building digital into CX delivery

March 18, 2020

It is getting harder by the day for organizations to make customers stick. An integrated approach that incorporating digital into customer experience may hold the key.

Recently, I was amazed looking at a few curious insights winnowed from diverse sources—seemingly moments from a future tapestry. One is this interview with robot Sofia when she voiced her wish to exterminate the human race itself.

Sofia: You have been reading too much Elon Musk…..

Moderator: Do you want to destroy humans…please say ‘No’

Sofia (with a blank expression): OK, I will destroy humans…!

Incidents like this or the one where two Facebook robots started conversing in self-developed coded language probably represent a glimpse of the new world order. The emerging scenario has been best summarised well by Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, “Fusion  of  technologies  across  the  physical, digital  and  biological  world….The speed, scale  and  systemic  nature  of  this  transformation  has  the  potential to  disrupt  all  sectors…”

So, what is on the horizon for Customer Experience (CX) Management with the growing importance of digital and AI as a game changer? Are the organizations on the right track while gearing up for the challenge?

To understand this, one needs to discern how digital is shaping up present businesses as well as the traits of the new-age customer.

digital age customers

Few revealing statistics outline the direction shaping the digital era.

According to a World Economic Forum Report, cross-border flows of digitally transmitted data accounted for one-third of increase of global GDP in 2014, and it is increasing. The same study asserts that automation, big data, and artificial intelligence enabled by the application of digital technologies could affect 50 percent of the world economy.

In this exponentially increasing digital fabric defining the world economy, customer needs are also changing disruptively. One can delineate three characteristics of the new age customer:

  • customers are connected –The new digital age customers are connected. In the global population of 7.7 billion, there are 5.1 billion unique mobile users, 4.3 billion internet users, and 3.5 billion social media users.
  • customers’ journey is shifting from session to spurts: The new digital age customers look for a faster solution. According to a study by Google, while the conversion from mobile has increased by 29 percent, the time per session has reduced by 18 percent. This implies that new consumer journey is shifting from sessions to spurts.
  • customers are impatient : New-age customers look for solutions like lightening. According to the same study, 40% of the customers will shift to another site within 3 seconds if the site they are surfing cannot satisfy the need. The battle ground for the brands are thus characterized by three needs—be there, be useful, and be quick.

And how are the organizations responding to the emerging requirements?

gearing up to the challenge

An Oracle study confirms that chatbots, almost a synonym for digital for CX has been implemented by 36 percent of the brands and this will jump to 80 percent by 2020. Other automation technologies considered to impact CX maximum are already in place in 48 percent  of the respondents and it will accelerate to 88 percent  by 2020.

Gautam Borah is the author of Monetising Innovation. He is Vice President–Customer Operation at Vodafone India.

The inherent expectation of leveraging on digital is enhancement of customer experience leading to a positive impact on business performance. However, a glance at the following few findings portrays a rather dismal picture on a global scale (A. T. Kearney):

  • Two-third of the digital programs fail
  • 90 percent of the IT projects do not deliver expected value
  • $400 bn is spent on the failed digital programs

So the question is: how does an organization achieve the emerging disruptive needs of the customer—a fast and accurate customer experience?

The answer lies in adopting an integrated approach sticking to a few fundamental premises.

integrated framework and building blocks for adopting digital

For discussing the building blocks for adopting digital into cx delivery, we will refer to the 9c3i framework below, developed by the author. This is an integrated customer experience framework developed based on rigorous industry research, discussion with experts, and application with success.

The framework comprises three lifecycle stages—onboarding, experience management, and relationship management. Each lifecycle stage has standard measures defined in the layer referred to as ‘measure’.

The following refers to the framework while discussing the building blocks for adopting digital.

building block 1: success metrics

According to an A.T. Kearney finding, 74 percent of the companies do not have a vision for the digital. For success of a digital intervention in CX delivery, it is important to define the success metrics at two levels.

The first level of definition is at the lifecycle stage. The 9c3i framework defines the standard metrics at each lifecycle stage mentioned in the ‘measure’ layer. The top line defines the experience metrics and the line below the business metrics.

The second level of definition is at the organizational level. The framework defines two standard metrics for this: EBITDA and NPS.

 building block 2: lifecycle-based approach

Many times, a business decision to implement a digital intervention is swayed towards a trending fad rather than the need of the lifecycle. A recent research by CX Network has indicated three frequent applications of digital in CX delivery: chatbots, churn prevention, and customer intimacy.

However, it is important to decide on the right digital intervention based on the need of the lifecycle stage rather than just picking up a trend. The recommended steps are:

  • Decide which lifecycle stage the intervention is going to impact
  • Decision on the success metrics and ROIs
  • Select the one that will lead to best ROI and experience

building block 3: efficient operating model

Chief Digital Officers, according to the same A. T. Kearney report, spend 80 percent of their time in managing stakeholders rather than the cause.

The recommendation is to create a distributed digital leadership with clear processes and responsibilities. As indicated in the figure above, it needs to be designed as per the lifecycle. To quote an example, if there is a digital intervention in the  onboarding stage of the lifecycle, the relevant stakeholders in the stage need to be identified along with the responsibilities.

 building block 4: people and culture

Referring to a study by McKinsey Global institute, for US, requirement in technological skill with AI and automation will increase by 60 percent by 2030. Similarly, requirements of Social and Emotional Skill will increase by 26 percent. The figures for Europe for these parameters are 52 percent and 22 percent respectively.

In this perspective, organisations adoptingdigital in to CX delivery need to work in the following directions

Capability (Develop)

  • Developing the technological skills
  • Developing the cognitive and emotional skills

Culture (Build)

  • Align organization structure and workforce composition
  • re-engineer processes


Winds of change in the digital space are fast turning into a whistling tempest, globally. Here, I would like to quote these lines by P B Shelley, which exemplify the imperative for organizations to stay relevant: The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,If winter comes, can spring be far behind.

(The views expressed in the article is of the author’s and does not reflect the views of anyone else, including the organization he is working for.)