Australian Financial Services Get Going To Improve Digital Customer Experience

I had the pleasure of conducting a Digital Maturity Assessment workshop with a colleague from Forrester Consulting for about 20 companies in Sydney recently. The majority of participants were from the Australian financial sector, with heavier representation from marketing departments than technology management. While the session was an abridged one intended to discuss, understand, and determine where the participants were on their digital business journey, it was productive and revealed that:

  • Participants knew what to do with digital business transformation, but struggled with howParticipants had started on the digital transformation journey, but needed to address cultural and organizational gaps to fully drive transformation. These issues include who owns the digital transformation agenda (does it sit with the CIO or CMO?), how to bridge the communication chasm between the CIO’s department and the lines of business, and how to measure results to drive transformation in a positive direction.
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Digitize Your Business Today Or Prepare To Become Obsolete

In a previous blog entry, I argued that everyone needs to digitize their business, but not every business knows what to do. Transforming into a digital businesses, especially if you’re a traditional enterprise, is hard work. However, we believe that Asia Pacific is already primed for digital disruption.

In my report, The State Of Digital Business In Asia Pacific In 2014, we found that, while the highest-profile digital business pioneers are headquartered in North America, market demand in Asia Pacific is more conducive to long-term digital disruption. Asia Pacific has five times as many Internet users and smartphone subscribers as the US and almost as much online retail spending as the US and Europe combined. You just need to look at regional powerhouses like Alibaba.com and Commonwealth Bank of Australia and their multibillion-dollar businesses to grasp the rewards of digital business success in Asia Pacific.

However, knowing what these firms have accomplished is insufficient; knowing how to get there is more critical. You should:

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Everyone Needs To Digitize Their Business — But Not Every Business Knows What To Do

Every business must transform into a digital business. Digital businesses continuously exploit digital technologies to create new sources of value for their customers and increase their operational agility to serve those customers. In Asia Pacific, CIOs have had limited success in driving digital business transformation. Organizations taking an early lead in transforming their business include Commonwealth Bank of Australia, China’s Ping An Insurance Group, and DBS Bank in Singapore.

A true digital business needs to integrate two sides of a digital strategy: digital customer experience and digital operational excellence. My colleague Nigel Fenwick has written extensively on the topic; this infographic, for example, sums up our thinking. Becoming a truly digital business requires a radical overhaul of organizational structures, technologies, measurement frameworks, and operating models. And it’s ongoing.

The organizations coping best with digital disruption are creating:

  • A digital strategy as a defense mechanism against disruption. The pace of consumer change poses the biggest threat to any traditional businesses that have yet to experience the impact of digital disruption, regardless of whether they’re in the telecommunications, media and entertainment, transportation and travel, or other industry. For example, Australia Post has set up a A$2 billion kitty to aggressively pursue a digital strategy to tap into new revenue sources, including building a new center for the digital delivery of mobile and online products and services.
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Telstra's Creative Use Of Bandwidth Raises Its Customer Experience Game

Have you ever wondered if your home broadband is being effectively utilized? What if you could squeeze more out of your data allowance when outside your home? Telstra may have cracked this problem in Australia: It will invest more than A$100 million to build a nationwide Wi-Fi network as part of a strategy to increase connectivity in the places Australians live, work, and visit, including cafes, shops, sports grounds, and transport hubs.

The strategy aims to offer all Australians — whether or not they’re Telstra customers — access to 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation within five years. Telstra home broadband customers can install new gateways that allow them to securely share a portion of their bandwidth with other Telstra Wi-Fi customers in exchange for broadband access at Telstra hotspots across the nation. Non-Telstra customers can purchase daily hotspot access. The network, scheduled to launch in early 2015, will also reach overseas; an exclusive deal recently concluded between Telstra and global Wi-Fi provider Fon will allow people to connect at more than 12 million hotspots worldwide.

What It Means

Telstra has been at the forefront of improving the telco customer experience; its CEO, David Thodey, has been a major driving force behind that. This has put Telstra’s local competitors on notice and provides valuable lessons in how to raise the customer experience game:

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Great Customer Experience Is Tied To Great Sourcing Practices

My recent report, “Driving Toward Communications Sourcing Excellence,” looks behind the scenes to find out why Formula One (F1) sourcing professionals enjoy such a great customer experience from their network providers. It’s a two-way street: Providers ensure that the F1 team’s network is reliable, always available, and delivers peak performance when needed, and F1 sourcing pros provide the guidance, insight, and support to make sure providers know what teams need. This is as much a concern for CIOs as it is for sourcing pros in their quest to win, serve, and retain customers.

Matt Cadieux, the CIO of Infiniti Red Bull Racing, said, “AT&T has a dedicated F1 account team that I meet for regular account reviews to discuss our requirements and plans. In the rare event of a problem, we also have excellent relationships with AT&T’s top executives. AT&T has consistently delivered projects when required; for example, in 2014 it provisioned new access networks in England and France and at racetracks around the world. These circuits have been fully operational — we show up and they just work.”

What It Means

My colleague Tracy Stokes believes that a consistent customer experience builds a trusted brand, and I couldn’t agree more. It also leads to:

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In The Grasp Of A Mobility-, Data-, And Multiplatform-Driven Future

“The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” This popular quote hit home at the Global Mobile Internet Conference panel on meeting the challenge of global connectivity that I moderated this week. Internet.org is a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities, and experts who are working together to bring the Internet to the two-thirds of the world’s population that don’t have it. Founding partners include Facebook, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Nokia (now Microsoft Mobile), and Opera.

What it means

  • The age of the customer is everywhere. This point was cemented at the conference. Device makers, network infrastructure providers, and app developers have to work with telecom providers to leverage existing 2G/3G assets to tap unconnected subscribers or miss out on business opportunities. Governments also need to help by, for example, providing consistent electricity to homes. Improving the customer experience can help businesses grow.
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Microsoft’s New Personal Digital Assistant Signals The Start Of Something Bigger

When Clippy, Microsoft’s paper-clip assistant, disappeared in 1998, it was hardly missed; it was both annoying and offered little value to users. Zip forward 16 years: Microsoft has just introduced Cortana, a new personal digital assistant that the firm will launch on Windows Phone in the coming months. Powered by Bing, and about two years in the making, Cortana will be important if Microsoft gets it right. Here’s why it’s an exciting development:

  • Mobile-first is a growing enterprise strategy. The whole idea of creating a mobile-first enterprise strategy has taken root in many enterprises, as they recognize that users now expect any information or service they desire to be available to them, in context and at their moment of need. Users are cognitively and behaviorally ready to embrace wearable technology as an extension of mobility — and to weave it into their business processes. My colleague JP Gownder shares his views on wearables here.
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Customer Experience Demands Simplicity And Cultural Change

I attended an NG Telecom summit in Hong Kong recently; at the event, I chaired a discussion on how telcos need to improve the customer experience.

Consumers now have powerful mobile devices in their hands, speedy access to social platforms, and the ability to call up information on the go. More importantly, customers today can choose to easily switch to a competitor if they don’t like the customer experience they are receiving. As a result, telcos no longer “own” customers — it’s the other way around.

The discussion participants all agreed that telcos must do the following to meet customer-centric needs:

  • Simplify systems and processes. The debate on how to simplify complex telco business support systems (BSS) to make it easy for customers to consume services is an ongoing one. When BSS cannot provide a single, unified view of the customer, it’s difficult to provide a consistent customer experience. This happens with CRM systems: Call center agents struggle through five or six screens just to get a complete customer profile while irate customers spend time repeating their personal details or waiting for a resolution. Telcos must be like OTT players, which have very complicated businesses, systems, and processes on the back end but present a simple front-end interface to the customer.
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SingTel Should Appeal To OTT Players, Not Regulators

At Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, SingTel CEO Chua Sock Koong was reported as “call[ing] on Australian regulators to give carriers like Optus the right to charge rivals WhatsApp and Skype for use of their networks or risk a major decline in network investment.”

With the telecommunications industry unable to monetize over-the-top (OTT) traffic, telcos will struggle to find the funding they need to improve their infrastructure — meaning that network quality could deteriorate. Chua did concede that telcos should work toward partnering with OTT players.

What It Means

SingTel’s argument runs over familiar ground, similar to the ongoing net neutrality debate in the US. My colleagues suggest that telcos will offer tiered access at tiered pricing to OTT players in the future, charging higher prices for better connection speeds and greater data traffic. While I don’t doubt this, price-sensitive Asia may be a harder nut to crack; telcos here run the risk of customer churn by raising service prices.

Aside from speeding up its rate of service innovation, SingTel should:

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Singapore SMBs Get A Big Boost To Upgrade Mobile And Digital Platforms

by Clement Teo with Ng Zhi Ying

The government of Singapore has released its 2014 budget, which includes S$500 million (US$400 million) to help drive economic changes at small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). This spending will focus on:

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