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COVID-19 has and will continue to significantly impact the way we work and the way we service our customers for some time. It’s unprecedented. But how do we, as business leaders, ensure we deliver for our customers and keep the global economy strong?

Already, we’ve seen a big shift in the way consumers are engaging with businesses, how businesses are managing their workforce, and the different ways businesses are meeting customer needs. Digital deficiencies across organisations globally have never been so starkly highlighted. Now is the time to act.

Companies that digitize and automate to meet consumer, employee, and business needs will be the ones that succeed in the current environment and survive and grow post-pandemic. We are currently working with many forward-thinking businesses who are looking for ways to embrace digital and automation solutions that address the global impact of the pandemic and feel it’s important to share learnings.

Digital platforms enable you to adapt to changing demand

With the world currently operating at a social distance, businesses are adapting to changing customer needs. Home delivery, distanced pick-up, and entirely virtual offerings are the new normal. Companies that have robust digital solutions, and are leveraging automation to cope with order volume, are the ones who are meeting customer and business needs.

The question has to be posed: Why weren’t digital capabilities factored into any business growth strategy plans in the first place?

However, the reality is many organizations simply do not have the digital infrastructure, platforms, or IT capabilities to offer the services their customers need. Taking an innovative and open approach to delivering digital solutions has never been more critical. If we, as businesses, want to keep our customers, digital transformation must be the operational priority.

UK online supermarket, Ocado, prepared for the influx of online orders resulting from ‘stay at home’ policies by creating an automated queueing system to prevent their site from crashing, and ensure they could still deliver for their customers. However, they also saw the value in retaining their already loyal customers and prioritised them for delivery slots. The queueing system provides customers with a highly visible, transparent way to ensure they are being served. On the other side of the pond, 7-eleven’s mobile app allows customers to order groceries and other necessities for clean, safe pick-up.

One of our clients has recently developed and launched a bespoke end-to-end, digital solution for onboarding vendors and clients. From scratch, we built this together through a series of design sprints to get to the right solution. Our unique approach and strong collaboration led to a live solution delivered to market in under 5 months.  

You can see a sneak peek of the output here.

Partnering to deliver effective digital solutions

This pandemic has shown that businesses must have a robust digital offering. But many don’t have any digital offering at all. There are myriad opportunities to partner with others who have the digital capabilities you may not have. A market scouting exercise can quickly identify gaps where digital can be implemented. Assessing the market for best-in-class partnership opportunities and supporting the implementation of new digital relationships are both fundamental steps. We can help you do this using our global innovation ecosystem.

This pandemic has shown that businesses must have a robust digital offering. But many don’t have any digital offering at all.

Leading the way in innovative partnerships, Marks and Spencer have partnered with Deliveroo, to provide essential groceries and prepared meals. In the consumer goods industry, we introduced and facilitated a successful partnership between startup Reach and a global organisation, so they can deliver virtually for their customers. Reach, an Israeli startup who have created a fully integrated platform to perform many business functions remotely. The platform enables document collaboration, e-signatures, ID verifications and web conferencing all in one place. This has enabled our client to continue some core business functions remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, will keep costs and emissions down in a post-pandemic world.  

Addressing strain on customer service requests

Customer service centers are overwhelmed as the population seeks to cancel travel plans, place online orders, and address a variety of other needs. Employees are no longer able to work from call centres. So companies are feeling the strain from call volume and lack of capacity. Digital and automation have become vital.

The question has to be posed: Why weren’t digital capabilities factored into any business growth strategy plans in the first place? Chatbots and messaging software are not new technology. Yet most traditional customer service driven companies rely heavily on humans answering phones.

Digitizing and automating customer service response systems eliminates lag time and enables companies to manage the volume of requests. Whether they’re global insurers or luxury conglomerates, we’ve partnered with many businesses to help them recognise and realise opportunities for automation, especially when it comes to dynamic customer needs. Right now, companies must evaluate their existing IT processes and look at recommendations for future state development. In addition, as companies resurge from the current business continuity environment, they should build upon digital solutions that were put in place as a result of the health crises…not revert back to old ways of working.  This is an opportunity to leap forward and accelerate digital solutions.

Sister travel booking sites, FlightHub and JustFly, were able to pivot and address the need for mass-cancellations. They assembled a team of developers tasked with automating a hotline to quickly respond to cancellation, rescheduling and refund requests. This rapidly developed system allows for 80% of all refund requests to be handled automatically.

Support your business to digitize

We see the current unprecedented challenges as opportunities for all businesses to deliver innovative solutions, at pace. For their customers, and for the global economy and society as a whole. COVID-19 has already impacted many companies, particularly those without robust digital offerings. The opportunity to digitize is not just imperative for business success in the pandemic and post-pandemic climate, but for the success of businesses and the global economy overall.

We are offering pro-bono virtual workshops to support our clients in developing solutions to the challenges resulting from COVID-19. Our services are available and being successfully delivered virtually thanks to the adaptability of our clients and teams. Design thinking workshops, virtual immersions, future and current state assessments, market scans, vendor scouting, pain point identification prioritization and bespoke strategic frameworks have all been successfully delivered virtually.

You can also view our daily analysis and forecasts of the available data on COVID-19 here. We have produced this to provide a factual view for businesses to help with planning business cycles and recovery.

We believe the most important thing is to continue sharing information. Do get in touch as we’d love you to join the conversation.

The business community is stronger together. Let’s #MSH.