Technology the Great Enabler


Brian Solis amongst others talks about the concept of Digital Darwinism which is: “The phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than an organisation can adapt.”
This certainly feels like the experience shared by the Industry and many of Ember’s clients at the Customer Engagement Summit recently. We are all seeking ideas and evidence to help us better adapt to, and manage, the way that customers engage with us. In truth, every time you open LinkedIn or read the industry press you are bombarded with the top 10 things you should know, or the 5 trends to watch that will impact you. As an industry I suspect its time that we now move on to delivery, we accept that things are changing, we accept we can’t know it all, we accept that the investment decisions we make will carry some uncertainty and risk, but we can no longer afford to wait. So what are the things we do know about customer engagement, innovation and how we can reduce the risks?
Delivering change has become more challenging
Fact. The sheer volume of change happening in itself can be stifling. I have seen a number of organisations looking actively at the way they deliver change, to in effect ‘get out of their own way’ and free up the organisation to make change. In other situationsthe sort of change under consideration needs new expertise and skills not available in their business. We would recommend that you learn from others who have delivered the change you are seeking, realise that you may need to bring in resources to plug a short term skills gap, but at the same time make sure that you upskill your organisations so you are self-sufficient, as this is not a one-off change process you are creating. It is about managing business as usual in a better, more robust and accepting way.

Technology enablers are developing at pace

Fact. Even within the past 5 years the stuff of dreams has become a reality. If only… I could deploy a cheap video solution; if only I could personalise my customer experiences; if only I could present content so that customers can help themselves; imagine if I could get customers to support each other at the same time as enabling my teams; if only I could predict when a customer would need my services before they knew they needed them. All of this is now possible and in many cases happening and indeed moving already onto version 2’s. So whilst some of you will still be wondering how to handle social media, your competition may in all probability be charging ahead with other digital capabilities as well. KLM have predicted that they will not have a website in 5 years but will rely on Facebook Messenger for managing sales and service. Don’t delay: build your business case, agree the project and resource plan, evaluate the market (and products) and get cracking!
Oh, and by the way, increasingly innovation and change in customer management is being driven by the Operations. The IT teams can understand the complexities and dependencies of the architecture and define the appropriate systems roadmaps and integration plans, but they need to know what we want to buy, how we want to use it and how it helps to shift the customer experience and cost to serve. So create your blueprint, or optimum operating model – recognising that this will need to evolve and change. Setting a ‘target’ operating model can be an erroneous and misleading concept that is too set in stone for the pace of today. Define your optimal customer journeys based on value, design as best you can the future customer engagement model, understand the commercial benefits and value, and get everyone on board behind a single aligning purpose or set of service principles, your own ‘North Star’.

Keeping pace with the skills needed to drive change and deliver the experiences

You will likely not have the skills or resource complement needed to deliver the projects, Fact. Very few organisations have people waiting for their opportunity to help you select and implement a new digital platform or deliver a new webchat solution. The sooner this is acknowledged the sooner you can establish your resource plan and prepare how you secure the right skills as and when needed.
We can also learn from the digital marketing agencies when thinking about how we deliver customer transformations. Think about a classic web project. You engage an agency to support you. Typically, they will mobilise a team which would include, architects, developers, designers, creatives, testers, producers, design authorities. These are specific roles, they have clear experience levels and skill sets (and costs). They deliver the key parts of the journey they are responsible for, they deliver a level of competence and they move up the ladder to become a senior, or lead within their role.
Now think about how we typically deliver change in customer experience programmes. We get a team leader or capable operations managers to act as a ‘super-user’, and probably to learn a project management methodology; then ask them to work with IT to define the requirements and develop and agree the solution and make sure that the operation is trained and receives regular updates on progress. Now I know this is an extreme case, but this is often the reality. We are prepared to spend a significant part of our budget on investing in new technological capabilities or even just upgrading old versions and we then expect that process to enhance automatically what the customer experiences. We must be really clear on the skills and roles that we need in a project to make it successful. We must also realise that asking people to support change whilst doing their day job is increasingly challenging and potentially compromises the advancements that you are seeking. Following a change methodology is important, but getting the right sustainable skills and project roles established is critical.

Business cases are tougher

This is a big area and one for another day. But we are often struck by how hard we work to get the Executive to buy into an investment case. We consider the current detailed fully loaded operational costs today, we develop glidepaths that show the implications on the operating budget as the migration to digital services takes hold, we evidence the skills and recruitment costs, importantly we demonstrate the revenue uplift and cost savings and when they will land and we demonstrate the risk profiles and mitigations. All very worthwhile and essential. We then (hopefully) get sign off from the Executive, and the business case is filed away. No benefits realisation plan, and often no accountable stakeholder who will have their budget reduced once the anticipated benefits take hold. The business case must be a document that is reviewed and referenced against as the benefits materialise (or to use to contingency plan against when they don’t). It should guide us through delivery to implementation, considered at every project milestone, tracked against and communicated widely.
So we recognise these challenges, but clearly an article like this does still require some futurology! So what are the trends we at Ember are watching out for and helping our clients benefit from?
Messenger applications will become the norm. We already inhabit this ecosystem; WhatsApp is normal and habitual for millions, Facebook messenger equally so. If you are in any doubt how these will be used, watch KLM’s video ‘KLM on Messenger’. And then keep an eye out for the tick boxes appearing at the checkout for ‘Keep me informed by Messenger’. It is real and happening now.
IBM Watson, remember the computer that won Jeopardy in the US back in 2011. It seems that Watson is now coming of age. Watson leverages a global data network, academic evidence and experiences coupled with personal information on us as individuals (or those with similar characteristics to us) to suggest best next actions, solutions, diagnoses or information. This could be the start of an enormous shift in knowledge management which de-skills some roles but also opens up other industries. Still need to train 6 years to become a GP and read all the medical journals? Many system integrators are becoming Watson accredited partners, so they clearly are seeing that this will have an impact. This could mean a big change in the knowledge workers we employ and how we manage them.
Loyalty and innovative ways to engage with customers is a key theme we believe. The insurance market is waking up to the fact that on its own insurance is often not a lifestyle product and is typically a race to the bottom on price. But if I am rewarded for good and safe driving and my policy premium reduces, well that may just change the way I behave. But it’s not just reduced cost. One insurer is offering pizza vouchers, music credits and other rewards, perfect for its young, more social customer base, who, incidentally, are also those at the higher risk of an accident. But the data and rewards change this, so that the insurer can now prove to these new drivers (and to the often premium paying parents) that insuring with them means safer driving. Fundamentally this is about using data to recognise and reward (and retain) at an individual level, and to compete effectively using a disruptive proposition.

So what?

Those organisations that are delivering step changes in their customer experiences and leveraging technology have similar characteristics
 They have clarity on their ‘North Star’ service proposition
• They understand what ‘customer value’ really means to them
• They know what innovation is relevant to them and have become agile in design and delivery
• They have sought independent and objective perspectives
• They have ensured the strategy is integrated and aligned across the organisation
• They have a clear and compelling business case and are executing well on the right investments with a clear benefits realisation approach
I will leave you with these following thoughts…
The iPad is 6 years old, which makes it a relatively old technology, but did you know you can get Siri to beatbox? Tesla recently downloaded an auto–pilot function to 40,000 cars in the US where the upgrade was sent via a wireless download, to a car. Skype has a live translate function so as you type in English to your Dutch colleague the message is translated, in real time.

The technology is there, have we worked out how to deliver and use it yet?

Contact Simon Foot at or call +44 (0)20 7871 9797