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Companies across all industries are learning the importance of using customer experience (CX) as a brand differentiator. At the foundational level, doing this well means aligning the entire organization to the customer—but it’s not simple. Great customer experience requires not only implementing superb engagement on the (increasingly digital) channels customers desire, but also breaking down the barriers between front, middle, and back office to ensure that the enterprise’s most valuable currency—data—is used to its greatest potential. There is a lack of understanding of the customer not only across the enterprise, but also right in the front office, where so much data is gathered with potential for insight. At HfS Research, we developed the Digital OneOffice framework, which is a guide for every organization seeking to align its entire business operations to the digitally driven front office customers are demanding.
As we move along this OneOffice journey to deliver better customer experiences, the need to think big and take action in order to transform is paramount and involves many stakeholders, including service providers, as partners on that journey. HfS Research teamed up with Concentrix for an in-depth look at how enterprises are investing in and adopting a digital OneOffice-type framework and to understand how this impacts service provider relationships, in particular for customer engagement management services. We found a broad range of maturity levels OneOffice adoption, some core goals for CX, important lessons learned, and several must-do action items for the road ahead.
Enterprise Confidence is High for Digital Engagement, but Executing on Customer Needs is a Challenge
We surveyed 154 buyers of enterprises with over $1 billion in revenues across a wide variety of industries to understand where they are on the journey to delivering better customer experiences. With all of the investment in digital channels over the last several years, it is encouraging to see this focus paying off; the confidence that respondents felt in the ability to connect with customers on digital channels is high. As shown in Exhibit 1 below, 84% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their company’s ability to connect with customers on digital channels. In addition, almost all respondents said that their strategy was well aligned across operations, middle management, and executive leadership.
Exhibit 1: Satisfaction in Connecting with Customers on Digital Channels
How satisfied are you today with your company’s ability to execute digital customer engagement – your ability to connect to customers on their preferred channels?
Source: HfS Research, 2017 Sample: Buyers= 154
It’s good news that enterprises are finding the ability to connect with customers on digital channels less daunting than in the past, but there is much more to meeting customer needs than just putting those channels in place, such as setting up a mobile app or having a social media presence. Understanding and delivering on customer expectations also requires an alignment to the customer across the whole organization, which ultimately means integrating data from the back to the front office and aligning IT and lines of business. While generally strategy may align, execution is a much greater task, and one that respondents highlighted as a significant challenge for their organizations moving forward.
Understanding customer expectations and preferences and having the right data and analytics are on the top of services buyers’ minds when it comes to the challenges of executing on digital customer engagement (see Exhibit 2 below).
Exhibit 2: Challenges for Executing on Digital Customer Engagement
What are the most challenging aspects of executing digital customer engagement?
This data illustrates that enterprises not only need to engage on digital channels, but also need to connect data behind the scenes to make that engagement meaningful. Enterprises are also struggling with a lack of “digital” mindset and lingering legacy thinking, breaking through the cultural elements (i.e., “we’ve always done it this way”) that are holding them back. While the digital customer engagement pieces are often in place on the front end with their mobile apps and social savvy, most organizations are not set up to fully support a digital customer experience because of internal siloes and lack of data integration—the real barrier to understanding the customer. Even within the front office across marketing, sales, and service, these channels often do not connect on the customer journey. To address this, we look to our HfS OneOffice framework (see Exhibit 3 below) as a guideline for how enterprises can start breaking down these siloes and aligning to the customer in a digital world.
Exhibit 3: The Digital OneOffice Framework Aligns with Enterprise Needs
Source: HfS Research
The Digital OneOffice framework is all about the design and implementation of the organizational digital experience and the creation of an intelligent, single office to execute and support it. Soon we won’t be talking nearly as much about Intelligent Automation and digital technology as the critical “value levers” for operations, as they become an embedded part of the fabric of the future operations platform for new generation organizations. Instead, we will be talking about an integrated support operation having the digital prowess to enable its organization to meet customer demand—as and when that demand happens. The goal of a digital organization is to engage people by responding to their needs instantaneously and letting people choose their method of interaction, whether it’s voice, chat box, text, messaging apps, email, or virtual agent… or whatever comes along next.
Internally for an enterprise, “OneOffice” describes the enabling technologies, such as unified analytics and cognitive automation, that enable real-time predictive capabilities and an engaging digital experience that unifies all the stakeholders across the organization: the customers, partners, and employees. In short, the Digital OneOffice is where the organization’s people, intelligence, processes, and infrastructure come together as one integrated unit, with one set of unified business outcomes tied to exceeding expectations.
While our OneOffice framework emphasizes the need to align to the customer across the whole organization, it’s often a challenge to break through siloes within the front office itself. Recognizing that the all the functions that touch the customer need to sync up is often a mindset shift, and now managing all of the increasingly digital channels customers expect to communicate with across marketing, sales, and service for example is a technical and business challenge. This is also why it’s so important to use the data at our fingertips to completely understand customers’ preferences, intentions, and expectations. So many of these valuable insights are found in the front office—this is why the front office is driving the whole customer-centric enterprise.
The Digitally Driven Front Office Drives the Whole Enterprise
OneOffice is all about creating, supporting, and sustaining an immersive customer experience, where all touchpoints across an organization are tied to serving the customer as effortlessly and seamlessly as possible (and often not necessitating any actual human to human interaction). These “immersive” customer experiences leverage these omnichannels (typically mobile, social, interactive technologies) to create meaningful analytics from converged datasets that make a real-time digital experience happen for the organization and its customers, employees, and partners, throughout the supply chain. The OneOffice organization needs a support function to service those customers, deliver its products and services to market at the right time, manage the financial metrics, understand its needs and demands, and ensure it has talent that clearly understands how to meet the desired outcomes of their work.
Enterprises today need to not only engage on digital channels, but also connect the data and align the strategy behind the scenes to make that engagement meaningful.
We asked survey respondents where they felt their organizations are on this OneOffice journey and where they want to be within the next two years. The range of levels of maturity is broad, but a key data point is that 52% of respondents want to get to a OneOffice operating model within the next two years (see Exhibit 4 below). Relatively few (21%) see themselves as operating in this model currently.
Exhibit 4: Enterprise Perception of OneOffice Maturity
How mature would you say your enterprise is in its progress toward an operating model like the Digital OneOffice concept and where do you expect to be in the next two years?
Source: HfS Research, 2017 Sample: Buyers= 154
Services Buyer Perspectives: Leading with the Front Office
Many enterprise buyers say that their organizations are taking steps toward this model and feel like they’re on the journey, but there are still hurdles to overcome. We spoke with several buyers of front office (contact center, marketing, etc.) services to learn the ways they are handling this transformation in the front office, both internally and with their service providers. One automotive enterprise mentioned that it had made strides on aligning different parts of the front and middle offices—in particular educating training, HR, sales, and marketing about their learnings about changing customer expectations—whereas the back office, such as finance functions, is still driven primarily by other metrics such as budget and profitability without much thought about a function’s impact on the customer. Another buyer, a global technology enterprise, said that it is about two years into a four-year transformation for aligning to customer engagement including embedding automation and relying on a contact center service provider for a massive talent upgrade.
Yet another services buyer, a health insurance company, was more confident in its maturity—describing a model where every function and every person’s job in the company is measured on Net Promoter Score. This company also uses a third party for CSAT (customer satisfaction) to get feedback into all the processes and share them with employees so they see how their job impacts the customer and create a “culture of care”. This particular organization is laser-focused on using the way it engages with its customers as a differentiator and a means by which to grow market share. As the Senior Vice President of this company stated, “customer experience is our most important asset.” While he felt as though the cultural alignment was mature, he said there is still work to be done to ensure that technology and data is aligned.
Adding to the complexity, there are many metrics to evaluate to thoroughly understand the nuances of CX. Various hybrid customer engagement measures are becoming the litmus test of customer engagement: improving CSAT, implementing digital customer engagement, and lowering costs were the top strategies for measuring customer experience. All of these outcomes are being tested and changing under constant scrutiny about what actually makes a differentiated experience that drives satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately revenue for the enterprise.
OneOffice in Action: Aligning to Outcomes
Catering to customers is obviously the right thing to do, but from a business perspective, we need to understand what the goals are and how to measure them. Aligning to customer centricity is a multi-faceted endeavor with the potential to impact many business metrics and move the needle on important goals. We asked survey respondents what they felt would be the greatest benefits of moving to a OneOffice model, and found that 40% are seeking improved quality of execution and revenue growth (see Exhibit 5). It’s these kinds of outcomes that can prove that a customer-focused strategy isn’t just a feel-good initiative, but one that benefits the business as a whole.
“Customer experience is our most important asset.”
– Senior Vice President, Health Insurance Company
Exhibit 5: Benefits of Moving to OneOffice
What do you see as the primary benefit of moving toward an operating model like the OneOffice?
Source: HfS Research, 2017 Sample: Buyers= 154
Despite these stories of forward-thinking customer experience leaders and aligning to business outcomes, who is really in the driver’s seat for enterprise digital engagement strategy? We asked respondents who own the digital design strategy and half said that this task falls within the realm of the IT department (see Exhibit 6). One of the potential challenges in adopting a OneOffice-like model is if the executive(s) leading the efforts are not in a customer-centric function or are not aligned with other key executives in the front office. Digital engagement strategy is ideally a cross- enterprise initiative that aligns both IT and front office to these business outcomes—yet only 5% of respondents have created a new governance entity to address CX. In order to pivot to a OneOffice mindset that’s aligned to business outcomes, it will take more collaboration around digital customer engagement than we are seeing now.
Exhibit 6: Digital Customer Engagement Ownership
Who owns the design of tool sets for digital customer engagement as it pertains to your organization today?
Source: HfS Research, 2017 Sample: Buyers= 154
Using OneOffice to Approach Digital CX: Buyer and Provider Relationships
Our survey data showed that the greatest challenges to delivering on better customer engagement is understanding customers and having the right data and analytics. The front office is a key area with a tremendous amount of information and data about the customer, in particular the contact center. These are often untapped mines of information with the potential to reveal an abundance of insight about customer expectations and help organizations become better aligned to the customer all around. This often requires significant alignment and partnership between services buyers and providers to walk down the OneOffice path together.
“They fail, we fail. They push us, we push them. A true partner needs to feel comfortable pushing us.”
– Director, Automotive Company
As we found from both the data and interviews in this study, there is quite a wide breadth of maturity across buyer organizations and, similarly, with service provider organizations. As one services buyer put it: “Some of them [service providers] really get it and look to proactively discover and work on the analysis and the actions that come out of insights.” The majority of services buyers are expecting their customer experience management service providers to bring them ideas for innovation and become more proactive within the engagement (see Exhibit 7). But there are still many who are willing to operate in the old model, as one buyer described “say yes and go fail”—only some service providers will cross the chasm to harness the data available and become more valuable and strategic in their client engagements. These service providers will still have a place in the ecosystem, but will lose value to buyers in this changing landscape. Buyers we spoke to indicated that they are looking to providers with long-term vision, because they can be valuable strategic partners on the journey.
Exhibit 7: Expectations of BPO Service Providers
What are your greatest expectations for change for your customer experience management BPO service provider(s) in the next 2-3 years?
Source: HfS Research, 2017 Sample: Buyers= 154
The Increasing Role of Automation in the Front Office
One of the key tenets of the OneOffice framework is using automation, in particular Intelligent Automation, to drive more efficient and intelligent operations. In this front office space, tools like chatbots and virtual agents are among the biggest buzz for automating customer service interactions. There is a breadth of options on the market ranging from very simple scripted chatbots to more sophisticated cognitive agents like IPSoft’s Amelia, also ranging in value and impact on the customer experience. Almost all of the organizations we have spoken to are evaluating these tools, and the survey data found that virtual and cognitive agents have the greatest interest and adoption with 63% of respondents evaluating and 27% currently using virtual or cognitive agents (see Exhibit 8 below).
Exhibit 8: Adoption of Chatbots and Cognitive Agents
What describes your investment or interest in chatbots and virtual/cognitive agents for customer interaction?
Source: HfS Research, 2017 Sample: Buyers= 154
Talent will experience the biggest impact that intelligent automation like cognitive and virtual agents will have on this space. Many enterprises are looking at these tools to replace transactional labor and augment knowledge labor—most we spoke to feel that human interaction will always have value, and the use of these tools will serve to make those more valuable. For every technology change, the talent model will need to shift as well. The more Intelligent Automation and self-service are introduced to the process, the more that the role of human talent requires re-evaluating. In the case of contact centers, more sophisticated and well-trained agent profiles will handle more complex cases and add more value to customer conversations. As automation does away with some of the more mundane tasks for humans, it enables them to focus on more meaningful and valuable work. So, hiring profiles and training must be redesigned to cater to more sophisticated engagement, as well as how performance is measured.
Often this is where BPO service providers can lend expertise. While the talent profile clearly is changing, enterprises are finding themselves without the right talent or resources to address the shift. One of the strategies we hear from services buyers is to turn to the third-party service providers that have already invested in training and hiring to get ahead of the changing talent needs for their services and expertise. As one team manager of a global IT and networking company said, “Right now we have invested more resources in front office—taking savings from automation in the back office—and increased headcount with Concentrix. They generally have the right quality of people.” This organization is reaching out across its network of service providers to address the skills gap they were faced with internally.
“We have invested more resources in front office… and increased headcount with Concentrix. They generally have the right quality of people.”
– Global Team Manager, IT Company
What’s Next? Our Recommendations for the Road Ahead.
We’ve been talking about aligning support functions with the goals and missions of enterprises for decades now, but digital is realigning us all with the true uberlord of the organization—the customer. If our supporting technologies and people can finally respond to, interpret, predict, and be part of our digital customer experience, we’ll finally see the barriers that are stagnating organizations come crashing down.
Some important things to consider for organizations that want to prioritize the customer experience and work with their customer engagement service providers to change the way they operate include:
– Address a shift in talent requirements: Many organizations are redeveloping talent profiles and skill sets in order to approach the journey toward OneOffice. Developing “digital skill sets” in the front office requires both technical savvy and cultural expertise—engaging with the right etiquette on a social platform or using more advanced data, for example. Both buyers and service providers must be willing to invest in this shift; often providers have the skills and talent in place for buyers to tap into. The talent requirements now and for the future require a different mindset and skill set; focusing on predicting rather than reacting to customer issues and expectations is key among the great shifts that OneOffice requires. Training is critical. Often hiring for these elevated skill sets can be challenging; talent must be a multi-faceted strategy that includes not only recruiting great talent but also re-shaping and aligning training programs for the needs of the future.
– Think outside the box (and your industry): Many success stories we’ve heard from enterprises have involved not just looking at best practices and benchmarks within their own industry, but also looking to companies outside their industry that have successfully pivoted a business model or implemented digital customer engagement. Staying competitive requires throwing away legacy thinking and having an “anything is possible” attitude. As an automotive executive put it, “right now I’m not concerned about Toyota or Honda, I am concerned about what Macy’s and Starbucks are doing and looking at those experiences.” Using Design Thinking can also help to advance these ideas: despite the lack of enthusiasm illustrated in the survey results for this method (with only 10% using these methods internally), we feel that there is tremendous opportunity for using this technique to help design the customer journey. Design Thinking is another way to encourage collaboration across IT and business functions, for example—bringing people with varying perspectives and areas of expertise to the table to help design customer engagement can be very effective. This is also an area where many service providers of customer engagement can lend a hand with design thinking and journey mapping workshops.
– Change the measurements for better outcomes and services engagements. For customer experience leaders, it’s becoming incredibly critical that how they define, measure, and incent for customer experience is aligned to specific outcomes, in particular for the contracted services engagements. Buyers don’t want to pay for “work being done” and providers are eager to show the innovative ideas they can bring. Above all, define the two or three crucial outcomes your enterprise needs to be effective. Understand what you are ultimately in business to accomplish. For legacy customer service engagements, outcomes have often been about driving down the number of cases or reducing cost to serve. While those metrics may still be relevant to watch, understand what is really driving business growth and align the measurements and incentives to those new metrics. Leading companies in the future will not be looking to just avoid customer incidents, for example, but perhaps look to more meaningful metrics such as “cost to satisfaction.” Cost will always be a driver, but looking at that in conjunction with CSAT and other customer-driven metrics will be the future of customer engagement.
– Make simplicity the North Star of customer engagement. Above all, have the goal to make things easy for customers. One of the Concentrix clients we spoke to said that the company customer service motto is simply: “Uncomplicate it.” At the end of the day, customers are expecting an Uber or an Amazon experience now no matter which company they’re dealing with. Simplifying service for customers will go a long way in building loyalty and improving customer engagement, and the data and insight gleaned from front office services can go a long way to understanding just how to do that.
The Bottom Line: Managing customer engagement across digital channels requires alignment across the enterprise, and within the buyer/service provider ecosystem to stay competitive in the future.
Many enterprises are completely rethinking customer service and how it fits into their business strategy. We have seen examples of organizations that not only want to address the customer experience issues of today but also want to create an environment that anticipates future needs and expectations—this is where the OneOffice framework leads us, and ultimately where service provider and customer relationships need to evolve. So much of OneOffice is about being able to predict and devise smart strategies to get ahead of issues and customer expectations—this is where we will find the customer engagement function indispensable for providing the insight needed to use CX as a competitive differentiator.