By Bernard Leong, Head of Digital Services, Singapore Post Ltd
In the past year, most companies are facing the threat of disruption from digital entrants with the acceleration of technology and new digital business models. There is a strong wave of companies in Asia which have either just started or are in the middle of their digital transformation. Due to the threat of the declining physical mail, Singapore Post has set its course to focus on e-commerce logistics and at the same time, embarked on a digital transformation to make it relevant for the digital age.
To accelerate the digital transformation, the role of the Chief Digital Officer (or sometimes, the head of digital) becomes important for the executive leadership team. In some organizations, they are the interface between the customer facing Chief Marketing Officer and the inside enterprise technological Chief Information Officer. In some organizations, Chief Digital Officers report directly to the CEOs so that they can work with the traditional business units to generate effective business outcomes without disrupting their revenue streams.
There are two essential conditions for a Chief Digital Officer to be effective in the organization. First, it is crucial that the Chief Digital Officer has the support of the senior management to execute the digital transformation. It is crucial to develop a corporate culture of customer centricity, challenging even for a large organization such as Singapore Post to bring about such change. What we did know was that everyone had to get involved. So we started with top management being committed to this digital transformation, cascading this change in perspective to middle management and finally, empowering our front liners to make the change happen where it matters most – with our customers.
Second, the Chief Digital Officer should run a business unit and drive revenues with innovation from that business unit. By empowering the Chief Digital Officer as a business leader, the risk of building technology for the sake of technology is reduced, and it is also focused the Chief Digital Officer to implement digital transformation specifically to solve business problems.
What are the best practices for chief digital officers on executing digital transformation for companies? Here are my three principles which I often recommend to fellow chief digital officers to think: customers, connectivity and consistency
Focus on the customer: It is important that all digital transformation in any business should focus on the customer. In fact, all executives and managers at SingPost are required to spend time on the front line to experience first-hand the needs and concerns of customers. It is also a great way for leaders to better understand the challenges of their front-line staff.
This entire process allows the company to address concerns and develop new services by asking fundamental questions such as:
• How does this service serve our customers better?
• How can this service be communicated clearly to our customers?
• How can we ensure that customers get value out of this service?
It is important to let the customer guide the use of technology than vice versa. Often, it is important to ensure that the customer journey is properly mapped and how the digital product or service will integrate with the business operation to ensure a great experience for the customer. In this process, it is important to adopt design thinking such that the user interface and experience are consistent across all channels of engagement with the customer. We applied this concept to our redesign of the post offices.
With the customer journey mapped out, the next important ingredient is to have an omni-channel approach to allow the customers access to your business products and services everywhere from the laptop to the smartphone and 24-7 at their convenience. For example, with a smartphone and social media, it is essential for customer service to adopt digital technologies to monitor and engage the customer upon service failure. An omni-channel approach is to allow the customer to start from any channel and ensure that the business follow the customer at their last touch point. The business should be able to address the needs of the customer with an effective digital customer engagement tool.
Singapore Post is constantly looking at how we can continue to provide our customers with more integrated experiences, while still maintaining a consistent messaging. If you’ve visited our newly designed post offices recently, you will notice that all logos and symbols are designed to represent key customers’ actions such as delivering or receiving parcels. This visual lexicon is consistent across our physical terminals, through to our mobile applications, ensuring a consistent experience for our customers. This also means that our online and offline systems and processes run with a fluid efficiency that is tested and re-tested long before they hit the market.
With companies like Uber and Airbnb which allow you to book your rides and holiday vacation with a touch of a button on a smartphone, most consumer facing businesses have to focus on a seamless and frictionless transition from online to offline. The trick is not to put too many features but the right feature to make it work. While changing the plumbing from physical to digital, we have to remember that we also gained the advantage of gathering massive amounts of business data. Hence it is important to adopt a data driven approach such that you can gain fresh insights of the customer. For example, an effective digital service is able to predict your needs based on your behavior through the use of analytics.
As we head into 2016, new digital trends such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and autonomous cars will take center stage to accelerate digital transformation. For chief digital officers, the best advice is to ensure that we are focused on building the business with right digital products or services for the customer.