Pursuing a ‘Service-First’ View of Digital Transformation

29 July, 2021



Customer care providers should focus on clients, customers, and employees to achieve the right balance.

By Jason Sterns, Vice President of Business Development, Transparent BPO

The customer care industry has lost sight of a ‘service-first view of digital transformation.’

Too often, providers mention the term to prospective clients and then cloak it with rhetoric and jargon. Not only does this hurt our industry, it hurts client relationships but ultimately, the end consumer, the people we’re supposed to serve, lose.

They lose because their questions don’t get answered when they call, text, chat, or email. They lose because technical issues go unresolved. They lose because they can’t get the product or service that suits their needs or satisfies their purchasing itch.

Essentially, they lose because the pursuit of new technology – for technology’s sake – is getting in the way. Granted, there are technologies that stick and will have an impact but far too often “digital transformation” becomes a meaningless term that is too technical, too vague and far to opaque. In some cases, clients don’t even know what they signed on for when they pursue ‘digital transformation.’  

Even, The Enterprisers Project, a community dedicated to helping CIOs and IT leaders solve problems, has determined that some technology leaders feel the very term “digital transformation” has become so widely used, so broad, that it has become unhelpful.

Initially, the definition of ‘cloud’ services was misunderstood and misapplied by many in our industry. Today, the ‘cloud’ is ubiquitous in our business lexicon but more importantly, leaders have learned and continue to learn how to apply cloud applications to their customer experience. Can we say the same thing about A.I. (also known as artificial intelligence), blockchain, machine learning or RPA (robotic process automation)?

To find out how we got here, we have to take a step back. For many, ‘digital transformation’ has different definitions. Talk to the manufacturing industry, and it constitutes one thing. Talk to the healthcare industry, it means something completely different. And even within these industries, there can be different interpretations. “Digital transformation’ in the manufacturing of cars is different than the manufacture of children’s toy cars. Furthermore, ‘digital transformation’ in healthcare research and development of gnomes is different than ‘digital transformation’ in the emergency room and even the digital transformation in our own homes.

Consistent Interpretation

There may never be a consistent interpretation of ‘digital transformation’ but as an industry dedicated to customer service, we should aspire to have a foundational understanding of what ‘digital transformation’ means. For every transaction and customer interaction, we should have a clear understanding what the digital experience means to three critical audiences: 1) our clients, 2) their customers and, 3) our employees.  

As leaders in the business process outsourcing/customer care industry, we have to be obsessed with the experience we want to provide to each of these critical audiences with each interaction:

  1. Are our agents fulfilling our commitment to our clients and representing their brand in the manner they prefer?
  2. Are our clients’ customer receiving the level of service they expect and are they satisfied with their experience after every transaction?
  3. Are we supporting our employees by giving them the training, resources and tools to satisfy #1 and #2?

To achieve a ‘service-first digital transformation,’ we have to be clear on the experience we want to provide to each audiences (#1, #2 and #3). To arrive at a consistent interpretation, it’s critical to collaborate with your client to design, implement and manage the experience that should be delivered. Everyone agrees that the design of the final experience is mapped out before any program goes ‘live’ but there is diverging opinions when this process begins.

The progressive customer care provider puts this on the table in the  initial round of discussions with a prospective client. If we establish early in the process that “service-first’ experience is the ultimate goal, then everyone has the same North Star to guide their journey.  

By starting with the ‘service-first’ experience, providers can then determine what technology is necessary to deliver the right experience. They can tailor the processes, the training and the specific technology needed to achieve the ultimate outcome. This way, clients and vendors are ahead of the curve and anticipating customer demands.

This approach avoids the trap of introducing new applications to our technology stack as if they are digital tools in search for a customer challenge to solve. IT leaders will be the first to advocate a ‘service-first view of digital transformation’ when the customer experience is put at the center of every transaction.

Clients and their BPO providers have to agree on details – no matter how small – of each and every interaction. Together, we have to chart a path to the ideal experience and what it will look like for the client, what the experience will be like for their customers and what will the experience be like for our agents who are tasked with delivering the ultimate transaction. Once we agree on those fundamentals, we can begin to develop a consistent and durable ‘service-first view of digital transformation.’