Digital transformation won’t save us

Seven Ways to Differentiate Brands through CX in a Covid World

October 2nd, 2020

“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”

Michael Porter

Few business leaders have avoided confronting our new operating environment and its demands. How do we engage a remote workforce? How do customers experience us without our people directly connecting with them? How will we remain resilient as our call centers either close or get stretched to breaking point?

Underpinning all of these questions is one other:


How can we reimagine our customer, employee, and brand experience for our reality today, and what will likely be the future?

A CX challenge is equally a brand challenge for CEOs, CMOs, and CDOs, one requiring answers to crucial questions—where we rebuild digital transformation from the human up.


How do we scale CX and create deeper, richer interactions in a zero-touch, low human interaction world?:

Brands are infinitely scaleable (at a cost) while the services and interactions required to support them aren’t. Forrester identified 2020 as the year of the bot, with 35 percent of firms planning to invest in bots to improve customer service. Today, nearly 4 out of 10 internet users report that they prefer to use automated services rather than a human customer service representative. Bots represent the first wave of technology aimed at automating customer interactions with the unavoidable consequence of increasing Human Experience Debt.


What if we could scale interactions infinitely, touching more consumers than ever in more human ways? If digital is omnipresent in our lives, why isn’t our humanness present in how we engage with consumers?


    1. Explore using Digital People to engage with customers at the start of journeys to deliver needed information and quickly guide them to the next best step.
    2. Deploy Digital People against a defined use case (see Westpac’s use of Digital People to engage with first-time job hunters).
    3. Engage in determining how your brand could express itself through Digital People – through voice, conversation, and AGI.
    4. Identify current high-touch human or digital customer interactions that are no longer feasible or possible (retail sales kiosk, check-in counter) that could be served by Digital People.

How can CX and Brand initiatives fully embrace the shift to voice and mobile – more than 25% of consumers use voice search as a starting point in their journey.

Consumers are as likely to trust product recommendations from voice assistants as they are to trust salespeople. Voice remains the preferred means of interaction, and Conversational AI is accelerating its use in digital formats ranging from websites to mobile apps to dedicated customer service applications. Consumer attention has shifted to mobile where more than 50% of all web interactions occur, increasing the need for simplification, immediacy, and personalization across every touch-point.


What if our digital services and products become more humanlike and embrace voice and AGI? What if we reduced the task-burden placed on consumers to make interactions conversational and straightforward?


  1. Use Digital People as virtual sales and support assistants. See how SK-11 has done this with Yumi.
  2. Deploy a Digital Sales Assistant who goes beyond transaction assistance to provide advice and coaching to customers.
  3. Determine new zero-touch environments for your Digital Assistant – digital sales kiosks and out-of-home digital displays. Extend and express your brand in new ways.

How do we drive high-quality engagement through CX?

Digital technologies can make it easier for us to navigate our busy lives, but they can also erode the fundamental elements of human connection. Despite efforts to replicate human behavior and gestures through automation and AI, the essentials of human connection—eye contact, personal touch, empathy, etc.—have remained irreplaceable by technology, until now. Most digital transformation efforts are focused on selling and serving the customer. Digital People and their intrinsic AI allow you to deepen use and engagement in products and services.


What if digital becomes a means for full and rich human engagement? What if we could replace the task burden placed on consumers with more straightforward conversations? How will we engage with the customer throughout the entire journey and add value to the product and service sold? How can conversations with Digital People enrich customer interactions in informative and playful ways?


  1. Consider Digital People where engagement is vital to your business. Compliance training could be very effective with highly interactive and measurable engagement with employees throughout the experience.
  2. Create new on-brand conversations with customers where the customer experiences the brand’s tone and expression in their engagement with Digital People.

How can CX foster greater inclusion and address new customer segments?

When digital connections—personal and professional—lack a human touch, they create an environment where people feel isolated, underrepresented, and unfulfilled. People wind up opting for quick answers to narrowly defined problem sets versus more robust and human solutions. Consumers are increasingly “switching off” to protect their privacy.

For consumers, privacy and security issues are the biggest concerns overall (51%). Human interactions offer a bridge to greater confidence and assurance. Technology, rather than being a barrier to customer engagement, must become an enabler. In 2013, a quarter of global internet users agreed with the statement, “technology makes life more complicated.” By 2019, this had jumped to one-third. How do we humanize brands, products, and services in a scaleable way? How can we foster inclusion by making services and products more accessible?

“When digital connections lack a human touch, people feel isolated, underrepresented, and unfulfilled. The rapid pace of digital change adds to a build-up of these unintended consequences, or experience debt”



What if digital becomes a means for full and rich human engagement? What if we could replace the task burden placed on consumers with more straightforward conversations? How will we engage with the customer throughout the entire journey and add value to the product and service sold? How would underserved customer segments engage with your brand if offered a new experience?


  1. Consider Digital People for specific segments. In some cases, this might be where digital engagement is high (youth banking at Westpac) or, in other instances, potentially low (Soul Machines Covid-19 Companion).
  2. See how your brand ambassadors, influencers, and heritage comes to life through Digital People. Check-out how was recreated as a Digital Person.

How can CX help reinvent products and services, and not just the transformation of the status quo? How do we address the resiliency of critical business functions such as call centers?

Rather than merely using CX to tune existing products and services, startups and established brands must orient the elements of their business around opportunities to create new products and services and encourage consumers to participate in the process.


How can we enrich customer journeys with Digital People and create compelling new interaction patterns in a world of simplified, click-and-buy transactions? How can our existing business capabilities be augmented with a Digital Person, increasing our resilience and increasing our scale without the cost?


  1. Examine how Call Centers can be augmented with Digital People to scale customer interactions without losing the impact of human interaction. Assess vulnerabilities due to Covid-19 and increase your business resilience.
  2. Reimagine the customer interface to go beyond rigid digital pathways, accelerating the customer’s time to outcomes, through Digital People and conversational AI.
  3. Examine how your existing conversational AI implementations can extend to Digital People.

How can CX democratize access to more human interactions?

Human interactions have become a premium offering—an air of “luxury” has emerged around human-driven, in contrast to technology-driven experiences. Expectations of authenticity are skewing to hyper-real interactions based on video over basic animation and chat interfaces. Consumers are demanding greater intimacy from interactions and authentic conversations. How will we create more human experiences without adding more humans, democratizing access?

“The positive behaviors and emotions human engagement elicits — think the joy of a massage. Now education, health care, stores, and everyone are starting to look at how to make experiences human. The human is very important right now.”

Milton Pedraza, the chief executive of the Luxury Institute


How can our existing high-touch interactions, strained due to Covid-19, be scaled and automated without losing the humanlike interactions customers value? How can we accelerate the creation of capability and capacity?


  1. Deploy Digital People to augment and enrich high-value customer offerings (such as Digital People, functioning as a concierge, offering advice and direction).
  2. Examine how Digital People can help scale new services (such as work from home assistance; Covid-19 recommendations and coaching; new product introductions).

How will we create a bridge between CX, data, and AI?

How will we build relevant and personalized interactions? AI is coming to the forefront of how a company creates a better CX. Machines’ ability to interact with humans is stronger than ever. AI will help us make better business decisions; many of them positively impacting the customer. AI won’t need to take over all human functions, although in some places it can and will, assist customer support people, or becoming an IA, or Intelligent Assistant.

The speed and precision of AI technologies and analytics, in combination with human insight, will provide a new kind of IQ/EQ operating system upon which to build the customer experience of the future. AI technologies will enhance text, sentiment, voice, interaction, IoT, and even traditional survey analysis. By 2021, 15% of all customer service interactions are going to be handled by artificial intelligence, according to Gartner, a fourfold increase over 2017.

Personalization is increasingly extending beyond “know-my-name”, to “interact with me on my terms.” Today’s dehumanizing bot-driven processes drive consumers to demand more from brands, in the form of real, authentic engagement.



How can we know the customer beyond historical data and respond to them based on their current emotional states and needs more effectively? How will we create a bridge between the AI and data in business and the customer?


  1. Examine how existing AI projects and programs can be expressed through a Digital Person, increasing their benefit to customers.
  2. Implement Digital People as the next phase in maturing existing Bot-based interfaces, humanizing them, and accelerating the customer journey through contextualized and relevant conversations based on data.