What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation is the process of fundamentally changing the way a business operates to integrate technology at all levels of the business and moving to a fully connected and online business strategy. It’s about improving the speed and quality of how businesses interact with customers at all stages of their journey. A digital transformation isn’t just about adding more fancy technology to the business. For a true transformation, businesses need to change the way they think about connections between customers, departments and other partners. It’s the difference between upgrading your horse and buggy by investing in a faster horse or a Model T car. They are both improvements, but one is a transformation.

Customers want to be part of a digital transformation

The exciting part about this movement is that it’s not driven by businesses - it’s driven by the changing expectations of customers. As customers become more connected and mobile in their day to day life, they expect businesses to keep up. That means businesses need to offer a variety of methods of communication, not rely on antiquated technology and become digital first. For older, established businesses, this can be a massive change. The way they’ve done things in the past just isn’t good enough - even if it’s been successful. Pulling out existing systems to put in new, modern ideas can be difficult to stomach. But if businesses don’t keep up with changing customer expectations, they’ll start to see their customers slipping away. Not only will they lose business, they’ll also miss out on opportunities to increase revenue and decrease expenses.

Why Digital Transformation Matters

The time is ripe for companies to invest in a digital strategy. Customers are becoming more dependent on online business, and are looking to do business with companies that make it easy on them. The use of mobile phones for purchasing and working is skyrocketing. Every consumer has used their smartphone to research a product online - often even when they are in-store shopping! Being able to track the activity of consumers across platforms means that you can offer them exactly what they need when they need it. It’s the smart thing to do, but customers have come to expect this type of targeted marketing, and they are conditioned towards it. Now that any customer can jump on their smartphone and order a taxi, a pizza or flower delivery at the touch of a button, they expect this level of convenience across every business they interact with. If your customers have to call you up, wait for you to flip through an appointment book, send a page to your closest delivery man and then call them back - they won’t continue to do business with you. They expect to be able to help themselves, or at the very least, get a quick response back from you. But businesses can’t act this quickly if they haven’t undertaken a digital transformation. They’ll remain slow moving, mired in bureaucracy and paperwork, until they transition to a technology-first, agile business environment.

Businesses benefit from digital strategies too

Not only are customers asking for a better way to do business - one that’s easier, faster and more consistent for them - but businesses have a lot to gain themselves by updating their processes and systems. In 2018, Mulesoft released a survey that 4 out of 5 businesses expected that they would see a negative impact on revenue in the next year if they didn’t embrace digital transformation across the organization. The urgency to make change happen is high, and the benefits are even higher. IDC has estimated that there’s an additional $18 trillion in revenue available for future looking companies, through new streams of customer acquisition and entirely new digital services. But revenue isn’t the only reason digital transformation is important. Gartner reports that 40% of companies are excited about digitization because of the opportunity to empower staff with better tools, and 39% of companies are interested in the cost saving benefits. Undertaking a digital transformation increases revenue opportunities, improves the employee experience and decreases the cost of doing business. Why are you waiting around?

How Digital Transformation improves Customer Experience

The customer experience is the overall result of how the customer feels throughout their entire interactions with your company from start to finish. For example, do they trust your company? Are they frustrated with the speed of service? Do they feel valued at certain touchpoints? Are they happy with the products they’ve received? All of these different points factor into the customer experience - and they can all be impacted by a digital transformation. Here are three ways the customer experience is changed by upgrading your digital strategy.

Solve problems faster

After moving to modern workflows, companies can resolve problems faster than they used to. Why? Because you have everything you need right in front of you.

Using the latest software and approaching problems with a technology-first mindset makes troubleshooting customer issues a breeze. Modern logging systems can often help identify the customer’s issue before any further diagnosis is needed. Integrating your other systems with your help desk empowers agents with the information they need to solve problems quickly. Plus, when they need to take action on a customer’s request, a modern helpdesk will let them do that right from the app itself.

All of this saved time is great for the customer because they don’t need to wait for your internal processes to get help. Customers shouldn’t need to know how everything works behind the scenes in order to get help. With a connected company, they don’t need to - everything works smoothly from the customer’s perspective. They get a quicker response (which customers love) and you’re able to move onto help the next customer in line!

Improve internal workflow

Collaborating with other departments is difficult when you’re all relying on separate, hosted systems. A study by Mitel found that most businesses lost an average of $11000 per employee due to communication and collaboration issues. This is where digital transformation can help. A digital transformation knocks down silos between departments so that all of the data you need is in one place, and it’s much easier to communicate across departmental boundaries.

For example, if a customer wrote in looking for more information on their billing and account usage, customer service needs to get in touch with the product team and accounts receivable - possibly over the phone. Each team might have to pull their own set of data and compile it to understand what the customer owes. Depending on how out of date your department’s records are, the AR team might even rely on physical statements or paperwork to keep track of payments. The customer service team would get phone calls back from each team with various information and then be able to solve the issue.

By using modern software, the customer service team could pull both teams into the same conversation, easily search the database for the information they need (or it might even be right in the user’s dashboard!) and update the ticket. When barriers between teams are knocked down by technology, everyone is more efficient and everyone wins.

Understand customers better

Being integrated across both systems and workflows means that you have a full 360 degree view of your customers. Rather than data being siloed in various hosted, outdated systems, you can bring all of your data into one place using APIs and integrations.

Integrating data from various departments means that you have more context when it comes to making customer decisions. For example, if you have product usage data available in your help desk, you can proactively email customers when you see an error appear. If account managers are able to view the last five conversations between support and the customer, they’ll have a better understanding of the customer’s experience thus far. Customers don’t need to repeat themselves each time they are transferred to a different department, because everyone in the company has access to their history.

Instead of treating customer incidents like isolated tickets, a digital transformation allows your team to understand the context around issues. This means you can act with confidence when building a relationship with customers because you understand their history.

Challenges to implementing digital transformation

With all of the benefits that digital transformation can bring to a business, it might be surprising that everyone hasn’t adapted to this new era of work. But as advantageous as the change is, it can be extremely difficult to move an existing company into this new way of thinking. There’s several reasons why it can be hard to build momentum towards such a huge change. Let’s look at three of the biggest hurdles impacting companies today.

Getting everyone on board

Change management is a valuable skill that helps prepare and equip individuals to adopt big changes in an organization. No one likes change, even more so when they believe it may threaten their job stability. An effective change manager will identify objections, create training, and smooth over concerns to make it easier for everyone to get on board with a new initiative.

Some people are naturally good at managing change. They can build consensus amongst a team with differing opinions and rally the team. But if your company doesn’t have one of these naturally talented individuals working towards a digital transformation, it can be incredibly hard to get everyone moving in the same direction.

Without a change manager (either a natural or someone who’s appointed), teams will scramble to convince every stakeholder to get on board. Pieces and requirements will drop through the cracks. Everything will move slowly - or not at all.

Digital transformation requires a careful eye to make sure everything goes smoothly - it doesn’t just happen automatically.

No buy-in from the executive team

While many of the pieces of moving to a digital first strategy result in a cost savings, they require resources and buy-in to implement. Without an executive team on board, it can be difficult to access to required resources to drive change at the necessary level. There are three techniques middle management can use to get their executive team on board with a digital transformation:

  • Make it personal. Identify the passion projects of your executive team (creating culture, beating the competition or leaving a legacy for example) and share stories of how a new way of doing things will help advance their interests. Not every business case requires hard and fast numbers to be convincing.
  • Calculate the ROI. Show leaders how much money they are leaving on the table by refusing to adopt new methods of doing business. By calculating how much additional revenue is available by opening up new service streams, and how much money your business will be saving due to efficiency improvements, it’s possible to calculate exactly what the return will be on any upfront investment.
  • Use momentum of early success. Start by changing things that are in your control and measuring how they impact the business. Small wins can start to add up until even the most doubtful stakeholders will have no choice but to agree.

Lack of success metrics

Change for the sake of change is a tough sell. But if you can identify exactly which business metrics and KPIs will be impacted by a digital transformation you can set targets to hold individuals accountable. Success metrics can help motivate departments to change, and they can also show the benefits of initiatives that are already in progress.

Set clearly defined goals for each project (both leading indicators and lagging indicators) to measure how much needs to be done, and what you expect to see come from it. This will help keep everything on track as your business transforms.

Digital Transformation in Customer Support

Customer support teams can have a big part in transforming the business when they look to provide the modern customer service customers are asking for. While digital transformation requires full organizational cooperation, here are a few things that customer support teams can own when it comes to modernization.

Help Your Customers Help Themselves

Searchable, online documentation is the simplest way to improve your customers’ experience. More customers than ever before say that they would use a knowledge base to help themselves if it had the information they needed.

  • Searchable Documentation - instead of uploading PDFs or hiding documentation behind a login screen, host your knowledge base in a help center that is easily searchable, both on your website and on search engine. Customers will frequently search for error messages before they write into support, so make sure help is the first thing they find.
  • Easy to update - instead of complicated hosted, antiquated systems, use an online content management system that offers easy permission control, rich media support (for images and videos!) and is mobile friendly. A ready to use help center like Freshdesk will make it simple for anyone on the team to update documentation and ensure your customers are getting the best information.
  • Beautiful, branded, customizable - instead of uninspiring plain documents, use a branded help center that looks as beautiful as the rest of your website. Maintaining the brand across different websites Your customers will actually want to browse through help articles when it looks like time and effort have been put into it.

Omnichannel Support

Perhaps the biggest difference between modern contact centers and traditional call centers are the channels they communicate through. Going through a digital transformation almost always means extending your support beyond a 1-800 number and an IVR tree and picking up new channels like email, live chat and social media.

Why is offering omnichannel customer support so necessary? Because customers expect it. Very few people rely only on their phones to communicate anymore. Most people consider it quite invasive to pick up the phone and have to call someone. It’s far more common to pick up our smartphone and message whoever we want to talk to - whether it’s friend, family or a business.

Companies that only offer phone support managed through a complicated IVR system will find they get fewer and fewer calls as customers stop wanting to call them. And then they will find that they have fewer and fewer customers because their customers start doing business with a company that makes it easier to get in touch.

Mobile Support

20 years ago, not very many people would have anticipated that we’d all be carrying around supercomputers in the palm of our hands. But now, everyone uses their smartphone for the majority of their online communication. We search out products, do our shopping, send messages and catch up on social media - all from our mobile devices.

This means that being mobile friendly is incredibly important to compete in the modern marketplace. If customers navigate to your website and it’s not mobile friendly, they will jump right back to Google and try the next site.

A mobile friendly means that it’s easy to read on a small screen, all of the buttons, text and elements are viewable and it’s simple to accomplish the tasks the customer sets out to do. Websites that automatically resize for a mobile or tablet device are called “responsive”.

For customer support teams, mobile support might involve:

  • A responsive help center that’s easily accessible from the app or website.
  • Live chat or messaging platform that’s easy for customers to use on their mobile device
  • Providing resources that are relevant to mobile platforms and sending messages that are easily read even on a small screen.

To decide if your customer support experience is mobile friendly, why not try it yourself? Pick up your mobile phone and walk through each step of trying to get help. Where do you run into trouble? Remember - your customers might be using older devices that you’re using!

Frictionless Channel Transfers

Omnichannel is slightly different from multichannel customer service because of one big thing. Multichannel might offer a variety of ways for customers to get in touch, but they are all very separate. Omnichannel blends contact channels together so that no matter how a customer contacts you, they get the same consistent experience - even if they switch to a different mode of communication. When comparing omnichannel to multichannel, omni is a much easier experience for customers.

Digital transformation makes omnichannel possible. When using systems that are connected, and thinking about your customers’ online experience holistically, it’s easier to see where the cracks are. Find places where the transfer between teams or channels isn’t smooth and see where you can connect the dots.

Automating common tasks

Automation and technology go hand in hand. When most people think of upgrading technology, their next thought is about automation and optimization. Digital transformation is no different. When you’re collecting more information and storing it a useful, accessible way, your team can take advantage of automation tools available in your help desk.

For example, rather than sticking to first in, first out principles where every call or email is answered in the order it arrives, automation can help you prioritize customers who are having more serious problems and need urgent help. Automation can also help direct incoming emails to the right department, respond to customers with helpful information or deal with routine tasks. In other words, automation can make you a lot more efficient!

Modernizing your Contact Center

When reading through the changes digital transformation brings to customer support, it should be clear that the old way of managing contact centers won’t work anymore. Agents can no longer be dedicated to a phone queue for their entire day. Teams will need cross-training to be able to support customers throughout their journey - across channels and through documentation.

The tools you use will need to change even more than the training. Supporting customers across multiple channels requires an omnichannel helpdesk that integrates with all of the tools other departments implement as part of their digital transformation.

Proactive support

The end goal of a digital service transformation is to have a deep understanding of your customers and to be able to support them at any time throughout their journey. The best benefit of this set-up is the opportunity to start offering proactive support.

Because you have a clear understanding of all the ups and downs of your customer journey and where the customer currently is on their own journey, it’s possible to get ahead of any problems. By helping the customer before they run into a common issue, you can make their experience much smoother. This is called proactive support.

Traditionally, customer service was only in charge of reactive support. They’d wait until the customer had an issue and picked up the phone to call before offering any help. This isn’t a great experience for customers. First of all - they are forced to experience an issue. Second of all - many customers just won’t bother calling. It’s estimated that only 4% of customers who experience an issue will actually contact your company about it. This means you’ll have a ton of silent, upset customers who aren’t getting the help they need.

Proactive support puts your company in the driver’s seat. You can make sure customers have everything they need to circumvent any potential issues. Before an invoice gets sent out, you might trigger an in-app pop to let them know that a payment will be taken. When they purchase a new product, you might send them an email to some helpful online instructions about setting it up. Anticipating the needs of your customers is much easier after a digital transformation because you have all the information you need to make suggestions right in front of you.

Getting Started with Digital Transformation

If this all sounds like something that your organization is in need of, it’s time to get started on the path to digital transformation. To start, first take stock of your current situation. Plan out what needs to change first, and then get everyone on board.

Map out your customer’s current experience

Before starting to make drastic changes, take the opportunity to map out where your organization currently stands when it comes to digital maturity. Which touchpoints are more complicated or more manual than they need to be? What processes feel outdated, or unnecessary because of a disconnect between teams?

Identify each of the areas where a new digital strategy could help - either internally or with your external customer experience.

Determine top priorities

Rather than trying to fix everything at once and throwing everything into chaos, make a coordinated plan based on priority. What changes will have the biggest impact for the least investment of your time and money? These should be the tasks your team tackle first.

By prioritizing low effort tasks that will have a big impact, you can start the momentum rolling. This low hanging fruit will require minimal investment from management, so you can move quickly and make change happen. This is your roadmap to a full digital transformation.

Get buy-in

One of the biggest challenges to getting started with a digital transformation is to convince the people who say “we’ve always done it this way” to agree to change. Especially when dealing with different generations, this can be a real sticking point. No one wants to feel like they are being left behind, or like their ideas are no longer valued.

Getting buy-in from your team is critical for success. If everyone isn’t on board, you’ll struggle to get traction and people will be quick to point out mistakes. To bring your team into the process, start asking questions early. Ask for their pain points - they definitely have things they do every day that are frustrating a slow. Where can you help speed up their work? How will an improved digital strategy positively impact their day-to-day?

Just like with convincing executive teams and securing resources, momentum will be helpful in getting everyone on board.