The importance of customer-centric digitalization in the next normal

Addressing the challenges brought about by COVID-19 should not be the only concern of businesses. It is equally important to look forward to the next normal or the situation after the pandemic. Nobody knows when the virus outbreak will end, but just like many other global health problems in history, it will eventually reach a conclusion.

The end of the pandemic does not automatically mean that all businesses will return to profitability. There will be improvements, but success is never guaranteed without the companies doing anything to secure it. Normalcy during and after the pandemic is unlikely to be the same as what people think it is. There’s the concept of the new normal. Then, there’s the next normal. Some are also floating the idea of never normal.

Digitalization and the next normal

Addressing the new set of challenges, ideas, and perspectives in the post-pandemic scenario is not easy. However, if there is anything that cuts through as a logical and viable solution, it is digitalization. Whatever kind of "normal" emerges after COVID-19, it will certainly have digitalization playing a prominent role. Businesses will have to ditch analog conventions if they want to survive and thrive.

Digital processes and solutions allow companies to achieve greater efficiency and productivity. It is easier to analyze and manage operations when business information is conveniently accessible through a unified interface. Inventory monitoring, for example, becomes dramatically less tedious and complicated with the digitization and real-time updating of records.

Additionally, digitalization facilitates effective collaboration and remote work arrangements. With the technologies available at present, sharing different types of files and even desktop screens is not a problem. It is also possible to orchestrate the completion of a series of tasks without working in the same place at the same time.

In the course of becoming more efficient and adept in managing resources digitally, companies develop agility that can result in greater competitiveness. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos once said: "The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate."

The next normal will see companies competing fiercely in a business landscape characterized by relatively cautious consumption, investor reluctance, and massive disruptions. The business competition will be stiff and regulations will be tight. To remain a going-concern, businesses must be agile and creative.

Fresh from a health and economic crisis, there will be a tendency to view digitalization as a haven. It is not only useful in coping with the challenges of COVID-19. It can also help increase resilience in the next normal. "Once the situation has been stabilized, companies must rethink their digitization strategy, and put measures in place that establish sustainability for the future challenges to come," says Deloitte partner Dr. Till Contzen.

The need for customer-centric digitalization

Digital transformation benefits consumers by providing better and more convenient experiences. One SAP research found that 92 percent of business leaders implement digitalization strategies and processes because they want to enhance customer experiences. Companies do not only do it for their advantage. They do it because it is what customers want.

There is no doubt that digitalization is the way forward for businesses in the new normal. However, it is important to emphasize that technology is not the impetus for the digital shift. The move to digitalize should be anchored on the intention to improve customer experiences, not to ride on the bandwagon of digital transformation.

Deepak Sharma, Managing Director at Deloitte, offers compelling data that support the idea of making customer success the heart of digitalization efforts. He cites multiple studies that show a 20% reduction in the cost of serving B2B customers after improving customer satisfaction, a 140 percent revenue increase attributed to good customer relationships and purchase increases from 62 percent of B2B customers who reported good customer service experiences.

"B2B companies that invest in a CS (customer success) function are looking for a range of gains, including lower cost to serve, higher willingness to spend, increased loyalty, and brand advocacy. Unsurprisingly, good customer success capability execution brings tangible benefits," writes Sharma in an Insights article published on the Deloitte website.

Digitalizing for people

The European Union acknowledges the significance of digitalization not only for city and urban area dwellers but also for people in rural and mountainous regions. The EU’s Action Group 5 is pushing for the expedited rollout of modern and robust digital infrastructures in remote alpine areas. Ecommerce, e-learning, e-meetings, and e-everything-else should not only benefit early adopters. It is never too late to bring those in the fringes into the digital fold.

The ultimate goal of digitalization is to help people. Examining its many facets may lead to various technical discussions, but behind all of it is the goal of meeting or exceeding customer expectations. Nobody can be sure what new products or services will become the next big hits. However, what is certain is that digital technology looms over everyone and everything. Ignoring it is counter intuitive and possibly disastrous. Also, it would be an exercise in futility to fixate on the tech part instead of the use of tech to aid people.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Peter Davidson works as a senior business associate helping brands and start ups to make efficient business decisions and plan proper business strategies. He is a big gadget freak who loves to share his views on latest technologies and applications.

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