Do you want to improve your customer experience? Connect the front, middle, and back of your business with integrated automation
Melissa O’Brien, Research Vice President, HFS Research
Customer-centricity requires much more than prettying up the front office with a mobile app, online self-service, or a social media presence. Great customer experience is not about a fancy front-end user interface; rather, organizations must have the foundation and the inner workings to support the digital front office—which is about embracing technology like analytics and AI across the front, middle and back to become more customer-centric and intelligent. HFS has defined and articulated this kind of organization-wide structure as the OneOffice: This is the roadmap to success for companies that want to be competitive, grow revenues and market share, and become more intelligent and predictive.
Advances in automation, AI, and analytics (the Triple-A Trifecta) are helping us rewire business operations to stay ahead of customer needs. Without having an accurate picture of how you want to operate in the future, you will be perennially searching for short-term fixes to drive out further costs, and you will never be able to map out a strategic journey that will bring together your two most critical assets: your customers and your employees.
The Digital OneOffice exists when teams function autonomously across the front, middle, and back office to promote broader processes with real-time data flows that support rapid decision making. It’s where the front, middle, and back offices will cease to exist, and they will be, simply, OneOffice. With a digital underbelly and intelligent support functions such as HR, finance, and customer support, the OneOffice is rewired with the customer in mind. The Digital OneOffice is the organizational end-state for survival and success.
Exhibit 1: The HFS Digital OneOffice Framework
Exhibit 2: Integrated automation must rebalance people, process, and technology
HFS Triple-A-Trifecta of Intelligent Automation The optimized enterprise How IA is being applied to enterprise
Integrated automation is a foundational capability to the OneOffice
At its core, enabling the OneOffice requires adopting the Triple-A Trifecta. Also, a foundational capability to the OneOffice is the traditional “people, process, and technology” trio, which is still as relevant as ever. Unfortunately, technology has overpowered the discussion without adequate focus on people and process. Business problems are not solved by a standalone technology but instead by a combination of technologies and a re-focus on process and people. Right now, only 11% of enterprises are currently integrating solutions across the Triple-A Trifecta. To fully implement a OneOffice roadmap, companies need to leverage the capabilities of integrated automation rather than deploy technologies piecemeal as they’ve done in the past. They also need to remember the “original” people, process, and technology trifecta.
The narrative has decidedly shifted from “bots vs. humans” to “bots PLUS humans.” We know now that most organizations are not viewing their automation strategies as headcount reduction initiatives; rather, they see the investments in automation as driving new revenue and delighting customers—not reducing FTE or saving costs (see Exhibit 3).
Exhibit 3: Automation investment is all about customer experience
Q: What are the key operational objectives for your intelligent automation strategy?
Integrated Automation in action: Cognitive assistants Cognitive assistants are enabling more intelligent ways of communicating within organizations and with end-customers. While the dominant notion of cognitive assistants is related to B2C (business to consumer) conversations thanks to the popularity of virtual consumer assistants like Siri and Alexa, these tools are being deployed throughout the enterprise within functions such as IT helpdesk and HR, for example. In many cases, we are finding cognitive assistants to be part of the “glue” that helps hold the OneOffice together and connects the customer centric organization to its end customers. By helping information get across front, middle and back office in a more efficient and intelligent way, cognitive assistants can be a vital tool to enable OneOffice.
Many companies using cognitive assistants as part of their customer service strategy are having them assist customer service representatives in finding information quickly or with next-best-action decision making. Cognitive assistants are fast becoming an important cog in the OneOffice engine: whether directly corresponding with customers, augmenting the work of a customer rep, or helping middle and back office processes get completed more intelligently and efficiently. The key difference between cognitive assistants and tools like chatbots is their ability to combine elements of process automation, AI, and smart analytics into an integrated solution. Deployed correctly, these tools don’t just automate interactions; they help people access data faster, execute processes, and help us understand our employees and customers better.
Customer experience is not driven by digital adoption but digital change management In addition to a new approach to integrating technologies, the OneOffice and changing customer expectations also require a new mindset about how companies and their partners measure success. Fifty-one percent of the highest performing enterprises see their cultures as holding them back in the digital transformation journey, while only 36% of the lowest performing enterprises identify culture as a problem to progress. Change management approaches must be agile, measurable, and iterative to be impactful. Scaling up digital initiatives and enabling the right governance models are also critical points. The ability to codify “business outcomes” in contractual agreements, pricing structures, and performance measures is also a vital element to drive change. While there is no nirvana around pricing, it needs to be implemented based on every client’s unique requirements and context. The flexibility to put skin in the game with innovative and nonlinear commercial models is essential to drive real change.
The Bottom Line: You can’t transform the customer experience without rethinking the way you do business from front to back, leveraging integrated automation. Integrated automation means that the change agents of process automation, AI, and analytics must work together, not in silos, to solve enterprise-wide business problems and scale. And fundamentally, people and process aspects also need to be considered and optimized in equal proportion as technology in order to enable change. The OneOffice gives companies a roadmap that embraces the power of “AND” to elevate the customer experience with integrated automation.