With most people locked down and relying on digital communications during the pandemic, around two thirds (64 per cent) of UK IT leaders questioned in a new survey reveal that their organization has made technology changes to improve digital interaction with customers. The same number of respondents (64 per cent) have made changes to handle greater volumes of interaction on their websites, social media and other digital channels. However, in each case more than half (56 per cent), expect to make additional investments to ensure those changes work in the long term.

The survey of 100 enterprise IT leaders, commissioned by Macro 4, a division of UNICOM® Global, suggests the pandemic accelerated many organizations’ plans to improve their customer communications technology, but IT chiefs recognize that more work is needed. Almost all of the sample (94 per cent) believe that their organization needs to improve how it communicates with customers. And nine out of ten (91 per cent) view technology as instrumental in achieving this.

“The pandemic has added new momentum to the shift away from in-person communication,” said Lynda Kershaw, Marketing Manager at Macro 4. “With many face-to-face settings closed and longer wait times in call centers, millions more customers have turned to websites and other digital channels, and businesses have had to scale up their digital offerings to meet that extra demand. At the same time, IT departments are introducing new digital services and channels to make it easier to engage with customers online.”

According to Macro 4, the need for rapid solutions to business challenges created by the pandemic has led to technical compromises which IT leaders will have to revisit:

“CIOs with limited time and resources haven’t had the luxury of planning and implementing the most complete or perfect solution on day one. Now they are seeking to minimize pandemic-induced ‘technical debt’ – the cost of reworking those quick fixes to their customer communications stack so that they work for the longer term,” explained Kershaw.

Underlying these points, 81 per cent of IT leaders in the sample agree (52 per cent strongly) that the need to react quickly to the pandemic has forced organizations to fast-track technology changes to adapt to new ways of working. 72 per cent strongly or somewhat agree that over the next 12 months organizations will have to invest in upgrading or replacing some of the technology they had to implement quickly in response to the pandemic.

“Enterprises will want to reduce waste and effort by building on the short-term solutions they put in during the crisis, rather than starting again from scratch,” said Kershaw. “They will be looking for adaptable, scalable technology, especially in rapidly evolving areas such as digital customer engagement, where innovation can give you a vital competitive advantage. Management techniques such as digital process orchestration can help here by allowing businesses to quickly integrate new technology with existing systems and channels.”

When IT bosses were asked how they felt technology could be used to drive improvements in inbound and outbound customer communications they highlighted a variety of requirements within their own organizations. On average, each respondent selected three different areas for improvement, with no single area dominating overall.

Adding extra security measures to protect us and our customers when interacting digitally (46 per cent) was the most frequently selected area for improvement, closely followed by increasing capacity to manage more digital interactions through digital channels (45 per cent) and adding more digital channels so that we can reach our customers more easily (43 per cent).

The IT leaders in the sample also see a role for technology in improving customer and user experience, with four in ten anticipating benefits from increasing personalization to meet the needs of different customers (41 per cent) and increasing automation and AI (39 per cent). Bringing customer communications across different departments, systems and channels under one umbrella (40 per cent) can also help to support a more joined-up and holistic experience for customers.

Notably, almost three years after the GDPR came into effect, around a third of IT leaders still feel the need for improving protection of customer data to enable compliance with regulations such as the GDPR, pointing towards a continuing struggle with data protection in many organizations.

To view the full survey results, download Macro 4’s report: Post-pandemic IT: where next?

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