…Everything! Human Element is what makes digital ‘truly digital’!

It’s got to be obvious, isn’t it? People matter. However, the fact remains that while no one denies the importance of people aspect, most implementations of “Digital” today ignore the human element.

Digital is in everything we do today. Everyone, small or big, new or old, despite what vertical or what business one is in, wants to jump the bandwagon. Even if the journey feels like a horse cart dragging along a barrel road, we hope to put better suspensions along the way and keep moving along. What most forget is that the human element is where the rubber hits the road. The rubber always hits, but what is not real is that hiccups are related to human element. In the quest for digital experience, technology gets all the attention. Organizations keep fixing the digital gears, nuts, bolts, spindles and engine, overlooking the human element.

No one intentionally ignores people. However, despite all great intent, when it comes to digital, somehow human element gets twisted in the scheme of things and doesn’t feel human at all any more.

Human Element in Digital World

…Can we see the Human inside the Customer?!

Systems are all we see
It’s a given that digital is about technology. It is about the bits and bytes and systems and integrations and interfaces and machines and things. Meanwhile, the customer, who was able to talk to someone and tell the story mixed within the actual problem statement, now stares at an interface that pretends to provide a great digital experience. It’s just that it is not human and doesn’t respond to the human within the customer. Responsibility ends up lying with customer to think like a machine in order to move forward, ironically.

Coworkers are workflow
Digital, in one of the various connotations, means that people can work from anywhere and anytime. Businesses should be able to transact with partners, customers, suppliers independent of time and location. Efficiency improves while a workflow engine drives the tasks forward, as “inhumanly” as possible – driven by rules, policies and SLAs. When interface is digital, coworkers are merely a participant in your workflow – in other words, a dependency or an approver or a subject matter expert. Organizations and their people read the fields and ignore the remarks.

Audience are profiles
The biggest proponents of Customer Service and Marketing advocate the necessity of treating customers as per their persona. The intent, of course, is to treat people as people, or as close to the specific person as possible. Analytics, demographics, segmentation, and various “digital” technologies are used to create “audience profiles”. The problem is that systems as well as people look at those as just that – profile. (Not as person.) Examples are aplenty.

People are resource
For an organization, people are their best resource, the best asset. However, still a resource. It’s a sarcastic statement, but a true reflection of how treatment of digital technologies on the ground translates to dealing with people. With all the collaboration technologies and digital mechanisms of reaching out to and knowing people better, human resource management has become better at data crunching and creating models of performance management and people management, but loses contact with people at grassroots. Digital becomes a wall to hide behind. Ironic but true!

Context is lost
As a customer, or as an employee, or as a partner, or as anyone dealing with anyone else for a transaction, we all face this situation. You pray that the normal route plays out and transaction goes smoothly. Because, if an exception strikes, or if you have a situation that demands handling it in “a slightly different context”, the transaction will just ping pong its way through a workflow that cannot handle it, by people who forget that it’s not always about just getting the transaction through within SLA. The human element takes a beating when context is lost.

Without Human element, it’s “deficient digital”

So, the point is this. When we build interfaces, processes, and systems with the objective to provide “digital experience”, then eventually, it would be a ‘deficient digital’, a blind and deaf digital that cannot provide people the experience that goes beyond technological wow factor at best.

Automation != Digital
What should be the number one imperative for a digital experience?

Customer Delight, anyone?

What is really needed in order to provide that customer delight?

Automation can work in preset models, and technology can provide you the leverage and knowhow, but digital in true sense means a fast and smart response to customer context.

How do we achieve that?

Smart Processes: Lest it sound like another jargon, I need to still emphasize that responding to people requires your processes to be smarter. Beyond the digital experience at mobile and social channels that act as interface, the real deal is when the customer context is carried through the process, and when the process allows for flexibility in dealing with emergent situations in-flight.

Empowered Workers: Dealing with people requires people to act like people, period. Workers acting like robots in assembly line is no way to treat people on either side of the interface – as customer or as an employee. Smart organizations thrive on smart people that are able to make decisions, whenever needed and in the way needed. People feel empowered, and they feel motivated to add value when they have the abilityto make authoritative decisions through the process, and reroute as needed. Digital cannot materialize without empowered knowledge workers.

Superior Context: The most important aspect of human element in digital is “the context”. A poor customer experience is often a result of a badly carried context. Despite all the technological ability of analytics, workflows, mobility and automated processing, and despite empowered knowledge workers, if the process fails to carry the context from the customer all the way through, the whole customer experience is lost. And, that’s not digital.

True Digital is all about people.

So, being fast and responsive in digital world requires smarter processes, empowered knowledge workers, and accessible superior context – all in considerations of the fact that in digital, an automated fast is not as effective as the smart one powered by human element. True digital requires a human way of treatment and building the processes with enough balance of automation and flexible human intervention. People are, after all, the core ingredient to digital. Digital is all about people – the human element. Obvious, isn’t it?