Lasting Digital Transformation Is Tech-Powered but Human-Led
Legacy, “analog” organizations are scared — and for a good reason. After all, a meteor of rapid digital change is barreling towards them threatening to destroy everything they’ve built.
This meteor, at least as I imagine it, is ridden by Elon Musk and carries the weight of each and every digital disruptor in their industry powered by exponential advancements in tech. These disruptors are building products unencumbered by existing business models that are designed with only one goal in mind, to provide unforgettable experiences that live where the modern consumer expects them to — whether that’s in their pocket or purse, a pop-up shop, within a VR helmet, or some proto combination of all of the above.
Modern businesses need to be in a constant state of digital transformation to adapt, upgrade, and compete in an ever-changing connected landscape.
But fear not, organizational stakeholder, because it is not technological advancement that wins the digital transformation arms race: It’s an understanding of your consumer.
True digital transformation lies at the intersection of human psychology and tech where the experience of your customer is all that matters.
What will save organizations from the hyperbolic digital doomsday I described is an understanding that technology at its best enhances human capability; it doesn’t replace it.
Below, I’ve outlined five crucial steps to drive a tech-powered, human-led transformation.
1. Identify “human” technology.
While not always tangible, you know it when you feel it — the human touch. The warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you’ve interacted with a person, product, or service that just gets you.
When digitally transforming, don’t settle for shiny technology fads. Build your organization around tech that retains or empowers the humanity of your organization and its customers.
For customer service teams, the right tech enables convenient, insightful support. It appeals to consumers by reaching them on the platforms they commonly use to communicate with friends and family, whether that be in an SMS text, an e-mail, a Facebook message, or a Twitter reply.
Facebook’s recent F8 announcement that developers now have the tools to build bots within the Messenger platform will further shift customer service toward chat-based platforms. Bots are progressing at an incredible rate, but there are still solutions that only a human can come to.
2. Let your data uncover emotional triggers.
Data is the currency of the future, so put it to work.
Within your CRM, your site’s clickstream analytics, your customer service interactions, etc. is enough information about your consumer to begin to understand what actually triggers an emotional response to your brand.
Don’t settle for hunches — advancements in natural language processing allow you to analyze each and every customer engagement in a fraction of the time it would take to comb through them yourself.
Simply feed chat logs into these machine learning platforms and let the neural networks do all the heavy lifting — trigger words are identified, and pain points in the process become obvious.
Now, your messaging can be tailored to meet these unarticulated consumer needs before the customer even has a chance to raise them to you in the first place.
Many of the keys needed to unlock digital transformation can be found in the data.
3. Put people and processes first.
Employee and audience psychology must remain the priority. Before building or choosing technology tools and platforms, gauge the mindset of your customers and employees.
For employees, digital transformation begins with evolving your organizational design from traditional top-down siloes to flexible cross-functional teams. It requires static ways of learning with stagnant content and unmeasurable outcomes be replaced by adaptive e-learning tools that provide quantifiable results. It demands restrictive, reactive organizations become proactive by ditching waterfall project management and linear thinking for agile, adaptive workflows. Maybe even beat the digital disruptors at their own game by forming your own innovation lab.
Create a culture that empowers your employees to succeed and don’t be surprised when you see exponential growth in your customer care team. Employees that are taken care of take care of customers.
But perhaps even more importantly, they get better at putting themselves in their customer’s shoes — empathy is contagious.
Invest in people-first processes, then decide the platforms that best match the culture of your company and consumers.
4. The medium is the message.
“It is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium — that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” – Marshall McLuhan
Five decades after the release of Understanding Media, McLuhan’s proclamation holds true — content is king, but the medium defines the throne it sits upon. As technology scales, the sheer number of mediums that are used to deliver messages will scale and continue to fragment to meet consumers in innumerable touchpoints.
To put it simply, there are implications beyond the message delivered that stem from the medium used to deliver the message — choose wisely.
If today’s consumer primarily texts and messages each other, why offer a 1-800 number for your customer service? Unless, of course, you want your medium to tell your customer that you prefer to inconvenience them.
The right tech will help your team to be available in the moments that matter most. And you won’t be leaving angry customers to rant on social media without a response. In the words of Jay Baer, “Haters are not your problem — ignoring them is.”
5. Focus on outcomes, not outputs.
Too often organizations implement new tech to keep up with the Joneses, pat themselves on the back, and stop there.
This is really the first step in a continuous process of optimization that must be led by quantifiable results. Don’t check the box on a new platform, set it, and forget it.
For customer service teams, measure the number of complaints handled and the number of returning customers.
It’s about your employees, too. Be sure to keep your fingers on the pulse of the organization to determine if they’ve been empowered — or inconvenienced — by new tech.
Digital transformation will reshape your company’s culture and revolutionize your customer’s experience. Invest in tech but remember even the best tech organizations put people first.
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Peter Sena II is an entrepreneur, angel investor, and Yale University Venture Mentor who founded Digital Surgeons, a global innovation and design firm that creates better brand experiences. Follow him on Twitter.