Digital Crisis or Redemption: The Uncomfortable Truth

"The annual release of the Dimension Data Global CX Benchmarking Report is a highly-anticipated event in the customer experience world. For 20 years now, it has offered the definitive global view of how technology is changing CX for both customers and companies. With the current explosion of devices and interaction channels, its insights are more valuable than ever for companies seeking to understand how to plan their next CX moves."

Such is the perspective I shared in Dimension Data's press release announcing this year's report, "Digital Crisis or Redemption: The Uncomfortable Truth" -- and the reason I especially looked forward to seeing this year's data is because of a prediction made in the 2015 report and discussed on No Jitter at the time. The most thought-provoking prediction from the 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report -- forecasting based on 10 years of historical data -- was that digital interactions would overtake agent-assisted ones by the end of 2016. In the report, Dimension Data concluded that businesses had an imperative to find a way to better gather, analyze, and ultimately deliver predictive information to agents based on prior digital interactions.

Dimension Data 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report

The graphic at right summarizes the 2017 results. While phone contacts have dropped dramatically in the past two years, by 17%, the reported proportion did not reach the predicted tipping point of less than 50% of all contact center interactions. The percentage of transactions handled by agents via telephone continued to fall, although the 5.2% drop in the last year represents a slowing down of the migration of phone interactions to digital channels.

Interesting is the comparison of actual phone, assisted, and automated service versus the desired operating model. Companies are getting 15% more phone interactions than they would like and assisted-service channels -- e.g., Web chat, email and social -- are underperforming. Dimension Data reports some type of growth across almost all digital channels, as customers' appetites for digital and alternative options remain high, but not to the desired levels.

The reasons for this difference between the actual and the desired interaction channel mix are illuminated in this additional question in the survey: What is slowing your digital transformation within your CX operations?

As seen in the data, and discussed in the report, no one compelling factor appears to be stalling digital transformation. Apart from funding constraints, which are always a challenge and may be overcome with new cloud options, the main issues for lack of digital transformation are framed around access to people and the required IT systems, and perhaps most crucially, an integrated strategy to implement a model.

Note that only 11% of respondents point to the vendor community as a stumbling block to digital transformation. It is encouraging to see that from the perspective of the organizations that buy CX applications, CX vendors are offering the kinds of solutions they need to implement a digital transformation strategy.

Also encouraging is that less than one-fifth of respondents report executive support is a problem. However, that one in six organizations state that management ownership is unclear doesn't tell the full story. Many organizations design and deploy digital channels in silos, and this can create customer experience turmoil. The challenges listed are not insurmountable. The main issue is a robust strategy and governance system to develop digital transformation against clear (and shared) business objectives.

So, what is the uncomfortable truth in the title? It's that CX digital transformation is not occurring as quickly as either end customers or organizations would like. The good news is that they recognize the issue, and vendor solutions are available. The bad news is that the organization-wide commitment and financial resources to effect change are not issues easily solved.

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