With the pandemic restrictions still in place, the majority of office workers have been sent to work from home. This disruption has added additional pressure for businesses to digitalise services.

At the SAS and Which-50 webinar, The Role of the CMO at the Most Disruptive Moment, the panellists explained to attendees that marketers are having to listen to their customers more as the demand for digital increases.

Sebastian Pedovoli, co-founder and CEO at Proxima, said one of the major trends his company is seeing is the change in user behaviour.

“With the pandemic, volumes of consumers interacting with brands are definitely up in a marketing space.” What Proxima is looking at, is why and how users are doing that, he explained.

“It’s very much about listening to the customers as much as possible,” said Pedavoli. He’s noticed an emerging trend about the time of day customers access services. “Because we’re in a space where everything is very much real-time, we’re responding to customers within seconds, and we’re using the data that’s actually there in real-time.”

He said the time of day matters, and if you’re slightly off — in minutes and hours — it has a big impact on the impact that your message can have.

The other trend he is noticing is that the nature of communication between a brand and a customer is becoming asynchronous. The question for businesses is how do they adapt to these trends that are being accelerated by the pandemic.

The new normal

Cambell Holt, Platform Business and Consumer Lead, Mercer, said after moving 2,000 people across the region to work from home, the business has adopted a position of not returning to normal — but returning to better.

“Being better is different from a new normal. We’re taking this opportunity to see what we can do in work from home mode, and into the future, in terms of making our people better.

“We’re not taking credit for the concept of returning better. The inspiration is coming from a growing movement globally throughout the crisis, that’s creating discourse around the way the crisis can be used to create positive change,” said Holt.

Holt explained that there are some key themes that Mercer is focused on in terms of staff capability over the next period.

The first theme is the need to transcend traditional tools and ways of working.

He said brands are looking to use this time to embed those tools into the ways of working that are being forced on people. Hopefully, they can produce a permanent wholesale shift to these technologies — not only to assist colleague collaboration during this time but with the intent of permanently changing work practices going forward.

The second theme Holt focused on is the need for a more flexible workforce, to operate a rigorously structured capacity-matching program across the enterprise.

“We’re rotating people through different parts of the business in situations where their current role might see them under-utilised during this time. Others are experiencing high demand. We’re giving people exposure to other parts of the business and facilitating new experiences and skills development,” said Holt.

The third theme is the accelerated need for a digitised business model. “The crisis is representing a permanent inflection point in the shift to digital within our own operating model.

“This really demands an even greater focus on our people having the capabilities required in terms of effecting digital transformation in fairly traditional existing business models and operating models.”

Holt said this means Mercer is going to be looking to develop and source people with more digital in their DNA.

The final focus point in terms of people’s capabilities is preparing them for what the next normal looks like. He said it’s clearly going to require a new set of skills and capabilities.

“We’re now thinking about what the implications are for the increasingly digitised consumer — what that will imply for our own capabilities and even our structure into the future.

“The crisis has certainly stress-tested our structure and skills mix, and has already taught us a lot about the ways in which we can build a more resilient and capable workforce going forward.”

Emotional intelligence

Data and analytics are integral for CX, but so is emotional intelligence, argues Justin Theng, Customer Intelligence Lead, SAS Australia and New Zealand. He said marketers are tasked with being in touch with shifting sentiments, on both a group and individual level.

“This puts a stress test on the internal teams, upon the fracture that may have already been there. For example, the divide between the more intuitive marketer — who is used to more above the line or traditional marketing or direct marketing — versus the more technology-leaning teams or parts of the teams.”

Theng said the key thing is to optimise teams. Brands don’t have the luxury of knee-jerking because it would probably be the wrong response, in terms of acquiring new talent and cutting costs.

“Training teams and training people within those teams to think, and to be able to do their job more broadly, to better use technology and tools and analyse data —then to be able to make decisions from that data is important.

Theng said just because the data says you should speak more doesn’t mean you should speak more. The data might tell you what to say — but that doesn’t mean it tells you when or how to say it. Data needs to be balanced with emotional, human intelligence to be effective.

To find out more about how you can use personalisation, AI and insights, to create an emotional, humanised and balanced CX, register for next webinar as part of this series. Register now.

About this author

Athina Mallis is the editor of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit of which SAS is a corporate member. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply. 

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