Perspectives

The key to exceptional experiences? Harnessing the speed of change

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2020 has transformed the way we live and work. With the pace of change only set to accelerate, Tracey Gilbert, Business Unit Leader, Enterprise Strategy &  iX, looks at how businesses can use speed as an advantage to design better experiences for customers and employees in the long run.

It’s safe to say we’re living through a period of change unlike any other in recent memory. Our lives have changed. We’ve changed. So have our expectations.

Going into lockdown, so many of us were forced to rethink the way we live and work overnight. As we switched to working from home, doing the weekly shop online and trying to home-school our children, our needs and priorities shifted too. Our worlds became smaller as everyday experiences took centre stage, and we grew more attuned to our feelings and interactions. In these critical moments, it was the organisations that were quick to respond with empathy and care that earned our loyalty and trust.

Not just the companies whose services we used, like the banks and supermarkets, but the companies we worked for too. The companies who recognised that while we were sitting at home switching between our roles as consumers, customers and colleagues, we were, first and foremost, human beings.

This focus on human experience has driven some incredible business transformations over the past six months. We’ve seen local restaurants, who have never before had take-away services,  partnering with delivery firms to bring our favourite dining experiences in-house, and banks getting their employees set up to handle client enquiries from home. Things previously thought to be barriers to progress became hygiene factors as organisations rapidly shifted their mindsets and their business models to reach people in new and more meaningful ways.

In those early days of lockdown, we didn’t care how rough-and-ready those new experiences felt – we were just thrilled to be able to enjoy them at all.

Now, as we realise this change isn’t stopping soon, and we are living in a new next chapter, our expectations return to at least pre-lockdown levels. There’s no going back. I believe we have a unique opportunity to take the lessons we’ve learned to keep innovating, ideating and delivering at pace – so we can meet and exceed the emerging needs of our customers and employees in the long run. Here’s how.

1. Prioritise listening and empathy

If ever there was a time to truly hear what customers and employees have to say, it’s now. While the pandemic continues, we may be living with waves of uncertainty for some time. And given what we’ve seen so far, many of us will be anticipating and expecting further innovations as we seek new and better ways of doing things.

Businesses will not only need to listen; they’ll need to respond with empathy and pace. They will be remembered by the actions they took. And businesses will have to find ways to reconnect more frequently.  In this rapidly changing environment, they’ll need to tune in to what their customers and employees are saying as often as possible – and iterate accordingly.

The good news? With all the agile data and analysis tools available to us today, it’s never been quicker and easier for organisations to gather the insights they need to shape better experiences. At IBM, we work with customer experience partners such as Medallia and Qualtrics to help our clients listen better and we provide solutions to use the data they collect more effectively to create the best possible outcomes at pace.

2. Invest in Service Design

User Experience design can shape better interactions, increase adoption and improve loyalty for a product or service – but that’s not enough. We need to think broader and bigger. Adopting a Service Design approach will help businesses think more strategically and holistically about the end-to-end relationship between its customers and its business.

Service Design can identify those ‘aha’ moments that really set businesses apart as it goes beyond the product to examine all the components required to provide a service – including planning, communication and ensuring a company’s culture mirrors its strategy. And that’s not all. Creating a Service Design culture within your organisation can also help keep pace and speed up decision making by establishing a shared understanding around what good looks like and what matters most.

At IBM, our specialist team of Enterprise Strategists and Service Designers can consult with you on everything from Enterprise Agility through to business and service models to help you deliver smarter, better designed experiences people really care about. And because we work with our clients in a sustainable and enabling way, we’ll always make a Stewardship pledge to leave your business and your team in a stronger position than when we met.

3. Look to digital platforms to underpin your digital transformation

A recent Forrester report talks about Covid-19 accelerating the pace of digital transformation by 5 -10 years. If businesses are going to accelerate just as quickly and work flexibly and successfully at pace, they’ll need the right platforms in place to anchor their digital transformations.

At IBM, our partnerships with Salesforce, Adobe and SAP can help our clients cut through complexities to establish a common architecture that’s well understood across their business – as well as a set of common tools, a common language and a common vision.

We’ve also invested heavily in physical accelerators to help our clients rapidly change the way they operate at the front end, without needing to make major back end decisions too quickly.

Looking beyond the technology, I believe it’s just as important for organisations to build the right skills and expertise they need to sustainably transform their businesses for the future – and to invest in getting it right. As I look back to the financial crisis in 2008, I’m often struck by the fact that the businesses that survived were the ones that innovated. The ones that didn’t are no longer here.

Fortunately, with the right knowledge, skills and expertise, I’m confident we can navigate the future and shape a new chapter in experience together.

Find out how IBM iX can help you create exceptional experiences and build a better business by design.

Partner - Growth Platform Leader

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