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It's time to start humanising digital

There’s not one truth. With the rise of Digital enterprises we are made to believe that digitization is the only way to success. Digital Transformation is on the agenda of nearly every company by now. Budgets are soaring, as are the promised benefits. If companies are struggling to meet quarterly results you will likely see industry analyst and pundits screaming for more and faster digital transformation.

At the same time we see claims it’s not so much about transformation as it is about maturing. And we see 100% digital companies in e-commerce open up real-life stores and branches in an unprecedented pace. Digital and physical seem to do well together. Better even than each separately.

Emerging technologies are the talk of the town, fueling the digital transformation hunger. People gather around the water-cooler to discuss what could be and might be, often forgetting that many of these technologies require more than 5 to 10 years to mature. And forgetting that New Technology + Old Organization results in nothing more than a very expensive old organization.

Obsess over your Customer’s job

Of course new technology requires experimentation to see what it can do for you or your Customers. I believe though it is even more important to experiment with a clear view of the problems you are trying to solve. And to do that you need a clear view on the problems your customers encounter when trying to get their jobs done and meet the desired outcomes from it. You need to understand the journey they undertake, the goals they have in mind (or not) and the barriers, or competitors, they find on their way.

This has been a long standing point of view of me personally. And now I find myself in the position of CMO of a technology driven scale-up in Artificial Intelligence powered Intelligent Assistants. In this position it is quite easy to loose sight of what matters most. There’s mention of competition featuritis every day. Press releases from corporate digital transformation programs announcing key-investment in emerging technologies and collaborations with start-ups tout an innovative technology mindset more than anything. And everyone knows the CIO that states “we are actually a technology company”.

I have news for you: you are not! You are in the business of helping your customers get their jobs done. And, as much as it is ok to keep track of technology developments, it is still best to obsess over your customers and the jobs they are trying to get done. The jobs that you can help doing (best).

How to best help your customers get their jobs done?

Having said that the question arises how you can best help your customers getting their jobs done? There should be no doubt that digital is the way to go. Either through full or partly digitization and automation of the customer’s job to be done or through smart technology facilitation of humans providing service to other humans.

So far though most Digital transformation programs have focussed on making self-service available to company customers and automating processes. Adoption of those features and facilities by customers, whether or not behind log-in screens, are causing companies headaches. Specifically because they have invested millions in the creation thereof and they want to see return on their investment.

Customers get stuck between two worlds

On the other side customers find themselves stuck between two worlds. There seems to be no such thing as a seamless experience and self-service is hard work too. Live contact might not always be the most favorable choice of contact, but it sure is compelling over the experience many companies offer their customers in their digital worlds.

Live contact offers the opportunity to have a two-way conversation with a person that seems to understand who you are and what you need. Live conversations tend to get you an answer for your situation, and the good thing is: the person on the other side of the line does all the work for you! The most pregnant down-side, from a customers perspective, is probably that live service is not always, and most certainly not immediately, available.

Companies have good reasons to automate conversations

Companies have good reasons not to have live-support available in the quantities customers may need them: It’s too expensive. And although they recognize the value-add of a good conversation in terms of customer relationship benefits like improved retention rates and increase in share of wallet, they face the challenge of staying competitively priced. And if not, they probably have a hard time finding enough qualified employees to take on the demand.

Humanizing digital

Last October I visited a nice event organized by the Service DesignNetwork and Livework. It was themed: Humanizing Digital. Please find a short video of the evening and its intent here.

Bottom line of the event was that companies need to take the human perspective over the technology perspective to drive the design of effective customer experiences, of effective conversation automation. Due to the limited time at the event we didn’t go into depths of what is needed to humanize these digital experiences, but the seed was planted. Intuitively though we can all come up with a couple of elements, like personalised, intelligent and seamless, that are important.

The 7 Tenets of Intelligent Humanized Digital Assistance

And then, just a couple of weeks ago, I came across this post from Bruce Temkin, a well-known Customer experience specialist (and former Forrester Analyst). In this report he introduces the Human Conversational Model that focuses on humanizing digital interactions by replicating the elements of strong human conversations. I think this is a smart approach since human conversation is still by far the most effective way of communication.

You can find the 7 elements in the image below on the left side. I took the liberty of summarizing them into 7 tenets of intelligent humanized digital assistance as an intelligent assistant can play an important role in meeting the customer needs, I believe.

Curious what you think of this. Obviously I think this is very smart, but your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, one more thing: Intelligent Assistant technology can help you humanize digital. But I won’t obsess over that here 😉. Want to know more? Don’t hesitate to contact me.

Fact of the week
Opus research foresees explosive growth in Intelligent Assistants
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