DIGITAL: Showing Might v/s Showing Customer Empathy

By Sairam Bollapragada

Digital components are technically complex and they are going to drive the solutions to be more complicated. Technically speaking, the next gen of every field is getting re-defined, be it usage of drones for crop surveillance by Agriculture insurance companies, usage of analytics for precision Agriculture, be it concepts of hovertrain (the word dictionary does even recognize it and marks it in redJ), Neuro-informatics, Brain-computer interface, regenerative medicine, Cognitive radio, augmented reality, WiTricity(WET), Zero-energy building and many many more – it’s all about customer experience!!

So far, in the Web wave, the IT service providers have only been harping on their capabilities. It has been a pattern almost always that the IT service providers are very keen to showcase what they have in a bid to allow the customer to cherry pick on the capabilities. Many customers have gone back saying we wanted to see capabilities in area A but the company is very strong in area B which is not our priority right now. This act will start costing dearly going forward. The customer will upfront drive more aggressively on what is needed by him. If we fail to recognize this, and start showcasing sundries, we will soon be out of pockets on the opportunities.

However, there are many traditional customers who do not want to change their stance while adopting the technological transformation journey; while there are also some who are allowing technology companies/vendors to drive their strategic glide-path for what is best for them – in a win-win partnership mode! There are others who are very obsessed with getting the cheapest solution versus providing their end customers with a worthy experience. All put together, the experience through Digital should be intriguing.

Let me put across an interesting experience with the former category with one of the hospitality customers request. The customer wanted their hotel suite entrances to get digitized. One opportunity was to provide a key-less digital entry and another was towards power consumption. The need was to get this done without touching the door or door-frame. The point was how do you do that without a need to implant some device somewhere – on either of the two places.

The second need was to optimize the power consumption when guests leave the suites with electrical gadgets still on (like geysers, fans, etc.). The point was to have an innovative solution where a device could sense absence of the guests in rooms and auto switch-off electrical gadgets and hence help power savings. The draft concept was drawn up and a proposal with technical components was submitted.  At the sight of the cost of the solution (which was not so huge as per my knowledge), the customer retracted a few steps, going back to his traditional thinking which was this – “… you know manpower is cheap in this part of the globe and don’t you think we can hire somebody who can cycle around this 20 acre project, door –to-door and check if the power is switched off or not? and if not do the needful….”

For all such business folks, I have the following to convey – you may save some money tactically, and if you are looking forward to long term gains, you would need to understand clearly (and nothing new about this) that Technology and customer experience do not come at zero cost!  It is not the solution which is costly – it will be ultimately the late adoption which will become expensive – while you may not adopt the new technology for whatever it costs, others would. The technology is more used now for providing convenience and comfort to the customers.  When the customers start getting it, irrespective of the cost and technology, the experience itself is intoxicating. The human psychology is always to get more for their investment as a customer and whoever they think can provide them, will naturally attract more clientele.

The services industry keeps making and breaking the new concepts over and over again to fit the latest and greatest into the current frame of market demands. Customer Experience (Cx) centers are channels to exhibit the capability. The Cx is becoming increasingly a driving quotient in the decision making. As mentioned in my earlier article , 86% of the customers are prepared to pay a premium for great customer experience. Soon the comparisons will be drawn and higher bang for buck will rule the market.

So all the business units, especially in the customer care/service would need to be on their feet to pick one or more technology partner(s) who can help them adopt faster and continue in the race, if not lead.

The technology product and service providers, in turn, will need to move faster and shed the baggage of past glory to surge ahead. This is a big critical success factor to grab as many business opportunities. The following are some of the areas where you need to put your acts together:

  1. Getting your Digital offerings together in place by choosing your target segments (not sure if one can play expert in all areas)
  2. Training and orienting your sales force and senior management in the offerings, capabilities and potentials. (Digital Manpower Transformation)
  3. Technically building an amalgamated teams of engineers from various fields for the targeted solution areas where you want to play.
  4. Prepare your commercials and contract crafting teams to understand the new Ts and Cs that can come in.

Another compulsion would be to drive these technological transformations from low cost locations to be aggressively competitive. This further means that you need to not only shift the work-packages to lower cost locations but also very quickly build labs, capabilities and capacities in these places. One of the proven strategies is to refresh academia-industry relationship.

Many customers would more brazenly adopt the “show & tell” strategy. If one cannot show the working technology aligned to their needs, you have already lost the opportunity.  It is coming up now that all those who chose to ride this wave 3-4 years ago, are already growing at a phenomenal pace of 2x and some at 3x.  They have done most of the right things to be at the right hand top of the quadrants. Those do have not done so yet or are still in board-room discussions on when and how to get ready, will have none but themselves to blame as  the “Me too” opportunities will also slip away soon.

Customer retention will be a bigger challenge and whoever can do it faster, quicker, cheaper, in a differentiating way for each client, will be the winner.  Hence it has to be “…let me know what you need” rather than “let me tell you what we think you need..”!

For delivery managers who are sitting pretty and assuming getting them up to speed is the employer’s headache, will soon get to reality the hard way. The push to shove will happen soon. When they get eased out of traditional accounts, unable to sell the same stuff, the customers may simply quip – “…please take your junk away”….


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