Possibly for the first time in recorded history, mankind has come together as one, to fight against one common enemy. The pandemic of 2020 has consistently shown us the importance of a willingness to embrace change; the ability to pivot toward and deal with rapid shifts in our world—as true in business as it is in our everyday lives.
There are classic buzzwords and phrases businesses often use, especially in trying times. They include challenging conventional thinking; and tapping into the power of self-disruption. Let us step away; however, from the lexical noise of business jargon and ask the very simple question: what does this year of change mean for us as CX partners?
We all live in a world increasingly driven by digital and complex technologies; unsurprisingly, this has changed the way we connect. Among the many ways, our lives have been impacted this year are: working from home in greater numbers than ever before; online educations are now the norm, rather than the exception; greater use of smartphones; over-communication on work projects and ordering nearly every essential online, instead of shopping in-person. In many ways, this is a quantum leap forward in how we use—and interact with—technology. And these changes, with their inherent threats and opportunities, are here for the foreseeable future.
It follows that unless we—as an industry—are willing to adapt to the resulting changes at the speed of light and develop innovative ways to meet our collective digital future, we could be in trouble. It’s called ‘Digital Darwinism’, a phrase first used by the author Karl-Heinz Land, and it is a compelling take on ‘Survival of the Fittest’. Companies are generally designed to improve and evolve slowly—in a series of systematic and well-choreographed moves. Today, however, this sense of orderly progress has been abruptly disrupted by the speed and hyper-adoption of digital transformation and technologies. In addition, society is changing around us at an unexpected pace—and in unexpected ways; both technological and societal changes are in turn impacting employee and customer values and behaviors.
What we are looking at are growing numbers of smarter and switched-on users; the drivers behind any brand as we know it today, are now in the hands of many—both across an organization and in the hands of consumers. As CX partners, we cannot misunderstand or misinterpret the growing power and impact of this new environment. And let us not mistake this: it is a new environment, one that requires us to think beyond existing frameworks, not merely apply or cosmeticize older solutions.
Are we, then, willing to step forward, take the risk, and think not just about innovation, but radical innovation across a very broad spectrum—not just fixes at the front-end? Can we get comfortable with being uncomfortable, trust our capabilities, and take discussions about digital capacity and end-to-end solutions out of board-rooms by converting thought into action? The pandemic has undeniably forced the pace of change; we must, while acknowledging its impact, be prepared to consistently stay several strategic steps ahead instead of playing catch-up. It’s survival of the digitally fittest.
We at Startek know first-hand about the pandemic-related quickstep; earlier this year, our offices around the world proactively and rapidly implemented secure work-from-home solutions for tens of thousands of agents. In one week, we moved from a standing start to enabling remote access for 55% of our agents. All this while simultaneously providing business continuity and ensuring data security for our clients. As it was for many in the industry, this was an unanticipated and rapid shift in how we work; in doing so, however,: We learned. We adapted. We implemented. We pivoted.
Adding to the pressure is the impact of megatrends of upgrading processes and customer communication channels to develop new ways of interacting with the brand; along with artificial intelligence and virtualization, they are fundamentally changing products and services. As individual companies, and as an industry, how do we harness their power to help us upgrade processes and communications channels that help us better interact with customers? How do we adapt and outperform?
As a leader, I see an approach that needs two spearheads. There is the obvious: business leaders reviewing and—importantly—truly understanding necessary technologies and their impact on the way we live and work. Then there is the second, and perhaps more important, aspect: how do we equip our workforce to become digital champions in a digital-first culture? It begins with embracing a culture of innovation and adaptation — a culture that recognizes the impact of disruptive technology and how consumer preference and affinity are evolving.
This is a fundamental shift. It is about recruiting digital natives and retraining those already on the job; it is about the learning and unlearning of skills through digital seminars and education programs, and the redefining of team goals and employee performance plans. And it is about doing this while maintaining focus on ethical challenges, automation, and transparency, and being able to clearly separate skill and expertise from a professional role.
Most of all it is about creating a culture of digital fitness, one where our innate ease with rapidly-changing technologies is the norm, not the trainable exception; we must operate at, above, and beyond, the same environment that our client’s customers operate within. I would like to see us move from a state of Digital Darwinism to one I would call Digital Exceptionalism where we— as an industry—become standard-bearers for being able to anticipate and address inevitable technological change and its impact on customer experience.