Internal & external digital ecosystems improve CX
Customer needs are constantly changing, fuelled by ever-more powerful and engaging technology, the pandemic which has ushered in a “New Normal”, as well as sadly some economic shocks.
Customer and client interactions are vital if companies and economies are to be able to return to growth while meeting the headwinds of 2022 and beyond. Businesses must work harder than ever to attract and retain their client and customer base, and there are two areas I think organisations should focus on particularly to ensure they are offering their customers and clients the best experience possible: external and internal digital ecosystems.
The trigger for this lies in the famous statement from entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, who said ‘software is eating the world’. Every company is now a technology company - operational tech, business tech, marketing tech and traditional IT are all now merging. And thanks to the software revolution, data is increasingly becoming the common connector. Software is bringing hitherto disparate businesses such as Apple and GSK into competition – through medtech and healthcare, and data is enabling them to cooperate. Technology is the reason that a spike in crypto mining and gaming during the pandemic is in part responsible for the delays you’re now facing when you order a new car – they both use the same chip manufacturing capacity, which is maxed out.
Traditionally businesses have kept their ideas and Intellectual Property (IP) close to their chests, but now some companies are starting to change their approach and are co-innovating with other businesses to solve customer challenges.
Collaboration within ecosystems can have huge benefits for businesses, and we are seeing an increase in businesses recognising the role of increasing their collaboration with others. At the moment however, many don't have the competence required to use these ecosystem opportunities to their full potential.
Co-innovation is based on the idea that sharing ideas with businesses with different strengths and USPs, or even in other industries entirely, can garner fresh perspectives around digital innovation and cross-pollination of skills and technologies. A recent study from TCS found that 80% of successful business leaders are willing to collaborate with competitors, compared with just 23% of their less successful competitors.
Here at TCS, for example, our Co-Innovation Network ecosystem, established in 2006, brings together a network of experts from the start-up, research, academics, and corporate worlds to work on collaborative innovations for its customers. Another way to think about co-innovation is for businesses to always aim to co-innovate with their customers. In our technology-driven world, there can be an assumption that ‘innovation’ is only served up by the big technology names or cool new start-ups. We find that a co-innovation approach where every partner plays to their strength and knowledge about the technology, customer needs, and environment often yields the best results.
Building an internal digital ecosystem
It is not only through collaborating with others that organisations can improve the experience their customers have with them. In most sectors, the experience your customers and clients have with you mostly comes down to staff. This is just as true in the business-to-business sector as it is in more obvious areas like retail and hospitality.
The pandemic taught us that many people do not need to be in a specific location or office to do their job. On top of this, there are currently more than 1.3 million job vacancies in the UK, and KPMG recently reported that 70 percent of companies they spoke to are finding it difficult or very difficult to attract and retain employees.
These two factors together mean it is now essential that companies begin to think more flexibly about their talent pool and how they can best use the people they have to deliver a great customer experience. Breaking down silos and barriers that separate individuals and teams, restricting them to one location or type of work is no longer necessary.
At TCS we are already working like this – we’re building a “talent cloud”, basically a virtual talent pool that means staff will be available for any project from across locations, as per client demand and project requirement, instead of the usual industry practice of one person attached to one project. It will enable our clients to harness the right people for the brief in hand through skills pockets rather than people allocations and brings non-geographical specific perspectives and cultural views to projects. In fact, Whitelane Research found that 56% of respondents in a recent study of 270 of the UK’s biggest companies are looking to outsource more of their IT due to the access it gives them to resources and talent.
More specifically, when businesses are looking at their own staffing, in terms of which skills and people are going to deliver the most value in improving customer experience, as well as front line staff that interact with end-customers, digital skills need to rank highly. These skills can also be bundled through digital technologies to become a network, allowing businesses to creatively combine skills even when working remotely or internationally.
Most businesses also hold a lot of customer feedback, data, and analytics. Ensuring they have a specialised team with their finger on the pulse will allow them to use this rich source of data to its full potential. This department should then be able to work in collaboration with other departments as well as technology vendors and partners to improve customer experience and ultimately business strategy.
As the business landscape shifts, change is happening faster than ever and attracting and retaining customers is growing more difficult. Making customer experience and trust a priority now can be the difference between business growth or stagnation.
Companies need to start thinking of their employees and contractors as an ecosystem of skills, rather than a tightly defined matrix of roles. The diversity of skills required to handle the challenges of a fast-changing world makes this even more critical.