As we head into the new year, we expect that digital technology and digital transformation would have greater impact on almost every company in every industry vertical in 2018. Digital technology will no doubt have its impact on customer service and there would be newer initiatives in this area that will change the way customers interact with businesses. Companies would look to gain competitive advantage by harnessing digital technology leading to new competitive dynamics that will force companies to adapt quickly.
CIO-Drivers of Digital Transformation
The CIO will be leading the digital transformation which will depend on the IT infrastructure strategies that the business adopts. A related aspect of digital transformation will be mobility transformation which will also be an element of competitive advantage. The process of digitization will reiterate the fact that customer loyalty will no longer be determined by the lowest prices or even the best products but by the best customer service experience as has been borne out by different business studies and surveys.
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Technology for Customer Experience
It is time now for CIOs to put a plan in place and migrate to the right technology that will define their customer experience. It is more so for a company in the service business such as BFSI, cable providers, mobile phone operators, and airlines. Surveys have indicated that the preferred communications method was voice across all age groups—surprising given the proliferation and preference of chat apps, email, and tweeting or non-voice communication. It also points to the fact that people are ready for chatbots, assuming they work well. We are also moving to an era of the importance of an omnichannel customer experience where customers can use the communications channel of their choice.
CIOs also need to identify the best, most cost-effective and quickest way to upgrade their contact center solution and elevate their customer experience. This will ensure that they live up to customer expectations and do not suffer customer churn. One of the options is a cloud-based contact center product that has a short implementation time, can give the desired functionality and enable the business to remain competitive while staying on top of technology changes.
Newer trends and developments such as artificial intelligence (AI), IoT architectures, standards and technologies, robotics, virtual and mixed reality and other trends need to be on the CIO’s radar since these capabilities can be made available as soon as the cloud provider is ready. Clearly, the accelerated pace of the digital era favors the cloud solution since it eliminates the need for extensive testing, pilot programs, Q/A testing and other steps.
The pointers to major technology initiatives and expenditure lie in the industry IT budgets. We see budgets for cloud-based services rising, thanks to globalization and an increasingly mobile workforce. Some hot areas for 2018 include IT automation, AI, 3D printing, and VR. Studies indicate that close to half of companies (44%) expect IT budgets to increase while 43% anticipate no change at all.
Although hardware and software would corner the largest share of IT budget in 2018, hosted/cloud-based services are quickly growing into a major chunk. On the system side, apart from Operating Systems (11%), we see security software (10%) continuing to be a major spend area, reflecting the concerns of the CIO.
Suffice to say, 2018 promises to bring in exciting changes for IT departments and marketing professionals especially with increasing IT budgets and company revenues alike, after years of stagnation. However, the fact that needs to be reiterated is that the customer experience era is here and a great customer service is no longer an option, but mandatory for business survival.