Experiential Excellence: Thoughts from ServiceNow Knowledge 2022

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In comparison to the golden days of the second half of the 20th century, the last two decades have been hard hit. The fragility of globalisation and that prosperous economic model so beautifully enabled by a 70-year technology revolution, have tested business continuity and disaster recovery plans like never before.

Looking Back

During this time the global community has lurched through tech and property driven financial crisis. It has endured endemic terrorism, and a crippling pandemic. And it has been fragmented by the existential threats of energy and climate, world order dislocation, and challenges to once unshakable fiat money. The wonderfully efficient business models and supply chains enabled by W. Edwards Deming following World War II are fractured and broken. Despite all these challenges, the desire for a hopeful return to a golden age of global prosperity is clearly evident. Just maybe not as we know it.

The period between W. Edwards Deming and Dotcom (let’s say 1950-2000) ushered in ERP and the modern software revolution. Over decades, highly refined processes and perfected workflows shifted from paper and clipboards into mainframe environments – from conveyor belts to computing and from ledgers to LANs.

In the progression to slightly less monolithic server-based business applications, millions of lines of customised code are transferred into configurable data fields, coupled with ready-made workflow connections, and processes based on standards set by leading companies and their representative bodies. The standardisation of business systems lowered the entry point for new enterprises, spawned new industries, and ultimately allowed SaaS to proliferate.

ERP was a true revolution in automating process and quality management systems and building the modern world. Cloud was then a transformation for ERP. It was an innovation on an original idea, but it wasn’t the next revolution. In many ways, by standardising business systems, we went too far. The vendor market over-estimated what configuration over customisation could achieve and ultimately set unachievable expectations in relation to client outcomes. On the client side, end-user organisations seized on vanilla processes and workflows and got lazy about working out solutions to their own problems. In chasing out-of-the-box software they sought to expedite, and even outsource, the hard work. In doing so, the core driver of 20th century post war economic prosperity was forgotten.

Looking Ahead

In business transformations there are no short cuts to results

One of the defining social drivers of the 21st century is a move towards the concept of individualism. We see it everywhere. In the transformation of traditional marriage, family, and identity structures. In the migration away from the concept of houses and homes, in the rise of the gig economy, and even in the regulatory schemes of government, financial and insurance services. The individual sits at the centre of new globalisation economic design and is giving rise to the next business systems revolution. At ServiceNow Knowledge 2022 I was fortunate to hear Dr Catriona Wallace and the Hon Victor Dominello MP discuss it in the context of their recent research. Dr Wallace described the trend as, “know me and care about me”, and discussed the requirements to operate within a world of both hyper-personalisation and ethical restraint.

This time however the business systems revolution to support this change is not being driven by process efficiencies and quality management, though they remain important tools. It is being driven by the pursuit of Experiential Excellence. You’ve heard it many times before and once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee it – Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Digital Experience. These are all ambitions of populist organisational and service transformation agendas with Experiential Excellence at their core.

For business and technology leaders it requires a mental shift. Traditional ERP alone will not get us there. It means a new business systems methodology is required to accompany, and reflect the challenges of the modern world, not one created more than 70 years ago.

An Experiential Excellence platform isn’t just a new ERP. It’s a new type of system capable of operating at speed and with breakthrough power; but it is also capable of breaking the intellectual shackles of pre-configuration to help organisations recapture the essence of what Deming started so long ago and we somehow lost along the way: The ability to think about and solve any kind of complex, innovative and multi-objective, multi-stakeholder problem. And I think that ServiceNow, and the Now Platform, is the first company (and business system) to do it.

The sense of something special was clearly evident among ServiceNow staff and partners, at the event. But I don’t think they have yet nailed the messaging. And the reason is because there is still such a strong gravitational pull towards the old ERP model among end-user clients. This reinforces a need for ServiceNow to still define itself by the last 50 years of system technology rather than the next 50.

That needs to change. So, next time when a client asks, is ServiceNow an ERP or is it an RPA platform or something else, the answer is – it is neither, and both, and all, and sometimes at the same time. This wonderful superposition, the same quantum computing characteristic that allows a particle to be one thing, or either, or both, all at the same time, is the very essence of their opportunity – should they wish to take it.

To be a leader in the new quantum age of computing will mean taking the brave step of unshackling themselves from the 20th century view of ERP and lead the redefinition of business systems for the quantum age. Let the revolution begin.  

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The Future of the Digital Workplace: The HR Perspective

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HR has the biggest role to play in shaping the employee experience that an organisation provides – and it cannot achieve this without a close alliance with the Tech/Digital Team. While this synergy is missing in most organisations, HR teams need to step up by listening to what their employees are saying. Having an understanding of how perspectives change based on employees’ demographic profiles, can help HR teams immensely.

The role of HR has evolved

The corporate challenge of managing skills shortages, employer of choice strategies, and flexible work programs have long existed. It’s just that, like most strategic imperatives, they have been optional, even for the most competitive businesses.

The Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study highlights that the current resignation pandemic is supercharging a skills famine for many firms. But with almost all attention from the Great Resignation still focused on employee experience (EX), deep consideration must be given to efficiently and effectively navigating the extreme workload now facing internal HR functions.

Recruiting, inducting, onboarding, training, and cross-boarding new staff, while exiting and off-boarding old staff, often remotely and at high volume, will see shadow-HR technologies and practices bleed out of People and Capability departments as companies scramble to reset demand.

Regardless of industry, every company’s core business just became HR!

The need for Personalised Employee Experience

The industry has been talking about the need to create personalised customer experience (CX) for a while now – we should talk about creating personalised EX now.

Given the changes and challenges that your employees have faced over the last two years, they have developed some strong work preferences. HR has the biggest role to play in shaping the EX your organisation provides – and it cannot achieve this without a close alliance with the Tech/Digital Team.

According to the Ecosystm Voice of Employee Study, 50% of your employees believe that improved EX leads to better CX.

It may not be possible to cater to the needs of every individual employee. But taking into consideration some of the differences – whether based on role, age, gender, family status and so many other factors that make up an individual – will help you shape your organisation’s Digital Workplace strategy and offer a more personalised EX.  

Here are 5 gender differences in workplace behaviour according to the Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study.   

  • Women are more likely to change jobs in 2022
  • The assumption that women prefer to work from home is wrong
  • More men prefer 5-Day work weeks
  • The challenges of working from home might be very different
  • Women and men have different collaboration styles

Read on for more insights.

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The Future of the Digital Workplace: 5 Things Your Employees are Telling You

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At Ecosystm we pride ourselves in keeping a finger on the pulse of the market. There is a lot of buzz around the ‘Digital Workplace’. For the last two years you have focused on technologies that allow employees to work from home – or from anywhere they choose to. Now the focus of the tech investments is on empowering employees to return to the physical office and creating a true hybrid workplace.

As you define the work model that works for your organisation, now is the time to listen to your employees. The newly launched Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study aims to do just that.

The study aims to explore the emerging global Future of Work trends from an employee’s point-of-view. In an environment of uncertainty, this is designed to be an ongoing, dynamic study that will be able to track the major shifts in preferences, perceptions, and practices over the year.  

Here are some key findings from the ongoing study.

  1. 2022 will be another year of flux – The Great Resignation may well impact you.
  2. You may not be giving enough choices to your employees
  3. It is time to get your workplace ready – and embrace a hybrid work model
  4. Your employees are more tech-savvy than even before
  5. Employee Experience will have to remain a priority

Read on to find more about the study findings.

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The Future of Cities: ERP Transformation – Prepare to Play the Long Game

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It is an incredible time of change for the city and regional governments where every strategic activity – especially in these globally challenging times – presents a significant opportunity for transformation. To continue to meet the changing needs of the communities they serve, every modern city government’s technology story is a work in progress. While this is the mantra for successful continuous improvement it also describes the best strategic approach for how municipalities should manage their corporate application replacement programs.

Unfortunately, significant systems upgrade and replacement programs are regularly approached as complex, multi-tasking activities that have a hard start, a defined program, and a date-stamped end. In taking this traditional project implementation approach, intuitively, many organisations believe that doing as much as possible, in as quick a time as possible, ultimately helps to achieve twice as much within the same time. The result is more likely to be half as much, and at lower levels of quality and enjoyment for all involved. This manifests as project scope creep and budget overruns.

Aside from these big bang approaches, thanks to large implementation costs and stringent regulatory oversight, local governments are also forced to think upfront about the potential future value created by a significant core system technology change. The pressure of moving at high speed, and with a dominant technology focus, can obscure both the true organisational cost and ultimate value of the program. This mentality prevails even when it is acknowledged that activities associated with a transformation program will eventually usher in a period of significant change – that is not limited to the changing core corporate applications environment itself.

The 4-Part ERP Transformation Trap is All Too Common in City Government

An over-reliance on technology to deliver business transformation outcomes. Local governments everywhere continue to pursue strategic plans that are either wholly defined or implicitly reliant on world-class customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), and digital transformation (DX) capabilities. Despite these being business-oriented strategies, organisations then pursue an over-reliance on technology – usually winner-take-all ERP led procurements – to achieve them.

Choosing an industry solution focused on the wrong business model. The chance of achieving these digital transformation outcomes is further obscured when the customer is not central to the data model. The core corporate application technology underpinning the sector’s leading ERP programs is largely based on a property-centric model – where the customer is a subordinate attribute of a property, and the property asset defines the business process and individual.  It is a challenge for any council to deliver contemporary customer-first digital transformation with a property-centric approach. To realise customer and employee-centric outcomes, councils must therefore rethink their project’s business methodology and ask themselves, “what is our primary focus here?”. This is never more important than when replacing legacy systems.

Inability to realise that a winner-take-all ERP solution is not an architectural choice. ERP is important but it is not everything. The traditional council ERP is just one important part of an overall capability that allows authorities to longitudinally manage the impacts and opportunities of change across their organisation, communities, and stakeholder ecosystems. Having chosen a sector specific ERP solution, city governments realise too late that no single technology vendor has a best-of-breed solution to achieve the desired DX outcomes. That requires a more sophisticated architectural approach.

Failure to acknowledge there is no finish line to transformation. Like many worthwhile activities, the prize in DX is in the journey, not in the cup. While there can be an end to “project scope”, there should be no “end point” for an ERP transformation program. Only once these challenges are acknowledged and accepted, can transformation be assimilated into the organisation to ensure the council is technically capable of delivering the implicit outcome for the organisation. This could simply be defined as ‘a contemporary business approach to managing the money, the assets, the community, the customers, and the staff of regional government.’

A Better Way: Re-Architecting for Project Success

Where opportunities to meet increasing CX and EX demands arise, especially through ERP and corporate application renewal programs, successful projects in contemporary councils require a service-oriented architecture not found in contemporary or legacy ERP systems alone.

Beyond the property-centric challenges already outlined, even contemporary systems and suppliers can be among the least flexible to the changing data management requirements of many organisations which call for significantly more robust data, integration and application friendly infrastructure management environments. 

Customer centricity, data management, integration and software infrastructure capabilities must take precedent over an aging view of single-vendor dominance in the city government sector, especially in middle- and back-office functions, which are typically void of true differentiation opportunities and prone to confining organisations to technology-led and locked projects.

Rather than tendering for a single software provider or platform, contemporary city governments must ditch the old approach to procuring a winning ERP vendor and take steps to establish the following Big 5 platform capabilities (Figure 1). And then foster the contemporary workforce to support them.

The big 5 platform capabilities

For several decades now many organisations have attempted to short-circuit the city government ERP challenge. Fundamentally, technology transformation is not possible without technology change. A non-negotiable part of that change is a shift away from the psychology of brand-based procurement towards a new architectural approach which, like all businesses, is adaptable to change over a long period of time.

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The Role of Workforce Experience Management and EX Applications in Contact Centres

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Agents are the biggest assets in a contact centre and agent attrition is not a new challenge – 40% of contact centres globally state that high staff turnover is one of the challenges of driving consistent customer experience (CX). The ability to find the right talent has been equally challenging. The pandemic and the hybrid work model have made it harder to manage the onboarding, training, and the other processes required to get the agent up to speed on the job. Despite the challenges contact centres need a strong focus on managing the experience for the agents – they are a company’s front-line staff and the experience they deliver to the customers has an immense impact on the brand.

Workforce Experience Management (WEM) tools have gone beyond just scheduling – they are now able to leverage data and analytics to allow agents more control over their performance and their work preferences. Additionally, Agent Assist and knowledge management solutions give contact centre agents dynamic access to intelligent data. Ecosystm research shows that contact centres across the globe are ramping up their investments in employee experience (EX) technologies (Figure 1). They are focused on simplifying agent workload and offering more flexibility.

How do you elevate the Agent Experience in the Hybrid Work Model?

  • Encourage shift bidding. Build flexible scheduling and shift bidding into the company culture. Agents should be encouraged to work on a schedule that works best for them. If you are employing part-timers, retirees or you have agents working from home, you have to factor in their home commitments. Additionally allowing them to bid and openly talk to their managers and colleagues about swapping shifts demonstrates a company culture of open communication and collaboration. So, in essence, this is not a scheduling conversation, but an image-building exercise. You will be able to attract more talent, in an industry where it is hard to retain talent.
  • Evaluate your agents’ strengths in voice and self-service channels. Not all agents are good with voice calls and this can sometimes be overlooked by contact centre leaders. Your organisation’s brand image depends on the customer care your employees provide. Voice calls are still important; despite the increase in the adoption of AI and automation, the human touch remains critical. It is important for agents to be as authentic as possible on calls. Assigning the right agent to the right channel, keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses will help your organisation to maintain the human touch. For example, some agents may be able to multitask well and are better prepared to manage multiple channels simultaneously.
  • Your knowledge system is critical. Make sure it is relevant and not outdated! Your agents have limited time on their hands. They often need information urgently, especially when dealing with a difficult customer. An updated knowledge system allows your agents to be consistent in their messages and their delivery. This helps agents to meet the AHT, FCR and other metrics and reduces human errors. Nearly 60% of contact centres globally rate improving knowledge management systems as a CX priority. There is still a lot of data inconsistency and irrelevance which needs to be worked through. An accurate and updated knowledge management system is critical, and it should be ONE source of truth. For compliance reasons, data consistency is critical. Also, the search for the information must be easy and only relevant articles and information should be pushed to live agents. The need to access multiple knowledge systems and CRM tools creates additional stress on agents.  
  • Give your agents access to call recordings. When your agents have access to the call recordings, they can evaluate how they have performed; and reflect and improve on the outcomes at their own pace. This will also allow them to spot the mistakes they are making, often prompting them to reach out to their manager and/or colleagues for help on how to avoid them. Often managers have access to sentiment analysis applications to spot issues from the tones of the agents and the customers. This can be useful in situations where the agent might have provided the right answers, but the customer is not fully satisfied. Giving equal access to the agents empowers them to find ways of improving the CX they deliver.  
  • Invest in advanced technologies around forecasting and scheduling. AI and self-adjusting algorithms are important for accurate and real-time forecasts. It is challenging to sometimes predict the volume of voice and non-voice transactions in a day. API-based tools can integrate data from different sources such as web chat, social media, voice, and workforce experience management solutions for an accurate view of the workload, including wait times. The analytics should be able to alert you of potential gaps before the resource shortfall, allowing you to plan your staffing requirements better.  

Conclusion

The hybrid work model has its challenges for the contact centre industry. The ability of agents to walk up to their supervisors or raise their hands when they have an issue has been impacted. While it is important to focus on how agents will perform their jobs remotely, it is equally important to evaluate the overall experience including training, scheduling and forecasting workload. AI and automation, WEM and knowledge solutions can help reduce confusion and ease the workload for the agents. An integrated EX platform that uses a single dashboard will be most beneficial for agents to navigate for information. What is important is to have a new approach to managing EX. This will help your organisation immensely in attracting and retaining talent.

Experience Economy
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Why Do You Fail to Deliver a Consistent and Memorable Digital Customer Experience? – Part 2

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Consistent customer and brand experiences should be at the heart of every digital strategy. In the first part of this feature, we explored the barriers to creating memorable customer experience (CX). Here we look at what organisations who have mastered the art of great CX have in common.

Best Practices

Through Ecosystm research and interviews with organisations we have found that businesses that are already creating a consistent, effective, and memorable digital customer experience have these traits in common:

Success factors for your digital customer experience

Had CEO and Board-level support for their strategy. Your ability to create a memorable and consistent digital experience lives and dies by the support of your senior management team. Without the CEO telling the rest of the business that this is a priority, the employees simply won’t come along for the ride.

Gained Employee support for the strategy. There is no point in creating a digital customer strategy at the Board and senior management level if it is not consistent with the lived experience of employees. An Australian bank made the mistake of making all their digital experience decisions at the most senior levels without taking the employees on the journey too. Change needs buy-in from all levels of the business – so make sure all levels are heard and that they understand why and how you will change the way they work and deliver customer value.

Made the delivery of a brand-consistent experience into a key KPI. In these businesses, a consistent CX is a given. That doesn’t mean they are not personalising their customer experiences or optimising them for specific touchpoints – it means that collaboration with other teams and channels is a base expectation. Changes are not made without the knowledge of other teams.

Prioritised governance over management. The risk of collaboration and including many people in decisions is that it slows decisions down and impacts business agility. To enable their collaborative approach to digital experience delivery, these businesses have set rules and guardrails into their decision-making processes to ensure they continue to deliver on-brand and consistent experiences. Many also have created cross-channel teams or sewn their digital skills across the different channel teams to ensure consistency of customer experience.

Consolidated on fewer platforms and CX ecosystems. Five years ago, businesses needed to source smaller, more innovative CX software and cloud components just to keep up with customer expectations. The trendsetters had built their own CX capabilities and weren’t relying on the traditional ISVs for their CX innovation. Smaller providers were emerging to fill these gaps for businesses who were not digitally native. Sourcing best-practice solutions is much easier today. Some of those smaller vendors have emerged to create their own platforms and CX ecosystems, and other suppliers have acquired and innovated their own software to meet and exceed customer requirements. For example, you no longer need multiple content management systems or platforms – a single content source can now meet the different needs of your different channel teams and feed consistent content to all customers tailored to their journey stage or chosen touchpoint.

Used data for their customers – not against them. Many personalisation or automation attempts have failed. Not because they used the wrong data, but because they were driving the wrong outcome. They were designed to corner a customer into a decision, versus helping them make the best decision for their circumstance. We all know what that looks like – if an interaction feels “creepy” like they are following you around the web and across touchpoints, or they seem to know too much about you. This is when a business is using data against you to try to force an action. Smart businesses use data to help customers achieve their goals – in the knowledge that happy customers will not only return to the business or brand, but also tell their friends and family about the experience.

Creating a consistent and on-brand digital experience will drive many positive outcomes for your customers and your business. Your customers will know what to expect and be comfortable in their interactions with your brand in whatever channel or touchpoint they desire – with the knowledge that the experience will be consistent and integrated and their time will not be wasted. They’ll return to your business over and over again. The consistent experience will also drive down your costs – with less rework, fewer platforms to support, more automation and hopefully a simpler technology architecture. Done right, it will also create a single unifying digital initiative across the business that will help to break down barriers, improve collaboration, and unlock innovation in and between your business teams.

Customer Experience Insights
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