This year I am hearing about technology or digital first strategies in so many calls with members. People say we will now do all this while also putting people first and customer first too, of course. Maybe you can’t have three ‘top priorities’, but the fact is that we need all three lenses in focus at the same time, to synchronise movement. What unifying activities or strategies can propel this? That’s what we need to uncover as we operationalise this triangle of strategies, with an approach that measurably puts the customer at the heart of your operations. Planning is the key.
Pyramid principles and the power of three
Certainly, if you know what matters most this will create focus (see the improvement cycle on pg 43). The Obama Rule of Three is well established. It’s said he wouldn’t talk about it if he couldn’t express it as three points. He would go back and work it more. This is a challenge we might all take up. Moreover, the power of three is well supported by work on human cognitive functions, which we’ve seen in our awards programmes, since groundbreaking work to reframe customer choices from Aegon (2017 case study) working with Cowry Consulting. More broadly, pyramid principles work with natural cognitive patterns to communicate simply. For good reasons, this is one of the most popular of our Learning Academy Modules (see pg 15). It’s good to think in this way too, when we set metrics and targets, as we discuss in chapter four. Here the Strategy Pyramid (see image) is an encouragement to analyse our operating model through the lens of customer and colleague, as well as commercial performance. Many add compliance or community as a fourth lens, giving you the classic pyramid shape.
Why digital first?
In part, we see exponential growth in digital transformation just because it’s possible. AI capacity is doubling every four months. Computing capacity has doubled annually for years (Moore’s Law). Also, the use of cloud technology in our operations has accelerated due to home working and lockdowns. Furthermore, think of digital as about data, not just use of digital channels. Where the big blockage was often connecting to legacy systems, now most members are past the tipping point, or have it in their sights. Data scientists join up data and create new applications, almost daily it seems, and you will get the most beneficial effects, in your business or service, when you review your approach from a customer and colleague perspective.
Transformation needs planning out and this goes beyond contact centres. Methods traditionally thought of as ‘back office’ are now becoming mainstream as more work arrives in work queues, with different expectations. In field, technology for remote diagnosis and support is fast evolving. In branches, retail stores and workplaces there is also rapid change. Our response needs to be joined up, enterprise wide. Operationally, this isn’t just about channels, like text chat or WhatsApp, but requires a new way of thinking. You may feel behind the curve in your operations, but don’t expect change to be far away. This is digital first and its happening around you now, just not as well as it should perhaps.
How are we learning from customers?
Success doesn’t happen by chance, so evolve your digital customer journeys in appropriate steps and stages, linked to your customer and colleague strategies. As we’ll see in later articles, that’s a game changer.
- Start by encouraging digital contact with customers who like that already. So find this out and advertise your service where your customers are already engaged digitally. Targeting people who are not comfortable with digital can be counterproductive. Attracting ‘digital novices’ requires a different approach and more resource.
- To design good journeys, first, you need to understand customers’ expectations and experience. So, research to find out where they start a journey, and what they expect, then mine your data to see where they go after and how these journeys end. Look at what others do and learn from best practice.
- Digital take-up grows when it’s easy and engaging. So make the digital choice attractive when people search for a contact or look at their latest bill or statement. Then design journeys that deliver on this promise.
- Chart customer behaviour as journeys or lifecycles. You can then map your data or system journeys on to this and identify how to make these easier.
- Branding is key for self-service channels, with named bots or even graphic personas. Customer personas are a marketing technique that can also bring needs to life internally.
See this as the start of a new learning journey in understanding your customers and expect the floodgates to open, as you raise future expectations. So, be prepared for continuing and constant development and resource accordingly. Gain insight from customers and front-line colleagues as well as setting up new metrics directly from the new data sources.
Putting people first
“What delivers business transformation?” asks Stu Dorman, CIO at Sabio. “It’s how you use technology, to empower agents to better service customers” (2021 BGP pg 104). Empowerment is how you put people first. Let’s unpack this a bit more. While process design starts from customer needs, you also need to forensically review all processes from a people perspective. Then change whatever isn’t fit for purpose, when compared to your people and workforce strategy. That’s how you put people first. Furthermore, sometimes a tool that works for front-line advisors gives ideas on what is needed for self-service, and vice versa. The processes knowledge should be maintained by the same people and a test and learn approach is always helpful.
There will be corporate HR strategies, for your own organisation(s) and for the partners and suppliers you work with. Alongside these, you need a workforce strategy, that links them into operating models, as we explore in the next chapter, so you can operationalise your technology from a resource and people as well as a customer perspective. This puts flesh on the bones of our digital aspirations. Remember, increasingly we may have many different operating models, for different scenarios (for instance). Or a diverse resourcing strategy may mean operating models layer down (insource, outsource, model office etc). These operating model links are what integrates your plans for the different lenses of the Strategy Pyramid. Success doesn’t happen without planning!
Author: Paul Smedley
This article was first published in the 2022 Best Practice Guide - You Moment of Truth: Confident to Succeed
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