Leveraging Innovation to Empower People and Drive Positive Change
Executive Vice President of Global Innovation and Strategy Paula Kennedy Garcia delivers a fresh perspective on the innovative strategies behind our client-inspired solutions. She discusses how fast-tracked innovation around automation, enhanced well-being, and workspace optimization via AI-enabled technologies sets businesses up for success with long-term remote work. CX re-design and trusted teams drive resilience and overall well-being across high growth brands. Attracting and retaining great people and partnerships is at the core of driving innovation forward and ultimately taking business to new heights.
Read more for Paula’s thoughts on innovation, cultural evolution, and propelling your brand to the next level with customer care.
Q: What’s the most surprising trend you’ve seen come out of the pandemic and how did you pivot?
Now that we can look back and reflect on how far we have all progressed, it’s very clear that the pandemic fast-tracked a lot of change-for-good. It advanced several inevitable shifts that might otherwise have taken much longer to adopt and embed across the business space.
I had been an advocate for the remote working movement for several years before it became the only alternative to keep jobs and business going through the pandemic period. While many organizations continue to solve for the long-term implications of hybrid vs full return to office, the business world in general has proven it can thrive remotely and has the confidence to include flexible working options. Brands have access to more and more innovative technology that supports security, privacy and helps foster working cultures that can succeed beyond the traditional office.
Remote work has not so much surprised me as perhaps the mass acceptance of its sustainability within long-term operating strategies. As a result, we are also experiencing faster progress in automation, enhanced focus on wellbeing and self-care, and process and workspace optimization via the use of intelligent AI-enabled technologies.
Organizations like 24-7 Intouch have not had to pivot too much with these newly growing trends, as we already had them embedded or growing in our business pre-pandemic. The opportunity to be similarly innovation-led has been created for everyone and we are optimistic to witness organizations that are leveraging this for the better of business.
Q: Setting new standards in customer care means understanding the challenges we all face. What are the biggest challenges high-growth brands are facing today and how can they prepare?
I think the wider scope of digital transformation in general still underpins much of the challenges facing high-growth brands.
There is still a hill to climb for many organizations wishing to transform and optimize, for several reasons. Progress and investment in digital strategies have taken a temporary back seat. The focus has shifted from securing remote working during the pandemic, to the impact of economic pressure as we exited the height of the pandemic, to now facing the uncertainty of economic downturn. A more practical example is access and structure of organizational data to clearly direct new journeys that are frictionless and better, which is not straightforward and can be both complex and underestimated in the journey through transformational redesign.
There is often a feeling of urgency that becomes a race to find efficiency fast, to be ‘omni’, to personalize CX. These are all very valuable strategies for any organization and will yield great returns. However, robust and sustainable change can only be optimized with considered journey mapping, CX redesign, and trusted teams and partners to manage change versus the temptation to add new channels for customers to navigate, or new technology that might not interact intuitively with the existing customer experience.
We have been helping our client partners take on this and more since the pandemic. We are able to do so in a way that is less onerous on their internal resources, costs, and time so that they can yield long-term benefits sooner.
Q: What does innovation mean to you and why does it matter for our industry to truly adopt it as part of our culture?
Innovation today is about making experiences better. Unlocking value and creating experiences for customers and brands that are as convenient and seamless as possible, with as little effort as possible.
Our expectations as consumers have increased. We expect ethical brand engagement and responsive support that is frictionless and an accessible, on-demand service. This new dynamic flows into how we want to work as well as how we want to shop, play, and live.
As an industry, it is essential to answer that call to stay relevant, to keep customers happy, and to attract and retain employees. For the CX industry specifically, it increases in importance as our workforce demographics tip the millennial and Gen-Z balance because innovation underpins everything digital natives know, use, and expect as standard.
Everything from what we represent as a brand must interweave into how we rebuild our own brand in the new age. This includes everything from how we hire and onboard, how we train for diverse cognitive intake and with a different suite of learning media and tools, to how we coach and lead with empathy and develop soft skills and resilience. It is also incredibly important how we wrap well-being around each and every step of that. Culturally, innovation must interweave into every step of how we rebuild our own brand in a new age.
Q: What are you most excited about right now?
It’s hard not to get excited about the sheer driving force that empowers an innovative-led company like 24-7 Intouch. I am incredibly blessed to be part of an organization that has this as a core mantra, indeed, to lead the charge for much of what we will change in the industry, too. This mindset attracts forward-thinking clients and partnerships and is an enabler of a culture that attracts and retains great people. Combined, that’s an exciting place to work and grow.
Some of the moving pieces that are gaining great traction and are exciting in terms of the impact include the adoption of conversational and attended AI. It’s like the holy trinity of CX, that satisfies brand, customer, and agent, all at once, to intelligently engage and resolve issues. This is helping relieve operating costs and free up capacity for organizations at a time when recession proofing is a boardroom priority.
I’m excited that the next generation is challenging us to be better – to be more authentic, to make diversity the standard and not a futuristic goal. I want to be more mindful about ourselves as well as our jobs, and to create experiences for everyone, regardless of location and language. There’s huge learning to be gained from more diverse collaborations across the business and inclusiveness with client groups which improves creativity and innovation.
I’m also excited about what’s yet to come – the evolution of web3, the tectonic shift that will ensue with Metaverse design and engagement, the normalization of AI and a new age of tech and virtual-infused industries that will create new buyer and user habits for the future. It is such an exciting time to be at the heart of an organization that is bold about all of this, and I’m looking forward to where we take the business next.