitioners and reading about best practices!
TECHNOLOGY IS UBIQUITOUS
Yes, it is true, that technology has become quite ubiquitous, and we see it all around us. I recently came across an ad for a toothbrush which has AI technology. Am sure it will have the intelligence to understand when you need to brush and remind you to do so. Hope it doesn’t have an automatic update on Instagram and Facebook though! It’s a matter of time that we will all be wearing AI enabled undergarments which will monitor all our bodily functions and remind us of our metabolic functions.
But, seriously, it is amazing to see what technology could do nowadays. While the routine functions have been automated and mechanized for good part of the century, activities that are considered to be possible only by human intelligence are being automated now. It is amazing to note that Artificial Intelligence is able to compose music now. Recently in a word conference for IT, humans played an orchestra, a music piece composed by AI. Hear it here!
I have shared a screen shot of an article below which was created by me using an AI tool. But don’t worry, I write my articles with my own intelligence and not Artificial.
DID ANYTHING CHANGE IN THE WORLD BEFORE THIS
There seems to be a major rush and anxiety in all of us to implement AI, Robotics and various new tools in our businesses. I feel this is one of the changes that is happening similar to other marquee changes that happened in the world. The below chart shows the macro perspective of various changes that have happened around us. Take a look!
The above is based on a theory proposed by an Economist, Kondratieff and according to him the world has experienced major four changes and we are amidst a fifth. While present day economists are split whether the sixth cycle is AI and HET (Human Enhancing Technology) or Medical and Health care, the point I’m trying to make is that these cycles last for long time and there is no point in feeling anxious about these technology tools. Changeover takes time and for practitioners like us, it is important to differentiate fad from strategy.
CHANGING BUSINESS PARADIGM
While the technology tools are proliferating, the paradigms around our businesses are changing at the same time.
Data Democratization is an unavoidable phenomenon now. The information asymmetry that was advantageous to businesses till few years back is slowly going away. For eg., builders earlier had an opaque way of pricing but today consumers have various ways to compare the prices and also check on government sites the guideline values. The same is applicable to charges on financial and investment products.
Customer Preference is ever changing. Today every product or service is easily replicable and brand loyalties are slowly diminishing. The attention span and tolerance levels of customers are also reducing, compunding the level of challenges for businesses.
Employee Behavior is also changing. Employees in an organization are consumers of other and hence the expectation and aspiration levels are evolving too. There is an increasing expectation for faster decision making and better growth, stressing the need to be agile.
Computing Power has increased tremendously. Today the smart phones that we have in our hands is much more powerful than that the spaceship that went to Moon. From the earlier main frames to personal computers, now we have GPUs and Cloud that give a gargantuan level of computing power.
Connectivity infrastructure is getting better by the day. From the dial-up connection days, today the connectivity infrastructure is growing by leaps and bounds, be it the fiber technology or the 5G.
BUT WHO OWNS TRANSFORMATION
We are constantly busy with our day to day deliverables, quarterly results and various other priorities and tend to miss out changes happening in the background. Most of the time we are busy with inter-departmental squabbles and end up missing the bigger picture. Before starting to implement any initiative, important question to look at – who actually owns digital transformation? I feel it is a culture change that the organisation has to go through. Nothing can be achieved by passing the ball between departments while resisting the change. We should ensure that we avoid the pitfall of attaching a Ferrari engine to a Maruti 800.
IS TECHNOLOGY A KNIGHT IN A SHINING ARMOR?
Media and researchers talk so much about tools so much that we start feeling that it is the answer to all problems but is it so? Do we see bots and AI all around us? It is important that we use the right tools and data inputs in each of the business drivers and processes.
So, transformation is not all about technology. It requires a strong strategic intent to make transformation succeed. It is essential that we are aware of our internal processes and the journey that our clients are going through, before we start embarking on a journey to change.
Most of us are treating the tools like Bots, AI, etc as if it is a panacea to all our problems. We cannot implement these just because we read about it in some case study! It is important to know the real problem that we are tackling before finalizing the solution.
FUTURE OF SERVICE IS NO SERVICE – KNOW THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
One prevalent thought process is cost rationalization and that by reducing number of customer interactions. One quick solution that people tend to adopt is to make it difficult for customers to reach. While this can show short term cost saves, in my view this would result in business erosion in the long term. Better approach is to make the necessity for them reach you so less that they do not want to reach out. In case that they actually want to, it should be seamlessly convenient. That’s where AI based tools integrating the product processors along with CRM channels will play a major role. Big data and AI to keep up with the changes in the customer life stage and offer products customized to the same. You don’t need a hammer to kill a wasp, so it is important to understand the problem that we are solving before committing big dollars in solutions!
Organizations tend to look at processes inside out. Traditional ways of getting customers’ voice are the surveys commissioned by the process owners. But today, customers share their explicit and implicit voices through multiple channels. The voice of customer starts much before she writes or calls you. Hence it is important to map the journey of the customer at various levels and be aware of the areas that she is likely to get stuck. The journey would cover the entire life cycle of the product or service and will include elements of touch-points, channels, communication, Frictions, Appeal to senses and Agility. I strongly feel organizations should replace their process manuals with journey maps depicting these elements and measuring actuals against the standards.
The 2000-year old unresolved paradox of Theseus is my favorite when it comes to transformation in organizations. I feel transformation is not a switch, flicking which the processes change over-night. Most of us are part of large organizations with legacy systems and transformation is a slow process and it is important to change one thing at a time. By the time the changes are implemented over a period, it is difficult to distinguish the old method from new, precisely the paradox! After reading a research report or attending a training we tend to look for areas that we can implement tech tools. In the process we take our eyes off the real problem that needs a solution. It is important to keep reassessing the needs to change, Tech or no tech. The cultural components of servicing that would work well in the future is Transparency, Simplicity and Customization.
The views expressed here are personal and not the views of the organisation that I am working now or worked in the past!
Featured Image by Erdenebayar Bayansan from Pixabay. All other images in the article are by the Author.