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article imageInterview: Transforming customer engagement for big-name brands Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 19, 2017 in Business
The digital challenge is about how companies can create a better customer experience. This means not focusing on the status quo. A leading digital transformation expert expands on this and provides other business lessons.
Softvision is a global software development company leveraging a network of 2,500 product, design and engineering professionals, throughout 17 studios, in 8 countries and five continents.
Earlier this year, Softvision hired a new CEO: Andres Angelani, the former CSO at Globant. Angelani, has also written a book titled “The Never-Ending Digital Journey: Creating New Consumer Experiences Through Technology.” To discover how digital transformation is affecting businesses and how Softvision has itself responded, Digital Journal caught up with Angelani.
Digital Journal: What are some of the challenges facing businesses today?
Andres Angelani: The new consumer digital lifestyle of advanced tech with ubiquitous connectivity threatens all who do not rise to meet it. Consumers now demand that companies flex to their needs – and they will change suppliers in an instant if someone better suits them. Only those companies and brands that can digitally transform themselves to meet new customer expectations will survive – much less win.
DJ: How much of this challenge arises from digital disruption?
Angelani: The challenge does not rise from disruption; it rises from the ability that we now have to create a better experience. If waiting for a cab in the freezing rain and calling a useless operator that had no clue where the driver was didn’t give rise to Uber, what did? The need to improve the experience was desperate, unequivocal. Why didn’t any cab company come back with a solution? Because they were focused on the status quo and never thought about the actual rider experience.
The ability for technology to correct sub-standard experiences and eliminate friction is what creates the opportunity, and whoever understands and executes leveraging this tech can draw traction that drives from the accumulated frustration of the customer. What companies need to do is stop looking at their own belly buttons, step out of denial and embrace the customer.
That’s the first step: acknowledgement. The second step is to call somebody like Softvision to help as it is obvious they don’t have the in-house skills to do it themselves. That’s why we exist, to work process, talent and technology to help them move at Mach 1 speed and focus on the customer.
DJ: Why is it important for businesses to undergo digital transformation?
Angelani: The only digital transformation that matters is that which is done at scale. Business need to step out of the “look digital” to “be digital”, and that impacts the core of the business, and evolves the ability to see where customers want to go and to be agile enough to get there first. It’s a bit like Mach One – only when you break through the scaling barrier can you compete at the speed of customer change.
To break through the “digital innovation at scale barrier” requires a company to adopt a mindset, a confluence of talent, agility, and a culture that promotes innovation, experience design, and technology. You need a new kind of corporate structure and flexibility to help them integrate their various business units and create an emotionally engaging conversation with their customers leveraging new technology. You need a collaborative approach that would permit engineering and design teams to work side by side quickly and efficiently, and at scale, to reach their consumer and business goals.
DJ: Does this link up with your book (‘The Never-Ending Digital Journey: Creating New Consumer Experiences Through Technology’)?
Angelani: Over the last several years, customers, employees, and partners have become tech-savvy users whose expectations of “Give me more and deliver it fast” require manageable solutions.
The desire to interact with digital ecosystems anywhere, anytime demands that today’s businesses create personalized and frictionless experiences to create value for its end users.
It’s a recipe that must be followed fiercely in order to remain relevant. When done correctly, enhancing consumer’s daily lives with digital touch points goes far beyond creating a new website, a gimmicky app, or a “unified” omnichannel experience. The end goal is to construct memorable experiences in a never-ending cycle that increase the ability to retain, convert, and enrich the relationship between businesses and their users.
DJ: What are the key messages in your text?
Angelani: In simple terms, a digital journey is a context-aware interaction between an end user and a brand or business, whereby the interaction becomes a conversation in which technology facilitates a powerful experience that builds deep emotional connections by incorporating three key values: simplification, surprise, and anticipation.
DJ: How important is it to maintain the consumer experience?
Angelani: In an era of the commoditization of every historic differentiator, the only remaining valid “why” is customers. All the transformational projects must focus on the client. We must bring relevancy, thought leadership and innovation.
At the heart of a successful business strategy is a customer experience that is elegantly simple and positive, where consumers are likely to come away satisfied—and return. This type of experience is designed by understanding the emotion of end users throughout a journey involving the company’s products and services. The goal is to maximize positive emotion.
In today’s marketplace, time to market is a chief concern for any business trying to establish or drive digital journeys. Delivering the best experience establishes emotional bonds that last. Arriving late renders a negative impact, a low to no return, and a lackluster effect that lowers brand equity instead of boosting it.
To meet these diverse challenges, teams need to be reworked so that design and engineering work together. What’s more, motivational drivers need to be aligned and emphasized to forge a culture of innovation.
DJ: What are the aims of Softvision?
Angelani: Softvision develops products that help global brands create better, more meaningful digital experiences for their customers, employees and stakeholders through design and technology. We have creative and engineering talent all over the world that blend into cross-functional teams to help our clients to constantly improve.
Softvision helps companies deliver solutions with agility and speed that keep the brands connected to the consumer’s timeframe while defining their larger digital innovation at scale goals and helping build bridges across company silos for digital pure plays.
DJ: What types of companies have you worked with?
Angelani: Our unique approach to structuring agile, cross-functional teams, has allowed us to lead the digital transformation of companies like Goldman Sachs, Mozilla, Groupon, Estee Lauder, Snap-on,, Kaiser Permanente, Reddit, Lululemon and others.
DJ: Are you able to share some digital transformation examples?
Angelani: Softvision has worked with Estee Lauder. The company needed a way to reinvigorate its brand and drive sales since foot traffic in malls has diminished. Softvision developed an engaging, global e-commerce site that resulted in $1 billion in revenue for the brand in 2016.
We worked with one of the U.S. 's leading ‘athleisure’ retailers to create a holistic customer experience using these interactive mirrors. This holiday season, customers will be able to fulfill transactions while also checking for new running routes, exercise classes, and other ways to engage socially that service an entire community.
We also helped Groupon shift to a mobile-first experience and award-winning app.
DJ: How do you see Softvision changing in the future?
Angelani: We see growth on talent and diversity in the near future. Opening Studios in new geographies and getting into new industries, making clients our partners while helping them leverage our agile culture, our human talent and our expertise in technology to foster better, memorable experiences.
In the era of AI and automation, the world needs more human intelligence. At Softvision our main asset are the “guilds”—self-organizing communities of expert talent in design, engineering, process, and culture. Through these guilds, we connect people and talent globally, incentivize local and cultural diversity throughout our network of studios around the world, and nurture our people so they can reach their full potential.
We don’t have talent factories that train in mass quantities like the big traditional IT players do, and we don’t kill individuality through standardization. Instead, we leverage diversity, exposing young people to different emerging technologies, new design trends, agile as mindset, and the workplace—teaching, grooming and exposing them to a whole array of customers, products, projects and brands around the world and, in many cases, giving them the opportunity to travel and live in other geographies.
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