Why Empathy & Digitalization Matter Now & Beyond COVID-19
Written by Hamid Tamimi, Nabil Abbas, and Rajiv Pant
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Written by Hamid Tamimi, Nabil Abbas, and Rajiv Pant
We're halfway through 2020 and it's difficult to fathom that this would be the year a virus would cause countries to seal their borders and put entire populations into lockdown, severely impacting global trade, business, and education.
Along with the immense human, economic, and social losses, we have also learned a lot about the human capacity for resilience these past several months. As sudden and unprecedented as the crisis has been, the way that governments and businesses worldwide have responded has been telling. The Dubai government, for example, implemented a strict lockdown system that entailed people getting a permit to go outside. Governments also rapidly launched websites so residents could acquire movement permits within minutes—an example of truly agile service development and implementation. In several cities, barriers of scale and speed were overcome to construct hospitals with thousands of beds in a matter of days.
The drastic changes wrought by COVID-19 practically overnight can feel both overwhelming and paralyzing. Nevertheless, for leaders in both the public and private sectors, it is imperative to keep the forward momentum going. Agility and customer centricity will determine our ability to successfully adapt.
Today, the digital journey for many businesses has been compressed from months or years to a matter of days. What remains a constant in this rapidly changing business environment is the need for empathy with customers and employees and the ability to anticipate both their present and future needs. Now more than ever, businesses need to develop and deliver value to internal and external customers, aligning priorities, investments, resources, and incentives accordingly.
For many organizations, this requires a rapid shift from a classically inward-focused, efficiency-driven model to an outward-focused one that intimately puts the customer at the center of everything an organization does. When it comes to providing services, this shift translates to an increased focus on safety, speed, sustainability, and transparency in addition to the usual focus areas of efficiency and convenience.
During this crisis, one of the world’s biggest malls, The Dubai Mall, has moved online to offer customers a virtual shopping experience at home. Listening to their customers along every step of the online transaction, developing the emotional compass to gauge their mood, and harnessing the data to anticipate future needs—these businesses are well positioned to retain their customers once the crisis is over and some semblance of normalcy returns.
One of the most striking lessons learned from this crisis has been overcoming challenges and catering to customer needs by accelerating the fusion between business and digital. Instead of being the disruptor, digital is now the only way to do business in many cases. Whether in enabling remote work at scale, educating children online, organizing virtual events, or enabling day-to-day shopping, the digital model has not only proved to be socially and economically viable, but is also boldly overtaking existing physical models. Customers have crossed the barrier to digital adoption and now there is no going back.
Organizations today require a radically different approach to digital transformation, one that not only fosters acceptance of the changing demand dynamics, but also focuses on providing value through rapid experimentation and scaling of digital capabilities and services. Unlocking digital agility and realizing its full potential is key to being successful in today’s volatile operating environment.
Based on our experience working with leading global and regional public and private sector clients, here are recommendations and best practices to help organizations pivot their digital transformation efforts in the new reality:
Though the COVID-19 crisis is still unfolding, it has irrevocably altered the global social and business landscape. With digital rising to the challenge, remote working, online learning, and social distancing are all part of the new normal. Organizations that embrace digitalization, with agility and empathy, will emerge with a stronger value offering, enjoy a loyal and expanding customer base, and retain an engaged, motivated, and innovative workforce.
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