Promoting simplicity – or conversely, culling complexity – is a powerful, transformational strategy for all organisations. By simply asking the question – ‘can it be done simpler?’ – challenges the status quo and helps uncover opportunity.
Challengers in nearly all verticals seek to build simpler organisations that are more efficient, innovative and agile versions of the incumbents. While true disruptors aim to totally reinvent a market or create a whole new category.
Incumbents must embrace the challenge in order to maintain market share. The business news is full of examples of organisations that failed to rise to the challenge.
Tech enabling change
In the current era of rapid business process innovation, low-complexity processes can easily be automated. Nowadays, most end-users across nearly all demographics, are happy to use self-service or automated interfaces if they are simple and easy-to-use. The reward for the customer is convenient, accurate, 24/7 access to services. For organisations, the rewards include reduced costs and a simpler operating model.
Of course, each business model has its own potential for automation. The core activities in, for example, hairdressing, catering and social-care cannot be automated. However, a good deal of their back-office business processes can be automated to some degree.
Our research shows nearly half of the respondent organisations class more than 30% of their total person-to-person customer service volume as low-complexity; not requiring the employee to have particular skills, empathy or judgement. The current generation of chatbots, virtual agents and web self-service can handle these simple customer enquiries. 92% of survey respondents already have a live strategy to make this happen.
But automation shouldn’t make organisations lazy. Even automated interaction generates customer effort. Ideally, the best service is no service. Designing out the underlying cause of each customer interaction – where possible and appropriate – reduces customer effort and enhances the customer experience.
With simplicity comes competition!
The headcount and organisational complexity that come with larger-scale businesses have traditionally acted as a barrier to market entry and protected dominant incumbents.
Today, large banks still have large contact centres, as do large insurance, energy and telecom companies.
However, the incumbents in each of these verticals – and many more – are being challenged by operating models that require significantly smaller contact centres. A mix of cloud computing, business process automation, and digital channels allow new entrants to scale-up customer numbers without the “traditional” ramp-up of staff.
Will person-to-person customer interaction survive?
The short answer is yes, but not in the volumes of today or yesterday.
Simpler economics will ensure that low-complexity interactions are either designed-out or deflected to automated or other self-service channels. In addition to this economic lever, customers will simply not tolerate the inconvenience of standing in line to ask a simple question face to face. If you think convenience is highly valued by today’s standards, tomorrow’s customers will be even more demanding as we become accustomed to on-demand service; some commentators describe convenience as the new currency.
That leaves complex and emotional interactions.
Today, even the most tech-centric disruptors need to offer some degree of person-to-person support as they scale and embrace a more diverse customer base.
However, the ratio of contact centre agents (FTE) to customers will be an important point of difference between challengers and incumbents. For incumbents, closing this gap through process redesign and technology adoption will be a priority.
Over time automation and other self-service technologies will advance to the point where they are able to absorb more complex and emotional customer requests and enquiries. But this is still some way off and is no match for the power of human empathy. For now, the contact centre remains the home of complex customer service and support interactions.
I challenge you to think like a disruptor! Here are two questions to get you started…
- Do customers need to interact with your organisation person-to-person?
- Do customers want to interact with your organisation person-to-person?
All organisations, old or new, should make a point of understanding why customers need or want to make contact person-to-person; especially if the resulting interaction is complex or emotional.
If you can design-out the need and change behaviours around the want then you have simplified your operating model, cut cost, lowered customer effort, and enhanced the customer experience. Easy!
Okay, of course, it’s not easy. But if you don’t do it, a disruptive challenger will.