• Peter Sondergaard

Recovery Execution - Digital Acceleration of Customer Processes


Someone the other day reminded me of the great Chinese proverb; “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, and others build windmills.” Building your crisis recovery plan is about deciding between shelters or windmills? As outlined in the article, Recovery execution leading to digital acceleration, the secret to understanding how to execute the recovery for an organization is to understand the behavioral changes that are happening around us. And to determine what the “new normal’ behavior-equilibrium will be. Once you have decided what the differences in behaviors will be, you can subsequently determine how your digital projects and your digital strategy are affected. Of the five key process categories in an organization, let’s look at your customer processes.

Customer processes are your organization’s processes that surround or engage your customers, prospects, and partners as well as the processes that your employees in sales, marketing, and services use. Determining our approach to digitalizing your customer processes are your customer and employee behaviors, as well as industry standards and government regulations. Customer behaviors are how customers buy your products, online versus in-person, how salespeople sell, in-person versus remotely, or how you service your customers, automated versus human interaction. During the current crisis, behaviors have changed. In some instances, from one side of a behavioral spectrum to the other. As we slowly recover, behaviors will change again. They will not return to what they were pre-crisis but will find an equilibrium between the pre-crisis level and the current crisis level. Building a recovery plan resulting in digital acceleration requires understanding, prediction, and exploitation of the critical behavior changes that impact your organization. There are many, and they may vary in how they affect your organization depending on the industry, client demographics, or regulatory changes, However, here are a few to consider:

  • Online vs. in-person buying: The crisis has driven online buying to new heights. Consumer sentiment surveys during the crisis show that the new normal will maintain this shift. However, customers will go to where there is less friction, better quality, optimal cost, and better service. Ascertain, were the new normal is in your ecosystem.

  • Online vs. in-person service: The crisis has shown that service using video and remote service has advantages. Consider how your organization balance cost-effectiveness, agility, and ease of use to create a new normal.

  • Remote vs. in-person selling: With no ability to sell in-person, organizations have pivoted to remote selling. The new normal will balance the cost-effectiveness of remote selling, culture of buying, and the value of in-person relationships. The new normal equilibrium will be different.

  • Automated vs. human service: Automation of service has, when thoughtfully implemented, proven itself during the crisis. Going forward, this will likely accelerate, and so the equilibrium may lie beyond the current level.

  • Digital vs. traditional marketing: The crisis has shown the complexity of marketing, both within digital channels as well as the balance between digital and more traditional channels.

  • Automated vs. human selling: In B2C environments, the increase in online purchasing has also tested automated cross- and up-selling algorithms. Post-crisis, this will continue. In B2B environments, there have been limited changes. However, B2C experiences may, where possible, migrate to specific B2B ecosystems allowing for more frictionless experiences.

  • Business Process Outsourcing vs. internal resources: BPO has been challenging during the crisis for organizations reliant on offshore locations where WFH is not possible. As a result, the post-crisis equilibrium will change, for organizations using BPO for functions such as service and other customer support functions, will inevitably change.

  • Digitally connected vs. standalone products: The differentiation between connected and standalone products have become more evident during the crisis, in areas such as service, upgrade functionality, cost-effectiveness for your organization and your customer. Post-crisis increased differentiation will become apparent, moving the equilibrium further towards connected products.

There are many more, such as credit vs. cash payments, automated pricing models vs. traditional pricing, level of software security, digital training & development vs. classroom, and many more. In the example included, I have listed the different behaviors as a spectrum. And then, as an example, listed how these have changed pre-, during, and post-crisis. Each organization can also prioritize these by ranking them on a selected scale, as not all behaviors are equally important.


You and your organization need, as part of the recovery planning, to build an integrated view of how these behavioral changes impact you. Part of the post-crisis (digital) strategy planning will be for you as a senior executive is to assess how these behavioral changes should and will impact your corporate strategy, investments, digital projects, and talent strategy within customer processes.

For CIOs specifically, it is critical to establish what happens to the digital project portfolio. Does this change the balance of investment in digitalizing the customer processes? As CIOs pause investments in technology across the organization in response to cost optimization efforts, now is time to assess your digitalization projects for customer processes. You need to consider how you will balance investment, people, and time for projects such as your automation, CRM platforms and upgrades, martech investments, training platforms or data, analytics, and AI investments in Sales, Marketing, and Service. Doing nothing is not an option. Simply continuing your investment strategy, allocation of people resources, and installed base as you did before the crisis is not possible. The change in behaviors throughout your customer processes requires this. And using the crisis as the definition of the new equilibrium is not correct either. Your leadership is needed to determine what the post-crisis equilibrium will be for your customer processes.

The Sondergaard Group is working with organizations to assist them in developing and evolving their recovery strategy and execution as well as their leadership skills.

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