Digital Transformation: The Changing-Room has Changed

|February 15, 2018 1
Here’s a new way of sussing out your customer better with the help of Service Design. It has never been easy to know what they expect and how they experience everything. In fact, times and that thing called ‘industry blur’ have gotten only harder that way. But Digital Transformation could be just the key to unlock that maze. Dive in

Who could have thought that the sleek, smooth and all-purpose creature called ‘curtain’ would find itself tucked inside the graveyard too!

But that inconceivable future has arrived.

If we designate the part where the customer interacts with the brand/organization through various touch-points as ‘Front Stage’ and the area where the supporting activities take place to render all products and services as, of course, ‘Back Stage’; we will suddenly find ourselves groping for that line that slices the two scapes.

It is the ‘line of visibility’ as SapientRazorfish folks have fondly christened it. It is that new and invisible curtain that represents how frictionless the activities of an organization are supposed to be in context of rendering a service across channels.

Organizations, of all stripes and shades, are now struggling more than ever to juggle their ideas, resources and props between the two areas. They can either get busy stumbling on their over-sized coats with ill-fitting shoes on or, they can put on the cloaks and hats of smart, savvy and suave service-design frameworks and dump all their Green-room worries in a grave-yard too. But how?

Be Swift, but not Sloppy

Imagine a trip to your local Federal Express office. The public space, including areas where you pick out envelopes, the kiosks where you fill out the packing slip, the service counter, the service associates and you – that’s all Front Stage. Even if you skip the bricks-and-mortar experience, and opt for the FedEx website or mobile app, you are still using a digital Front Stage to interact with FedEx. On the other hand; all the sorting, the scanning, routing, and payment processing that happens behind the scenes, beyond the ‘Line of Visibility’- is the Back Stage. When FedEx and other shippers give customers the ability to track their own packages, FedEx takes an operational or Back Stage function and moves the Line of Visibility a bit deeper into the organization; making packaging-tracking a Front Stage activity. This approach can enhance operational efficiency, reduce cost-to-serve and/or create new service-offerings that provide more value to customers and the business.

Imagine the importance and intricacy of this very shifting of curtains for verticals such as Insurance, where journeys and interactions are fragmented across digital and physical scapes. Service experience and continuity- with fluid exchange of data – are paramount to remove any channel silos.

Is that what is putting traditional pricing models into a tizzy?

Saurabh Das, Group Vice President& Head of Global Service Line- Marketing & Experience Platforms, SapientRazorfish contends that in the current era we live in, the rules of engagement are being redrawn by consumers. That explains why our economy has evolved to a service and experience domain-centric one. “The value attributed to a product is not simply based on the product but on all the services wrapped around it. As a customer, you and I differentiate products based on perceived-value of the services.” He argues.

The ramifications of this new wave are two-pronged: How customers think and how they experience what you offer

Let’s touch the first-one to start with.

Re-imagine yourself; coz the customer has already done that

We have embraced a new world where the parameters being wielded by customers, in choosing products and services, are vastly different than what they used to be.

And the plot thickens further. The parameters for B2C (Business-to-Consumer) journey would not work for a B2B (Business-to-Business) journey.

In a B2C scenario, customers value personalized service centered on individuality and ease, which lets a brand forge deeper relationship with customers and even monetize newer services. Das illustrates that with an example. “In India, cab-hailing service provider Ola has been constantly reimagining its services. The recently-launched ‘Ola Play’ offers a rider easy-access to entertainment over Wi-Fi. Play-cabs allow customers to use the cab-ride as an extension of their workplaces or living rooms. With ride-times in big cities often lasting over an hour, customers would value the Ola Play service even though it may mean paying a premium for the service.”

Turn to B2B interactions and we can observe that even if they have been lagging behind, they are rapidly catching up. Organizations are taking inspiration from B2C interactions to deliver personalized and meaningful experiences to other businesses. Since decision-making in a B2B organization takes longer and involves multiple stakeholders, B2B customers have a more complex set of parameters to consider when choosing a brand or product. Quality; cost; compliance; the ability to partner, scale and integrate are the additional attributes that define ‘frictionless’ service in the B2B space, as Das explains further.

Customer-centricity is core to all businesses today, which is fueling the design of service-ecosystems, leveraging latest digital technologies, to render improved and differentiated services. Moreover, consumers today expect the same standard of experience from their hotel or bank as they do in hailing a cab, causing what we would call an ‘Industry Blur’.

If you think that you are still far away from this exciting storm, take a gander at the industries that are already getting toppled over, and decide for yourself.

Who is jumping in and Where

A quick reckoning of the verticals that are the early adopters of Service Design platforms reveals that nothing could be more ubiquitous and applicable equally across all industries, than the creed of Service Design. It is applicable in both B2C and B2B interactions for a brand. That said, the pace of change will be much faster in some industries than others. This can be due to the competitive landscape, disruptive business models (Amazon, Ubers and Air B&Bs of the world) and regulatory changes (industries such as Finance, Telco & Utilities).

When we consider the Asia-Pacific market, he observes how ANZ is ripe for disruption, while China is at multiple stages of maturity as per its various segments. India, in his opinion, is a place where everybody wants to be on the track of transformation but it’s a place that suffers from the curse of ‘too much knowledge’. Thanks to execution-gaps, the value derived of transformation programs tends to get far lower than envisaged unless the whole process is steered well.

So what is this steering well?

Das sums it up in these words: Smart Transformation. And Service Design.

Get the Cue?

It is about how well an organization orchestrates between its front-end and back-end operations to bring in the complete enterprise wide transformation, he underlines. “It is about how you look at the transformation. It is about service-design to provide a holistic frame to the whole transformation program so you get it just as any other frame; you get a Front Stage and Back Stage to that. Front Stage is far more focused on your customer and aspects of how you create value at every point of time. What you think about business-cases and monetization comes in here. Back Stage, just like a restaurant’s kitchen, has to be equally effective. Of course, there are these supply-chain efficiencies but our larger focus area, and pivotal-portion of transformation-program, are organization-design-based.”

It is not as simple as it sounds. Yet, it is not a Sisyphean task either. Just get started with the curtain – visible and invisible one- today. The play is on.

If you want to know more about how these curtains roll and what role Service-Design plays in making great transformations work, you can check out a detailed interview here.


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  1. Roberto Romello
    #1 Roberto Romello 20 March, 2018, 12:17

    Even though this is a lengthy article, I found it well worth my time to read entirely as I liked this article. Digital transformation has been a rapidly evolving process and it has become a reality for many organizations in the last few years as it has the potential to drive powerful results. Thanks much for sharing such an informative article! Thank you.

    Best Regards
    Roberto, Testree

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