Our tenth episode of ACS Industry Insights included a live Q&A with Kumar Parakala, Global Digital Leader at GHD. While we were not able to answer all of your questions live, we were fortunate enought to receive answers after the broadcast and are pleased to share these below.
Jagdeep Singh: What approach would you suggest for companies looking to create a digital customer experience strategy?
Firstly, identify a sensible number of customer segments/personas and their typical interactions and current experience. Then map all customer touch points and journeys both analogue and digital and if you have data, compare the quality of experience across them. If there are any areas that are unacceptably poor, look to mitigate them (even if not a permanent fix). Then apply the 80:20 rule to the other customer interactions/experiences. A combination of process mapping, contact centre and other customer feedback, focus groups and research can then inform where the digital experience can be improved. For customers, digital technology can improve the experience by making products and services more accessible any time, from any place and customisable to their exact preferences for delivery at the time and mode of their choosing. For the company, this technology has the potential to lower the cost of sale, gather more specific data about each customer which can be used to increase sales and hence their lifetime value to the company.
Amandeep Kaur Virk: How can the organisation culture be changed to support digital transformation?
As with all profound organisational change, to succeed, it must be led from the top. Not just supported from the top – led from the top, in both words and action. Organisations have different capacities to change based on variables such as size, industry, staff profile and most importantly, existing culture. Leaders must clearly and repeatedly tell people why change is required, provide a compelling vision of the future, explain what it will mean for team members at a personal level and what they should do to be a part of a thriving future. Consistent, empathetic communication must then be supported by early, tangible examples of how the future will be better and adequate training for people before, during and after major changes.
Damodar Purkayastha: How can young technologists become a part of digital disruption?
Engage with forums where digital disruption is discussed; free newsletters, social media groups e.g. LinkedIn and start to make your own contributions (even if initially they are more questions than answers), free or very cheap meet-ups and interest groups etc. Find out about incubators and accelerators and if you are so inclined, try to position yourself to join a start-up. If you work for an established business, find out where it is on its digital journey and use whatever means you can to get involved.
Ashraf Atteia: Any thoughts on the ethical debate around AI?
It is going to get a lot louder as the general populous becomes more aware of AI and what it can do. The debate will likely slow down the rate at which the technology is capable of changing economic activity. At some point, there will be a situation where the debate will become very loud and public. One likely source could be around autonomous vehicles. Imagine a young child coming out in front of an AV on a skateboard in a situation where the child can only be avoided by veering sharply left on to the footpath where two elderly people are walking along. What is programmed in to the vehicle’s logic? What value is placed on each life? Who bears the responsibility for the outcome; the programmer, the car manufacturer, the AV owner, the insurance company, the vehicle/network operator? Clearly these are challenging issues that are not easily resolved. In short, the ethical debate will be very significant.
Himadri Chowdhury: Traditionally, a lot of sales executives are trained in what we now have, rather than what can be. In this situation, how do you think we can capture the unsaid needs of the customer in digitization?
This varies by product and industry type. Data is one of the core elements to anticipating and framing future demand. This data can come from existing customers but also potential customers using a variety of means including trials of prototypes in ways that now deliver far more valuable, predictive insights than historic consumer research or focus groups that can only ever capture perceptions rather than physical and emotional responses to an actual experience (albeit a trial). The next generation of sales executive should be trained to demonstrate these future potential products and services to customers, including the ability of digital technology to be able to tailor it far more precisely than previously possible to their own preferences and needs.
Prabhjot KaurIs: Will it be ok to reduce all human effort? As we are already doing less and less work due to digital technology. People are becoming less active physically.
There is no doubt that over many decades, across the working population as a whole, the level of physical exertion has dropped significantly. Given there is still a trend towards further mechanisation of physical tasks, this will continue unless there are interventions and/or changes of attitude. When eating habits such as increasing consumption of fast food is also added in, unsurprisingly, advanced economies are seeing disturbing rises in the level of obesity and diabetes etc. The cost of reducing fitness levels, allied to ageing populations, puts strain on both economies and companies. So we are starting to see workplaces take action to try to improve health and fitness by replacing biscuits with fruit, introducing standing desks (and even “walking desks” in some cases), encouraging standing or walking meetings, lunchtime sport, subsidising gym memberships etc. Physical exertion generates endorphins which stimulate the brain and hence creative thinking.
Anjan RaiIn: In your opinion, is there any possibility that the digitization minimizes the gap between developed and underdeveloped countries?
There is certainly the possibility for this to occur. Digital technology breaks down many historic barriers; distance, jurisdictions, regulations, barriers to entry, cost to serve, language etc. The consequences include improved educational access and attainment, service industry labour being freed from place (of which BPO is the greatest manifestation) and greater movement of activities between countries based on cost advantage. All of these favour less developed countries. So the global advantage gap could be narrowed by technology, but far from certain - the counter case can certainly be argued too.
Dave Kong: How far away are we to see a full use of quantum computing in Australia?
It depends on your definition of “full use”. There are certainly increasing uses such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and other astronomy and space-related projects, calculations and analysis in mining exploration, climate mapping and prediction models and much advanced scientific research, that are all using quantum computing.
Jagdeep Singh: Can you please talk about Artificial intelligence impact on transport
AI has almost limitless potential to improve transport, particularly road transport. Compared to many major infrastructure networks, road transport remains quite inefficient and has no real-time nexus between the network itself and the units (vehicles) running across it. AI will improve the customer experience e.g. improve safety and reduce commuting times, as well as increase the throughput of roads and hence improve their ROI. Conversely, as the discussion on question 4 above sets out, there are also profound ethical challenges that AI brings to the transport sector. These will not prevent the widespread application of AI in transport but will slow down their introduction.