DIGITAL COMMERCE

Tech transformation

Technology still needs human support

In Summary

•Digital transformation is impossible without culture transformation

•Anticipatory customer service, faster collaboration, and smarter decision-making must go hand in hand with technology

 

Every month, when I meet our Amalgam Leadership Class, the hottest curriculum area is digital transformation. We learn how to revolutionise the supply chain, reduce leakage and suck data from customer interactions. But the biggest lesson is that success in digital transformation is impossible without culture transformation.

Give your Chief Technology Officer free rein to buy hardware and software. But, if you don’t decide in advance the new staff behaviours you wish to develop, that investment will be wasted. Behaviours like anticipatory customer service, faster collaboration, and smarter decision-making.

Last week, as a customer, I had one great experience of digital transformation and two bad ones.

Looking online for a supplier of bathroom lighting, I browsed a number of ‘brochureware’ websites without discovering anything helpful.

Then I hit a site that deployed a ‘bot’ to talk to me. Within 90 seconds I discovered they had a range of solutions within my budget. I logged off and, 60 seconds later, I received a personal email from a human being, welcoming my custom and giving me directions to the shop. He even told me they were shut for four hours the next day for a funeral. A super blend of technology and humanity. Next week, I shall go to that shop and buy.

Here’s one of the bad ones. I had occasion to revisit a leading building supplies outlet to return a defective product. I did so with a sense of dread because it’s one of those businesses that was set up for trade customers and their attitude is ‘the customer is trying to get one over on us.’ So, when you collect your purchases, they open every box and show you them, so you can confirm the pieces are there. Trouble is, after looking at your fourth towel rail, your attention can wander. Mine did, and I didn’t notice that an essential piece was missing from the back of the product. Mea Culpa.

In fairness, the customer-facing staff did not say ‘no, we won’t replace it’. But they were not empowered to make a decision, so they escalated the problem to ‘the Manager.’ So I sat there for 90 minutes, initially in good heart. At my fifth progress inquiry, I was told that the manager was reviewing the CCTV footage of my collection experience to determine how this deficiency could have happened.

Deciding that this was not a good use of my time, or his, I sought him out. Face to face he remembered that I was a customer, and immediately replaced the item. His words were ‘Better we sort you out before we sort ourselves out.’

How very true, Sir.

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside