Nitin Rakesh, a distinguished leader in the IT services industry, is the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Mphasis.
As nations across Europe ease lockdowns, it is clear they are doing so while knowing that the novel coronavirus is here to stay. Businesses across the world have no choice but to prepare to reopen in a new abnormal. What can they do to reinvent the wheel and stay ahead? Focus on how to improve and implement agility across ops and work culture. Why? Because extraordinary times call for speed, nimbleness and adaptability.
This is what distinguishes tennis star Roger Federer. When the seven-time Wimbledon champion fell face down at the Center Court in 2016 while attempting a volley against Milos Raonic, many declared it an ominous sign. Just weeks away from turning 35, critics suggested his loss to Raonic proved he didn’t have the proclivities that being at the top of the game required: stamina, grit, agility and endurance.
But what happened next astounded fans and critics alike. Federer returned in fit form to compete in the Australian Open in January 2017, just six months later. He also beat Rafael Nadal with virtuoso in a thrilling five-set final that saw him demonstrate a level of aggression that Nadal was more often associated with.
I believe Federer’s incredulous return in the tournament personifies the qualities that businesses will need to embrace in hyper-agile times. Why? Because the new abnormal will see customer patronage shifting quickly. Firms will not be able to rest on old laurels. Instead, they will need to acquaint themselves with unfamiliar styles of “playing” so that they remain disruptive and at the top of the game every day, like Federer.
As a self-confessed agility evangelist, I have witnessed firsthand — even before the pandemic — the powerful effect that pivoting toward a nimble, digital-driven business model has on companies. When firms realize what it means to be customer-oriented, organizations adopt a 360-degree transformation, rewiring business approach, operations, work culture and IT architecture.
Such a transformation sets them up for sticky customer service in ways that help organizations meet customer requirements, however outlandish, when required. It also empowers digitally smart companies to predict what consumer cohorts may need next.
Let’s take a closer look at companies that have undergone a similar transformation:
DBS Bank: Delivering Stellar CX By Embracing DX
Consider, for example, Singapore’s DBS Bank. Founded in 1968 by the government of Singapore to empower the country’s modernization plans, the bank struggled for years to make a mark as a customer-focused firm.
But beginning in 2009, the bank adopted an aggressive, end-to-end digital transformation strategy. This included introducing a process improvement program that erased 250 million customer hours “of waste” per year. Within a year of implementing this initiative, DBS saw its customer satisfaction ratings soar.
The next phase was a focus on switching to a customer-driven design. So, when a customer lost their credit card, the bank put processes in place that took the customer’s entire situation into account. As a result, the bank’s call center script was tweaked to mandate empathy and understanding. This was followed by practical ideas to help the customer get home without a card and finally help in getting a replacement. Such changes helped the bank transform its customer experience by putting it at the heart of everything it did.
Organizations can take a page out of DBS’ success story by combining next-gen digital customer experience (DX) with customer-centricity. When companies invest in long-term returns while staying focused on meeting customer needs, they are equipped to go far.
Becoming A Role Model For Transformative Businesses
The Singaporean bank also went further and renewed its focus on culture change and innovation. It invested time in identifying what was blocking change and putting in place measures to overcome it.
Together, these measures enabled DBS to rocket to fame. It became the first bank to simultaneously hold the title of “World’s Best Bank” (Euromoney), “Best Bank in the World” (Global Finance) and “World’s Best Bank” (The Banker) in 2018 and 2019. The bank also earned recognition from the Harvard Business Review as “one of the top 10 transformations of the decade,” alongside Netflix, Amazon and Microsoft.
In my view, the DBS transformation demonstrates the self-propelling ability of one good change aimed at improving customer satisfaction. As I said earlier, the journey toward improving customer experience cannot be achieved by instituting a new digital channel within a business. It requires an all-out transformation that banks like DBS have rolled out to reinvent themselves.
P&G: Embracing Change By Wearing Legacy Lightly
Similar imperatives to undergo metamorphosis have been felt in other verticals too. Take consumer goods giant P&G, for example. Usually known for its formidable reach across product lines and expansive legacy, P&G also woke up to the need to branch out into new areas, as some of its most trusted business lines lost ground to new players.
This is why the consumer goods behemoth created a startup studio, Ventures. The objective? To delineate a space for innovation where “new brands, technologies and business models” are cocreated with entrepreneurs. P&G’s approach to identifying its broad areas for potential future products also heralds an important shift in the way traditional companies are now approaching business plans.
Instead of focusing on products or services where P&G had proven expertise, the multinational company used data to figure out what consumers would be buying in 2025.
Enterprises will do well to learn agility and a focus on the future from P&G. No matter how big or old a firm may be, what will keep it in business is the ability to pivot to what the customer wants.
In the post-pandemic future, customer experience will occupy center stage. Companies will feel compelled to tweak operations, approaches and functions to be in better sync with their needs. In tomorrow’s world, customers will be drawn to products and services customized for their budgets, ethical concerns and specific requirements. Businesses that reinvent old approaches to keep pace with changing customer needs will be the ones that stay relevant.