By Myles Robinson, co-founder, Boiler Central
During the onset of the pandemic in 2020, many businesses, sectors and industries had to ‘learn’ technology, particularly digital technology, and learn it fast, in order to serve their increasingly online customer communities.
The pressure to keep up with online demand in a marketplace where buyers expect value and convenience, has now seen even the most traditional industries revamping old-school practices and putting customers’ wants at the heart of slick, new capabilities.
Customers demand innovation
Customers are more educated than they’ve ever been about self-serving online and how ideal service and products should look and feel. They want sophisticated, delightful and satisfying web-enabled experiences; whether it’s to order a boiler, file a tax return or get legal support. And, tech-savvy as they are, they want those products and services whether there’s a pandemic on or not.
Global expenditure for IT alone is projected at £2.8 billion for 2021, a rise of 4% on 2020; a sign of just how focused businesses plan to be on digital, not only to satisfy immediate customer demand, but to win hearts and minds for the long term.
Of course, tech specialists have known for years, the value of ‘going digital’. But now even late adopters are moving customer processes and interactions online, investing in bespoke IT systems, and the corresponding compliance and security to go with them.
Organisations are utilising business cloud platforms, not only to run effective software, but house entire infrastructures, to securely and cost-effectively manage whole parts of their business; to better service, maintain and manage customer functions and workflow.
Innovations in legal and accountancy
Strongholds of traditional process, legal and accountancy are of particular note for embracing technology to innovate their services.
Far from being old school and risk-averse, top legal firms now put digital innovators in the same room as legal experts to come up with new ways of marrying function with smart, customer-centric design of services.
In what was very much a paper-based business, technology is increasingly used in legal practices to digitise document creation, review and signoff. There is an increased use and management too of smart data to understand pressure points within processes, what causes inefficiencies, delays and, ultimately, risks customer happiness.
Similarly, in accountancy, there has been a growing pressure for firms to innovate. Cloud accounting has arrived and, with it, an acceptance of remote servicing.
It is now becoming more commonplace for clients to be relieved of the traditional rafts of paperwork; they simply submit records online and enjoy the peace of mind their details are secure, able to be viewed at any time, and fully compliant with the relevant bodies.
Local government online
Local government have, up until very recently, always been perceived as paper-based in their processes, as well as somewhat archaic and slow, lacking in customer-focused innovation, despite years of surveys and data gathering.
However, particularly since the pandemic, councils are now more open to, and are, moving procedures online. The double drive of a reducing budget and the need to engage citizens has meant the development of more digital servicing, including voting, council tax and benefits.
Digital innovation expands target markets
Geographical boundaries dissolve for businesses and organisations that ‘go digital’. It suddenly becomes possible for them to do business just about anywhere, expanding into markets way beyond their local playing field.
Opportunities have sky-rocketed, and not just for large setups. Local tradespeople, such as plumbers, gas installers and electricians are upping their online presence; encouraging online customer touchpoints, from initial enquiry through to service ordering. With a geographic network of engineers, these businesses can now serve customers nationwide.
The up-and-coming tradesperson is now as conscious of their Google reviews as they are their product and service capabilities.
Businesses operating with a remote workforce, enabled with entirely digital setups to work from home and anywhere, can also take advantage of a wider pool of talent, without the need to consider anymore where they live.
If a specialist capability is required, it can be recruited for with very little regard for geographical location; enabling firms to go further in their innovation journeys by having the right people on board.
Empathy at the heart of innovation
Analysts expect 2021 to be the ‘year of empathy’ and there are real opportunities for business leaders who understand that true understanding of the customer is at the heart of any successful innovation.
After all, UX (User Experience) digital design that really works, comes from empathising with customers to create the online functions and experiences they want. It’s good news for all consumers that our traditional sectors are now taking this thinking on, and if a few can do it, the rest are surely well tipped to follow.
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