Can you imagine what it was like when I started work 25 years ago? Computers were rare; we had to share one in the branch of the bank I worked in. We had no text messaging, no Facebook, in fact we had no Internet which meant no emails, no video conferencing and certainly no online shopping or applications. But we still ran a pretty good business, served customers well and made money.
But the world has changed. Digital services have never had more of an impact on our lives than they do today. Whether it is shopping online or connecting with global colleagues, digital services are now the norm and the emergence of new smart technologies continues to accelerate this trend.
At the same time, things are becoming more personalised. In retail, big players such as Amazon and eBay lead the way with personalised product recommendations and targeted ads.
While in Financial Services banks such as Lloyds and Barclays have mobile apps and online banking to create a more personal, yet secure, experience. Apple have e-receipts, you can get your groceries from an array of providers – regular names like Waitrose or sole direct plays like Abel and Cole, renew your car tax online, and pay your tax bill without ever lifting a pen or personal calculator.
Digital and innovation
It is a fact – digital technology now delivers innovative ways of interacting and engaging with the organisations that we deal with every day. From smartphone apps to in-store tablets, these services are reshaping everything from shopping and paying bills through to healthcare and education. So if organisations fail to offer their customers a digital option, do they risk losing out to more engaging competitors?
To explore this in more detail, Fujitsu undertook research to compare the performance of different industries to see just how well they are delivering on digital. The research indicated that the UK is becoming a ‘digital-first’ nation, with more than a quarter of us always using digital services when given the chance.
The report revealed that the Financial Services sector is the driving force when it comes to digital services, with online banking taking the top slot for both most valued and most used (67% and 63% respectively) digital service. The report also revealed that 40% of us value having a clear record of our interactions with an organisation, while 24% believe that a digital engagement leads to a better experience.
As digital and technology services continue to have an effect on our lives, it is clear that confidence is growing among Brits as they get to grips with newer and newer digital services.
Personalisation improves experience
Personalisation can help organisations create an improved experience for both customers and new prospects, creating a truly engaging and appropriate experience – according to Fujitsu’s research, nearly two thirds (63%) of consumers are comfortable with the digital services offered to them by organisations today.
However there are still many barriers when it comes to adopting digital services in the UK. While few are likely to say that digital technology improves their experience of interacting with an organisation, 30% admit that they wish they felt more comfortable using those services.
Another one of the key findings of the report found that while many businesses have digitised their front-end so that they look digitally enabled, many are still working with back-end operating processes based on legacy systems. This is inefficient and costly – especially when customers try to do business through omni-channels – and also leaves them exposed when competing with true play digital competitors.
The answer is having the right balance. Consumers value digital services because of improved channels of engagement which make interactions simpler and more efficient. However, it is clear that many consumers remain more comfortable dealing with humans rather than technology when undertaking certain interactions.
Making digital attractive
Perhaps not surprisingly, the research also revealed that customers are much more comfortable with digital systems they use regularly such as online shopping and e-banking, rather than those they use irregularly such as taxing their car, or reviewing their TV licence. That said, respondents did indicate they wanted some of these irregular providers to do more to make digital more attractive for users.
While technology might not yet be able to replicate every element of the human-to-human customer service experience, “digital first” seems to be an increasingly apt way of describing our relationships with the businesses and organisations around us.
For many of us, digital is already the channel of choice when it comes to interacting and engaging with organisations. However for organisations there is a much bigger challenge. In order to offer customers the best possible experience, whether that is digital or human interaction, the key is to focus on both innovation and service quality.
Only then will businesses be able to offer a truly personalised experience for the customer, and with most customers now used to digital in some parts of their lives (e.g. shopping), their expectations are much greater for other things that they do, so simply being the best provider in your sector may no longer be enough.