As CEOs, we need to be prepared for unforeseen situations such as disrupted supply chain, pandemics, natural disasters, economic challenges and unfortunately, even wars. These events require decisive internal responses, such as changing suppliers, revisiting processes, restructuring the business, or cutting costs. Moreover, any change induced by an external event must be made with the customers’ best interest in mind. It’s easy to take your eyes off your main problem-solvers during these tumultuous times: your staff.
Invest in Your Team
Having a people-first, purpose-driven approach should be the foundation to your leadership strategy. Whether it’s ensuring your staff’s health and safety, transforming company culture, or constantly improving your business processes, being focused on how it impacts employees is a key factor for success. ABBYY conducted a global survey in April 2022 validating that decision-makers had a people-centric focus in their digital transformations during the past two years. The survey asked leaders about their main drivers for deploying intelligent automation investments, the top three being to better prepare for remote working; prepare for hybrid working; help with employee burnout; and pressure from employees.
In looking further into what impeded employees’ daily work, we learned that bad or broken processes were so frustrating that one-in-four employees wanted to quit their job. Another was wasting up to eight hours a week looking for information necessary to perform their work. But how did they address these issues? 89% of survey respondents said they had success deploying intelligent automation solutions such as process mining to find and fix processes and intelligent document processes (IDP) that made data from business-critical documents easily accessible and actionable.
With estimates of the global talent shortage resulting in $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues by 2030, ensuring employees work smarter and conduct more valuable work will positively impact retention, recruitment and revenue.
Economic Headwinds Provide an Opportunity
ABBYY’s customers are generally looking to improve their own business processes through Intelligent Process Automation which makes use of modern technologies such as Machine Learning, AI, and NLP (Natural Language Processing). Intelligent Automation is especially important in a recession where every company needs to hold on to and—better still—grow usage from their end customers. Smart process automation serves to improve the end customer experience and can save costs. No one wants a failed automation project in any circumstances, but during an economic downturn when budgets are tight and customer goodwill is at a premium, successful automation becomes even more crucial.
In a tough economy, our existing and prospective customers will look at the number of partners and technology vendors they work with and focus on measurable value and time to value. Purchasing decisions are slowed down and criteria are sharpened. As an automation vendor, we need to provide:
• Quick adoption and time to value by way of superior products and solutions
• A deep and open partnership built on trust where problems are solved and the expected outcomes from automation are met or exceeded
• A roadmap of future improvements based on innovation and customer feedback.
According to Salesforce research, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, and 80% now consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services. They expect a personalized, connected journey no matter the channels they use, and each touchpoint must be perceived as effortless as possible by the customer. Continuously analyzing and improving our customer touchpoints is an important area for all of us.
Intelligent automation platforms have been key to accelerating deployment and improving the customer experience (CX). They empower IT and business leaders to understand and streamline their processes and add artificial intelligence skills to documents so digital assistants and chatbots can have a more intelligent conversation with customers and enable human customer service representative to be more knowledgeable during customer inquiries.
Improving the Customer Experience
Being customer centric means to frame all activities and decisions with the question: “How does this improve life for our customers?” The obvious part is around products or services we provide to our customers and how they solve a real-life problem. A big part of this is how we interact with our customers. First, any and all interactions must be felt as effortless as possible and meet or exceed customer expectations— e.g. resolving a support issue within a timeframe the customer expects, or setting expectations for the delivery of a bugfix or product feature. Secondly, communicating in a way that fosters a longer-term partnership, by understanding the outcomes our customers want to achieve. At ABBYY we understand the importance of customer onboarding, product adoption and the customer journey in general. We continuously work on making the journey for our customers easier, be it by offering knowledge-based documents when customers raise a support ticket on our Web Form or by offering a quick way for customers to rate their experience with us. We look at all feedback and let that flow back into our organization for improvements.
Another useful strategy in an economic downturn is to revisit lost opportunities within the past few years. Some deals may have been lost to “not ready now” or perhaps features your solution was lacking at the time. In following up with prospects for those lost deals, many were likely lost to overpromised capabilities offered by competitors. It may also have been the case that our own offering was at the time not at the level it is now. We find that in the Intelligent Automation market both requirements and offered solutions evolve rapidly. Interestingly, this year we are seeing past leads reaching out to us. These customers say they were too quick to adopt intelligent automation tools based on promises, hype or steep discounts. They remembered our demos, our history of innovation, and we were the first partner they called when they needed to optimize their business processes and gain more value from their enterprise data. Encouraging customer-facing teams to go the extra mile for customers and prospects sends a strong and memorable message, that is remembered when times are challenging.
Prepare for Business Growth
An Ernst Young survey showed that more than 40% of companies are contemplating new joint ventures, strategic alliances, or alternative deal structures. Partnerships make up 30-to-50% of revenue for many organizations, which is mutually beneficial for all parties. With potential new market challenges, now is a time to identify new opportunities with current partners and look for new ones. Investing in and developing effective partnerships is a good strategy when you have to look at your own cost structure and seek efficiency gains. A well-run partnership has natural economies of scale and it extends your firm’s touch points with customers.
Leveraging your partners’ networks can connect you with different decision-makers within organizations, even those with whom you already have a commercial relationship. Just look at the opportunities the pandemic brought: new intelligent process automation solutions for remote working, low-code/no-code platforms and intelligent document processing for workers who could no longer access files at the office. Combining best-in-breed technologies is now a preferred way forward over all-in-one solutions – think of partnerships as a roadmap to improvements.
Economic downturns typically lead to market consolidation. It’s a natural and needed part of the business cycle. At ABBYY, we have to date relied on internally generated cash for growth. A self-sufficient business model, while somewhat capping growth rates, means the company is better able to determine its own destiny. With a sound balance sheet and a growing business, it is arguably easier to raise funds for potential acquisitions opportunities that inevitably surface in recessions.
In summary, endurance and resilience during a down economy isn’t only about a sound financial balance sheet and navigating the risks, but it’s about customer and employee focus, regrouping, protecting, or gaining market share and getting ready for life when market conditions improve.