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U.S. Capitalism Ramping Up Innovation To Get Through COVID-19

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Matt Wujciak
04/13/2020

digital transformation

There is another side to COVID-19. A hopeful side. An innovative side. (One you probably haven’t read about). A side that rewards creative innovation and risky digital transformation. It's been mandated by not the government, but the mother of invention: necessity.  

Only these digital transformations aren’t as risky as they once were. 

In a recent weeks, our analysts have been in detailed conversations with our advisory board and industry partners (including Gabriele Masili, Chief Technology Officer, Customer Service & Support at Microsoft, Kelley Kurtzman VP, Global Consumer Sales & Service Centers at Verizon, and John Pompei Head of Player Experience Operations at Electronic Arts (EA), to name a few on the robust list).

A state of the union

One topic of discussion that was particularly congruent with my research: customer-centric businesses are using this time to experiment with innovative, digital transformation initiatives they never had the opportunity to recognize before the pandemic.

Economists are lowering their estimates for second-quarter growth in the U.S. as the coronavirus crimps demand and spending, in some cases penciling in what would be the first contraction since 2014.

“Given the extreme market volatility and growing number of cases of the virus in the U.S., we’re seeing states declaring states of emergency,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO, which slashed its forecast for second-quarter gross domestic product to a 2% contraction, according to a Bloomberg report on March 11th. If you’re hesitant about investing in innovative, untraditional digital transformation, chances are you don’t have as much to lose as you did 3 months ago.

Consumer data

IBM estimates that 90% of the world's online data has been created in the past two years (including any cloud-based consumer data base). More data is being generated daily and the proliferation of tools means that data is scattered among even more places. During the coronavirus, this is largely what has brought many customer-centric organizations to the tipping point, realizing without the right individualized technology to manage business intelligence or knowledge management, our business continuity plans are set up for failure.

Allow me to break this down, as it relates to B2C contingency plans. 

According to a CCW Digital survey of contact center, marketing, customer experience,
information technology, operations and C-suite professionals, only 21% of respondents claimed their business, in this case, contact center, was successful at knowledge management. 

Data is being churned out at a rapid pace (faster than ever), the vast majority of organizations are already claiming they’re not good at aggregating it, and now the coronavirus is giving us unpredictable fluctuations, customer inquiry volume, and variables in consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. 

Read More: Special Report Series: Knowledge Management

That, combined with the general poor state of the U.S. economy and individual capital businesses are working with, is exactly why customer-centric businesses are using this time to experiment with innovative, digital transformation initiatives they never had the opportunity to recognize beforehand. Maybe that goal is to aggregate consumer data to make sense of these trends, operationalize customer inquiry volume, protect employee health, or go rogue and invent a new robot. 

Businesses of all sizes and industries are creating viable alternatives, getting comfortable with employees working remotely. The psychological barriers of "it won't work for us" are being broken. More people will be working from home — much more, even after the pandemic, as we’ve recognized that it could be done. 

To give a personal example, my mom, Dr. Valerie Niketakis Wujciak, a physician at Hackensack Meridian Hospital recently stated: 

“I now take care of many of my patients through a screen - a practice that could have been common years ago, and will continue to be common after COVID-19.” 

Innovation has now been unanimously recognized as a procedural necessity in business continuity plans across industries, but especially in the contact center. Now what are we going to do about it?

Digital transformation

“One of the biggest challenges of any organization that I’ve been a part of… is the organization, overall, embracing the idea of digital transformation… The companies that are out there succeeding right now - they’re not reactionary. They’re more proactive,” Jeff Lienhart, President of Adidas Golf recently told me in a CCW Digital online event.

Read More: The Problem With Digital Transformation (Featuring Adidas Golf President, Jeff Lienhart)

As seen in the WSJ, a survey conducted globally this past week by Pulse, an online research hub for chief information officers at large companies, found that half of roughly 50 businesses in its network are using some form of robotics or automation to help front-line workers cope with the pandemic.

Jose Aguerrevere, co-founder and chief executive of Takeoff Technologies Inc., says its U.S. robotic micro-fulfillment centers for grocery stores have been seeing a “double-digit increase in orders” since the outbreak of the virus.

The 10,000-square-foot centers, which can be up and running in four months, can hold up to 15,000 different products. When customers place online orders, multiple robots are dispatched to gather items and bring them to a bagging station, before eventually being recorded in a robust consumer database. 

“Basically, instead of you going to a shelf to pick grocery items, the robots bring the shelf to you,” Mr. Aguerrevere said.

That is becoming an attractive option for millions of housebound Americans trying to avoid catching or spreading the virus by staying out of physical stores.

According to Aguerrevere, the surge in e-commerce (just like remote work) sparked by the outbreak is likely to mark a permanent changes in shoppers’ behavior: “After months of purchasing groceries online, we expect to see this boom in online orders continue well beyond the current situation.”

Moving forward

Now, innovation is a matter of survival. Digital investments, for example, are required to ensure networks remain operational during the unprecedented shift to remote work as a last-ditch attempt to halt the spread of the virus.

Organizations that were already knee deep in their own digital overhauls are realizing the importance of those efforts and are doubling down on those initiatives, as seen in the Takeoff Technologies example. And those who haven't been as quick to invest could find themselves falling farther behind — a potentially difficult turnaround given that many IT budgets are getting slashed, according to Business Insider

In uncharted waters during times of distress and uncertainty, it’s important to stay connected. The CCW Digital community will be here for you, providing you with customer experience, contact center, and digital marketing resources every step of the way. In remote working environments and challenging economic circumstances, remember to lean on your digital community to come out stronger on the other side. 

Read More: How-To-Guide: Workforce Engagement Management

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For media coverage, lead gen, and digital marketing inquiries, contact me at matt.wujciak@customermanagementpractice.com 

And remember, stay positive. Test negative.

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