Building for the digital future of service


In the digital age, time is your customers’ most valuable asset. While today’s customers are online, mobile and tech-immersed, they’re not necessarily tech-savvy. From their perspective, technology should simply work – intuitively, quickly, easily – through a browser window or a mobile app. If your product or service doesn’t work for your customers as they expect it to, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

Banking on a digital future

The distinction between a customer and a digital customer is fading fast. The only reasons today's customers take their business elsewhere are:

  • They don’t understand your product or service.
  • Or, your business processes are designed in such a way that they can’t sort it out themselves.

Digital customers want to get things done on their own. I can think of no better example than the banking industry. That's why one of my favorite sessions at SAS Global Forum was by Margus Simson of Komercni Banka. He discussed the challenge of building digital services fit for 2025.

Keep it convenient

When I think of my bank, I don't think of the brick-and-mortar branch office nearest to my house that’s only open for business at certain times and days. Even the closest branch is too far away from where, when and how I want to conduct my banking. I prefer to do all my banking either online or via a mobile app. Even when I use the debit and credit cards issued by my bank, I most often use them via a mobile payment app, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. Why? Because it’s more efficient and secure than using the actual debit or credit card connected to the mobile app.

Bottom line: If I have to go into a brick-and-mortar branch office, that’s a failure on my bank’s part. And it won’t take many failures for me to take my banking business elsewhere.

But these lessons are not just applicable to banking. In all industries, the distinction between a digital business and a business is dissolving. It's just like technology dissolves into the background, becoming a part of the fabric of reality once a majority of people have adopted and started to use it. Case in point: You most likely do not know – and do not care – how your smartphone works, or how any of your mobile apps work. Your smartphone and mobile apps just work.

The evolution of service

As I discussed in my post about big data cloud, changes in data consumption, service delivery and enterprise-wide collaboration are why leading organizations in all industries are turning to cloud computing. This is an important shift in the evolution of service, but it's only the beginning.

In his session, Simson explained that you need to keep the customer at the center of service design. Otherwise, you can forget about retaining that customer. Because if your customer doesn’t use your product or service, they are either no longer your customer – or will not be your customer for much longer.

This is why self-service and service are also dissolving into one another as more customers want to get things done themselves, digitally – and not just during banker’s hours. Your customer will ask: Can I use a browser window or a mobile app to use your product/service at any time, wherever I am, without interacting with another human being? The number of industries and business applications that can afford to answer no to that question is shrinking by the day.

This is also why auto-service is truly the next frontier and leading-edge approach. Automation, enabled by better artificial intelligence (AI), completes self-service tasks on the customer’s behalf. Self-service can be set up according to unique customer-established rules (e.g., autopay for recurring bills in online banking), or via AI-deduced rules (e.g., pricing for cloud-based services automatically optimized based on usage).

The evolution of service is simplicity and clarity. As Jason Fried, founder of 37signals (now Basecamp), said: “We do not need to outdo the competition. It’s expensive and defensive. We need to underdo the competition. We need simplicity and clarity.”

A message from the future of service

Digital transformation means preparing for the near future when customer service, self-service and auto-service will all simply become "service." And all organizations in all industries need to be building for the digital future of service, now.

You may have great products and services. You might even have the best products and services in your industry – today. But how customer-centric are your products and services? How many, if any, self- or auto-service features do you offer? It's not enough to work toward being "the best" five years from now. You have to get there sooner. If you don't, five years from now you might not even be considered good at what you do – much less "the best."

Check out our on-demand videos from SAS Global Forum: Banking edition

About Author

Jim Harris

Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (OCDQ)

Jim Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with 25 years of enterprise data management industry experience. Jim is an independent consultant, speaker, and freelance writer. Jim is the Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, an independent blog offering a vendor-neutral perspective on data quality and its related disciplines, including data governance, master data management, and business intelligence.

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