For the last decade, American businesses have been undergoing a digital transformation.
They have been streamlining operations and automating processes to become more efficient, utilizing technology and harnessing data to make better decisions, developing new business models and encouraging a culture of adaptation to counter disruption and discover growth opportunities. Companies have been examining and enhancing their own digital presence to more effectively serve customers who are increasingly online, mobile and accustomed to a fast, easy and personalized experience.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this transformation. It has forced significant changes to what we do, where we go, who we’re with and how we work, and some of those changes are here to stay, even once our lives return to some semblance of normal. With more people staying home and working remotely, glued to their devices and interacting via the internet, the needs of both customers and employees have shifted. If it wasn’t already, it surely is now a new digital age.
Digital transformation for customer interaction
The introduction of advanced technologies is revolutionizing the traditional ways people work, shop and communicate. Digital transformation is a phased plan of business improvements to people, processes and tools aimed at fostering an innovative environment and optimizing the potential contribution of new technologies. It’s changing how companies relate to customers and how they conduct business.
Digital transformation isn’t so much a product or service as an overarching approach that affects all people and things related to IT in every industry. This could mean digitizing analog information or cloud computing, data analytics or AI chatbots, open APIs or robotic process automation, and much more.
Not too long ago, one of the core digital transformations for customer interaction was a business having a website for users on desktop or laptop computers. Then their websites needed to be responsive, or functional on devices, and they had to build mobile apps and be on social media. Today, it’s not enough to be mobile-friendly; businesses are becoming mobile-first, as 80% of Americans own a smartphone and more than half of all online shopping comes from a mobile device.
Hey Siri, what’s next?
We already talk to our devices using models like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and the future of customer interaction may be people talking to companies through them. Natural language processing (NLP), according to CIO magazine, is an area of AI research “that seeks to find efficient ways of using computers to translate languages, convert voice to text and back again, and create human-like conversational agents to help customers deal with issues, questions and concerns.” The application of NLP is exciting for businesses, as it can improve customer service, experience and lifetime value.
Many websites now feature chatbots, which facilitate a basic level of automated customer support. However, due to single-language limitations and the maintenance of many distinct chatbots, this is not practical or cost-effective for global companies or even smaller organizations trying to scale. A better solution is to create one chatbot in a single language with AI-enabled translation capabilities around it. Automated global service centers running NLP systems could handle far more customer requests in more languages around the world without needing nearly as many support agents or infrastructure.
Natural language processing and chatbots are examples of robotic process automation (RPA), a form of business system technology that is rapidly expanding as companies try to speed up operations that allow employees to be more productive and reduce costs. Using RPA tools, CIO magazine says, “a company can configure software, or a ‘robot,’ to capture and interpret applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.”
Financial services firms were among the first adopters, but RPA engagements are now making their way into many different industries. According to Gartner Research, the global market is projected to grow to nearly $1.9 billion in 2021 and, by 2022, 90% of large organizations will have implemented RPA, as they “look to digitally empower critical business processes through resilience and scalability, while recalibrating human labor and manual effort.”
Upgrading your digital presence
It’s not just about having a digital presence, it’s about the quality of your digital presence. You may host a beautiful-looking website with ecommerce functionality, be active on social media and produce lots of content, but if your supply chain is inefficient, composed of disconnected and outdated manual processes that cause mistakes or delays, your customer experience suffers and you will lose sales. Likewise, if your company isn’t collecting and utilizing sophisticated consumer data that enables you to tailor content and learn what does and doesn’t work, you won’t be able to target the right customers and will make damaging strategy errors.
Responsive websites, mobile applications and social media help you reach prospective customers and engage them on relevant digital platforms; data analytics allow you to notice nuanced consumer trends, mistakes and opportunities you might not otherwise see, while RPA streamlines your processes and offers a deeper level of customer service and interaction.
The end goal is hyperautomation, Gartner’s top strategic trend for 2020, which is “the application of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to increasingly automate processes and augment humans” in significantly more impactful ways than traditional automation capabilities. By fully integrating across an entire business, rather than just certain segments, hyperautomation unlocks maximum potential for an automated enterprise.
Calance can help
Some organizations may view digital transformation as an unnecessary and expensive commitment that takes too much investment, time and effort. They might feel they’re not familiar enough with technology or their IT systems are not equipped for digital transformation. But, in the long run, the companies that adapt to and adopt new technology that not only survive but thrive in the digital era. And, ultimately, isn’t it more cost-effective to make improvements than go out of business?
When people hear about digital transformation or business automation, they often think about job replacements and are resistant to big change. But instead of the idea of robots taking human jobs, organizational leaders should recognize and emphasize the opportunity to return hours and dollars to their business – of reducing costs, increasing efficiency and reinvesting in the people who make the technology, tools and processes actually work. As Gartner noted, while “increasingly AI-driven decision making” is the objective of hyperautomation, “no single tool can replace humans.”
No matter where your company is on its technological roadmap, if you’re ready to make changes and realize a competitive advantage, Calance is here to help. A global IT services firm specializing in end-to-end solutions for development, managed service and more, we work with clients to update their online presence, improve customer interaction and successfully digitally transform to achieve lasting growth.