Going digital in 2 weeks (or 52 weeks)
As we have seen in 2020, restrictive government regulations due to COVID pandemic, and consequent significant changes in customer behaviour, forced companies to shut down their physical branches and other traditional channels. Although some large retailers have managed to swiftly change their shops to pick-up centres, lot of others were left with only one channel to interact with their customers – digital communication, supported by a call centre.
In order to act swiftly (in case of larger companies meaning acting in several weeks rather than in several months), companies were forced to implement at least some “workaround omnichannel” –urgently redirecting traffic and processes of traditional channels to a digital one, but without usual long running implementation projects and expensive technologies in place. There is even a running joke about what let the digital transformation of the companies in 2020: CEO, CTO…or COVID-19.
Customers have also quickly adapted to digital interactions (or were forced to by the circumstances) across the industries, expecting a smooth “hybrid” customer experience (order digitally, physical pick-up or courier delivery).
Many of our corporate clients were caught by surprise by the fact that direct physical interactions with the customer have ceased to exist so abruptly. So, in order to catch up to this new situation, companies pushed up a priority of their digital agendas in project portfolios. We have observed that even companies undergoing complex digital transformations have suddenly requested quicker ways to move their activities online, looking for “quick&dirty” IT approach, often at expense of IT architecture purity. In other words, rather have it working now than adhering to IT architecture principles beneficial in a long-term horizon. Business survival and shift to digital is business vital, IT architecture purity will follow later, maybe even with some parts reconsidered.
However, digital channels are teethless and difficult to be utilized without identity and customer authorization in place. No matter the effectiveness of communication in digital space, the interaction remains passive without customer ID and digital authorization (that means company cannot really confirm client identity and thus transact with him/her).
Perhaps except for the banking industry, where customer identity and digital authorization has been required by security needs and wide adoption of digital banking channels already for some time, most businesses that recognize the customers in online space (via some registration process) are still missing the key pre-requisite to build a full-fledged presence in digital channels – obtaining customer identity, authentication and authorization.
Getting these digital pre-requisites is not so much of a technical issue as IT tools are already on the market for some time. But the companies rather need to change their contracting framework and legal and business processes running in the background. And then to roll it out to their existing customer base. This proves to be a hard bit.
Several companies (such as fintechs or new digital entrants) are adopting federated authorization as a one of the options how to tackle this issue and save on time / complexity of designing and implementing their own full-fledge tools and processes. They exploit the fact the customers very often already have some verified digital authorization (for example with a bank) and they “only extend” this authorization towards their businesses (recently, this was the case in Czech Republic where authorization methods used by the local banks are exploited also for transaction authorizations of citizens towards the state). However, this also does not come without rolling up the sleeves.
Once the customer identity is resolved in digital channels, it needs to be harmonized across other channels, so the customer flows seamlessly from digital purchase order to physical pick-up or delivery.
Only then we eventually get to truly omnichannel experience – no matter what the customer interaction is (be it sale or care activity), or a touchpoint with the company, the customer experience is smooth and internally not fragmented into several systems and processes.