2019, a year of digital reckoning
A new year, a new start (?)
Every new year brings an opportunity to revisit what was done (or not) in the past, re-assess and come up with new resolutions. 2019 will be no exception. And although there are plenty of new exciting technology trends out there (AI, blockchain, Robotic Process Automation etc.), we believe 2019 should be a year of reflection, of revisiting concepts we already know – but don’t quite get – and redefining them.
The most important theme that will keep us talking in 2019 will continue to be digital transformation. But unlike previous years, digital transformation will now lose the allure of an all-encompassing, exotic term that can mean anything to anyone. Digital transformation has a profound impact on us as customers, on our workplaces, on how we communicate and how we share and protect information. 2019 will be the year of decisions; what digital transformation means for every organization? How does the journey look like and, ultimately, what are we transforming to and why?
What to expect in 2019
The workplace revolution continues
Slowly (for some) but steadily our workplaces are transforming to fit the digital age. Culture, systems and processes are changing to incorporate new technology, respond to customer demands but also account for a generational shift in the workforce itself.
In 2019 Millennials are projected to overtake Baby Boomers according to Pew Research. This means that a new generation that grew up in an increasingly technologically-driven world will soon also hold key posts in the workforce. For this generation digital transformation is not an elusive concept – it’s hardly even a transformation, it’s just how things are. A CompTIA study showed that 71% of millennials say that the degree to which an organization embraces technology and innovation is a factor influencing where they work. Furthermore, millennials are also looking for faster implementation of new technologies and improved collaboration tools, whereas older employees want more of a focus on making existing technology more user-friendly and reliable.
Therefore, in a multi-generational workforce the choice of what technology to employ and where (or not, that’s a choice too) will affect people from different generations in a different way and can even affect the ability of the organization to hire talent. Process digitization and automation, mobility, and cloud will continue to be high on the agenda. Every workplace needs flexible technology – with languages and architectures fit for the future–, that can be deployed fast, deliver results but at the same time build on and/or improve what’s already there.
It’s still the “age of the customer”
Customers now hold the power, they can either make or break a business. Digital has made this possible. Therefore, how you win, and most importantly, how you keep a customer through the experience you offer will continue to be a key sustainable differentiator in 2019. Much like in the workplace, younger generations will shape and mold entire industries to their wishes. It’s all about the customer after all but sometimes that gets lost in the day-to-day hurdles and inflexibilities businesses experience. This results in viewing “customer centricity” as a nice to have, but not truly something seriously pursued.
Forrester’s take on 2018 is that it was not a great year for customer experience exactly because organizations went about it in a “decoration” mode instead of “renovation”. In that sense, 2019 will be a defining year where customer experience projects will come under increased scrutiny. Up to 20% of companies are projected to just give up trying to differentiate on the basis of customer experience and instead compete on price, a losing strategy long-term.
Although this is an unsettling prediction, there is a silver lining for customer experience. Companies that are serious about it will further solidify their leading position and wallet-share of the customer base. And they will do that by embracing technology and process improvements that engages their multi-generational workforce and allows them to offer a great experience to their customers.
It’s all about communication
An important part of how customer centric organizations will continue to do business and succeed is their unwavering focus on excelling at how they communicate with their customers. Their compass is their firm belief that it is the customer who decides the means and frequency of communication. Therefore, they re-engineer all their internal processes and systems to reflect that, not the other way around.
Customer driven companies look at customer communications not just as documents, some digital and some not; but as one process, one communication opportunity that spans channels. But it’s always consistent and delivered the way the customer wants. It is a new “postchannel” world, as Gartner analyst Jordan Bryan puts it, where organizations integrate all customer service channels into one seamless experience that aligns with customer behaviors and preferences. Personalisation, seamless multi-channel communication (yes, that includes print), and response speed will be some of the critical aspects needed to support customer communications and engagement.
Privacy regulations will continue to shape communications
The growing awareness of privacy and the need to protect our information as individuals will be front-and-center in 2019 as well. As the dust is beginning to settle, we’ll have a better indication of how far reaching are the effects of privacy regulations such as GDPR that was introduced mid-2018. We’re already seeing that it has rattled businesses, not only in Europe but all over the world, as they grapple with understanding the law and implementing it.
A quick look at the British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) enforcement actions page shows that data privacy is taken seriously and hefty monetary penalties are imposed when failing to comply. Marketing communications are under the ICO’s microscope. Unsolicited electronic communications such as direct marketing phone calls or emails without consent will cost an organization dearly. This can be an opportunity for direct mail as a postal marketing consent tool. We’ll certainly follow this trend up closely as it further develops in 2019.
Where to from here
The shaping forces above are omni-present but different industries have different reflexes. Nevertheless, everyone is affected, whether they realize it or not, and must adjust accordingly – even the most traditional and risk-averse. We’ll witness industries such as insurance, printing, logistics, digitally transform their processes and the very way they do business, by competing not on price, but on added value.
At the beginning of a new year we all want to focus on the future and the new things that it brings. But maybe 2019 will be, or should be, a year of reckoning. The trends and buzzwords of the past few years will have settled down and make room for a more rational, less impulsive look at the question at hand: how can we better communicate with our customers and offer them the experience they want, and how can we shape our workplaces to better support efforts towards this goal?