Digital transformation does not guarantee improved customer experience

By now, we are all familiar with the buzzword ‘Digital Transformation’. According to an IDC research, worldwide digital transformation (DX) spending will reach US$2.3 trillion in 2023, with a steady expansion of 17.1 per cent five-year compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023[1]. In Asia, the pace of DX is picking up even faster, with businesses becoming more receptive to emerging technologies as they look to new avenues of improving their operational processes and customer experience (CX).

DX as a term is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. DX refers to the application of emerging technologies to reinvent business processes, which will in turn impact customer experience and relationships. It is a response to keep pace with disruption caused by technology trends today. On the other hand, CX refers to how brands approach customers with their products and engage them through the emotional connection over the entire course of the relationship.

Unfortunately, many businesses seem to think that the more they invest in digital transformation, the more their customer experience and sales will improve naturally. While DX is an important part of the CX journey, it doesn’t capture all of it.  It’s time we clear this up.

The True Value of Customer Experience

Striving for customer service excellence has been around since before CX was a thing. However, the digital transformation wave has not only brought about new opportunities, it has also resulted in businesses losing sight of the true value of customer service excellence.

Think about the last time you spoke to a contact centre agent and compare it to a similar call you had with another contact centre agent five or even 10 years ago. Have things changed? Likely, both calls were equally frustrating and ended with low levels of customer satisfaction. I’ve asked this question to numerous people, and the answer seems to be the same: not much has changed in the area of customer service. This proves that customer experience is not an organic outcome of digital transformation, despite all the efforts and progress that have been made. Businesses may have all the latest technologies on hand, but without applying it to the way they interact with customers, their CX will always remain poor.

In other words, digital transformation is a journey towards the end goal of providing great customer experience. For businesses to achieve customer service success, they need to learn how and why their customers are engaging with their brand and keep their focus on CX.

The How: From Chatbots to Integrated Contact Centres

To better understand your customers, look at the platforms and channels where they show up. Consumers today are less active when it comes to posting on social media and they often prefer to receive and share information via private messages. These messaging apps have enforced their dominance in providing access to various consumer services. In Singapore, research has revealed that almost half of Singaporeans are not willing to give up using their mobile phones for even a day[2], with the most popular social messaging app in Singapore goes to WhatsApp (87 per cent), followed by Facebook Messenger (52 per cent).

As brands start to get on these messaging apps, chatbots seem to become the go-to solution to deliver a greater customer experience. While it may feel necessary to implement virtual agents to address customer needs around the clock, businesses shouldn’t deploy chatbots just for the sake of ‘digital transformation’. Chatbots are most effective when they can truly help by determining customer intent and then being able to take action and provide the necessary information to successfully resolve the reason for the call.  However, if a business’ systems aren’t set up to work together, the most chatbots will be able to do is hand off the call to a live agent who has higher levels of access.

Businesses also understand that fast response times and adherence to timelines are critical for customer service excellence. Some are also beginning to research emerging technologies to determine if that will help them better keep up with customer demands. As a result, this has triggered a growing trend of AI in the customer service industry, where brands are now experimenting with a combination of automation, chatbots, speech analytics, biometric security and more.

We are entering the future world of customer service where organisations are moving away from a siloed experience and help service customers holistically, blending the capabilities of people, AI and automation to better understand conversations and the voice of the customers in real-time.

The Why: Great Customer Experience Goes a Long Way

Thanks to Conversational AI, good CX can be achieved by actively engaging customers over the entire course of the relationship with special care given to new digital interactions. It is the result of heavily contextual customer-brand interaction that takes into account the emotional, behavioural and sentimental factor, throughout the lifecycle of the customer relationship.

As such, it is a key tenant of any digital journey to enhance the overall customer experience. Conversational AI is standing at an inflection point with speech analytics, AI technologies, real-time processing capabilities, automation through conversational bots, and voice biometrics all coming together to deliver superior customer experience and drive business outcomes. Only when done right will customer loyalty and dollars follow suit. In a world where instant gratification is the way people consume information, businesses need to tap on the capabilities of today’s technology to help reduce customer wait times, resolve quickly and access information faster. All these factors reduce frustration levels significantly and increase the quality of conversations, leading to higher customer satisfaction. This is just the beginning and I’m excited to see where this digital journey will take customer experience down the road.

[1] Worldwide Spending on Digital Transformation Will Reach $2.3 Trillion in 2023, More Than Half of All ICT Spending, According to a New IDC Spending Guide, October 2019

[2] Limelight Networks’ State of Digital Lifestyles report, 2019