As Roy Atkinson noted in Executive Challenge: Changes in Technology, 60% of the executives we polled said business transformation is a top priority. In an earlier Executive Challenge article, I asked leaders to evaluate technology changes over the next decade. Here, I’ll address the human and technology intersect, customer experience (CX), and why a leadership and organizational perspective must be a focus in your transformation to move the conversation from technology to value.
The Human–Technology Interface
What are some examples of current human-technology interfaces?
We have seen amazing advances in smartphone and voice activated technologies for customer responses, ways to search and capture CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data, voice activated smart technologies such as virtual assistants, remote control, and dispatch. Ambient technologies can sense human response to environments within our facilities and change our experiences with the very buildings in which we work. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR/XR) immersions give customers and employees new ways to interact with or train on products and services. People in and outside our companies are shifting expectations based on amazing experiences they see as commonplace as they use these same technologies at home. Corporate enterprise technologies are connecting every department in our business, and IT is responsible for supporting it all.
What Do Our Customers Want?
Our customers want to experience our products and services in new and exciting ways, to reduce friction, take matters into their own hands, and solve problems with a click. When they reach out, they expect immediate understanding and quick solutions to their concerns. IBM anticipated by 2020 that 85% of all customer interactions would be handled by a non-human agent, but they didn’t anticipate the differences the speed or capabilities technology would make for CX.
Take Mercedes, for example, which is using AR technology internally at the production phase, externally during purchase, and experientially for navigation as they continue to create exceptional human/technical experiences. The lines between production, marketing, and IT are now blurred. They are an “engineering technology company” that makes cars, and their leadership knows how to support that model.
Companies must shift organizationally and attitudinally for transformation to take place in supporting these changes. Companies won’t get far if they still see IT as a functional cost center rather than the enabler of amazing experience.
What Are Customers Getting?
If leaders are stuck in the “customer support” approach of yesteryear, they’ll fail at exceptional experience. For example, they might implement a chat tool because leaders are sold on the idea of removing human cost and creating efficiency, but don’t budget for the foundations and expertise needed to properly set it up. While this approach might be on the right track, efficiency hype blocks making it effective for the business. People judge the CX you offer against every exceptional experience they have had, and in the age of social media they’re happy to share an opinion about why you’re not “like Amazon.” Immediate interaction and a fantastic experience aren’t just the future, the time is now to quit focusing on removing human salaries and start focusing on customer experience.
Humans and technology have a love-hate relationship. People love anything that makes it easy for them to move forward in the direction they want to go, and they hate anything that makes them take extra steps to get there.
Humans and technology have a love-hate relationship.
Human and Technology Shifts
As much as people may fear self-corrective technologies, they love them—such as the voice assisted devices that remember and recall personalized information—and they want you to get it right! Customers are purchasing these technologies at increasing rates, forming expectations from those experiences. Development of these products use a human-centered approach to solve very human problems in creative and thoughtful ways, and we need a human-centered approach as we shift how we lead and organize.
How can businesses leverage technology and improve or change their product offerings? Can they create accurate mechanical efficiencies in manufacturing, robotics that use AI and machine learning to reach deeper accuracy with less downtime and still create amazing experiences? How can they deploy highly connected software—I mean really connected—to every part of the organization, from the documents produced and the workflows developed, to the interactive dependencies between employees and customers, and not fall short? Companies must be organizationally talent rich and culturally prepared to take that on.
Evolved human technology intersects are forcing us to change how we see technology in our businesses and reinvent how we are going to support them!
It’s Past Time for a Future-Forward Approach
How we lead as executives is shifting, forced by the very technologies that we are implementing and the possibilities they create. Focusing only on the technology is like wielding a hammer and starting without the plan or the resources. We’re buying race car engines and putting them into old beat-up school buses. We don’t know at which turn that bus will roll over or at what speed. But we do know that the engines are not being used to their full capacity or being maintained as they should. Fixing that problem will involve evaluating our entire organizational model, culture, and operational mindset. Those who lag fail to succeed in the same level of revenue growth.
Has your team taken a good look at what transformation really means for your company?
Join Patti and other senior leaders for Executive Connections at SupportWorld Live in April, where they will discuss the shifts in leadership direction that companies are successfully using to transform their organizations!
Patti Blackstaffe doesn’t just wrangle resistors into using technology. As CEO of Strategic Sense Inc. and co-founder for the leadership development group GlobalSway, she unlocks potential for executives, leaders, and companies preparing for an ever-increasing focus on digital technology. She’s obsessed about connecting humans with technology for amplifying wild collaboration, obliterating silos, and inspiring compelling experiences. When she’s not leading digital leadership initiatives and organizational restructuring, she is an industry advisor for the Business Technology, Management and Analytics Program within the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, a gallery-showing artist, and she dabbles in spatial computing and augmented reality. You can follow her on Twitter @StrategicSense and connect with her on LinkedIn .