In this era of technology, everything from sleek gadgets and AI to smart user interfaces promise to help businesses streamline processes, increase the number of happy clients and retain customers. However, the million dollar question is – are these technologies fulfilling their intended purpose?
Fads also exist in the technology space. There are poorly designed implementations of technology as well. And it is extremely hard sometimes to differentiate between the two. For example, chatbots were all the rage over the last couple of years and while they provided real value for some, many e-commerce websites implemented them with unimpressive results. If it takes users fifteen interactions to accomplish a task with a chatbot that could otherwise be completed with just three, the chatbot is definitely an obstacle to the users in their journey. The bot might even be losing customers instead of helping you gain them. Now is the chat technology useful, or not?
When technologies and tools are implemented without being properly designed, resources are wasted and revenues take a hit. Most importantly, this has a significant effect on the user’s experience with the business. These effects are obvious and inarguable but companies across the world end up making this mistake quite often. So, why do so many go so wrong while evaluating which technology brings them the most value? It’s got to do with their framework for evaluation. An effective method would be to go back to the first principles and see if it delivers on the “five promises” of technology i.e. speed, scale, spread, smarts and asynchrony.
Take the example of a loan management system in a financial services company. The usual customer journey would involve meeting the first line of customer service who helps fill out a form about the loan that she/he needs. Next, the credit of the prospective client is checked to determine loan viability. The finance team, which includes risk assessment, might eventually flag the application if the customer does not have enough collateral for the loan amount sought. If this real-world process is simply replicated as a web-based application, it will create a bottleneck because the number of people applying on it would overwhelm the system very quickly. However, a more befitting way to design it would be to implement machine learning to manage the stage-by-stage progress of the loan application through the system and to use human effort only to manage the exceptions that the system throws up. The actions performed by this human should also be used to reinforce the learning and make the system better over time. The person is then best imagined not just as a user of the system, but as a trainer who is making the system smarter. Such a system will achieve true speed for the organisation.
Technology-centred thinking would direct new businesses to use the technology to scale up their businesses. For example, an e-commerce-first approach would help a business scale without the obstacles faced by offline stores that are typically capital intensive. Take the example of Urban Ladder, the online furniture retailer that began with a user-friendly website with a focused approach of 35 categories of furniture catering to three cities in the first year. The results of this approach are there for all to see. Potential customers wouldn’t have scaled up to thousands and lakhs from a few hundreds if the business hadn’t chosen to take the e-commerce route first.
Technology instantly helps spread businesses from one location to multiple ones. Besides geography, language reach through technology can help tap into potential customer bases that would otherwise be impossible to reach. Voice-based technologies developed by companies like Slang Labs, for instance, help businesses tap into the market of regional language users by offering a multilingual voice-based assistant platform that can be integrated into apps. This can help level up your business exponentially.
With the proliferation of AI and it being made more widely applicable in regular businesses through companies like Prowler.io, technology has the ability to bring machine learning and artificial intelligence to every business out there. It can help refine and optimise processes within organisations and even predict what users would do next. With this kind of intelligence at your disposal, you can deliver superlative customer experiences, optimise your inventory so you never run out of stock or maintain any excess and even expand your business at a fraction of the cost and time it would have normally taken.
One of the great advantages of technology is that it brings asynchrony in our communication and decision making. Any system that doesn’t employ asynchrony at its core is likely to be slower than others. Common examples of asynchronous technologies are email and WhatsApp. These allow people living in different time zones to discuss a subject and make a decision without requiring all of them to be available at the same time. This has brought incredible efficiency to communication and reduced the time spent in making decisions drastically in any system that relies on these types of asynchronous technologies.
When technology is to be integrated into your business, the manner in which it is done must fulfill a minimum of three of these five promises for it to have any significant impact on revenue. If designed well however, all five promises of technology can be taken advantage of and be a game changer for any organisation.