Industry leaders share: Digital tech and the customer experience

The moderator and his panellists. (L-R) Hasan Ganny, ATD Solution, and IT heads from the airlines (Frederic Ducros), telco (Vijaykumar Dayinde), media (Freddy Loo) and financial services (Dr. Sekar Jaganathan) industries.

Different industries leverage digital technologies in different ways to achieve their business outcomes. Although all these industries are different, there is one main fundamental  theme that runs through all the outcomes each industry wants to achieve.

Operational efficiency and cost savings are strong reasons for an organisation to embark upon digital transformation but almost always, it is the customer and the customers’ experience, which will drive the direction of the business’s digital initiatives.

This is what tech and business leaders arrived to in consensus, during IASA and MDEC’s Artificial Intelligence and Enterprise Architecture conference last week.

Monetising with AI

The first in a line up of thought leaders’ sharing was Dr. Sekar Jaganathan from Malaysia’s largest independent investment bank, who talked about how AI can be used to help businesses monetise.

“In my perspective, digital strategy is all about marketing; not only how to do it, but who you market to.

“The customer’s needs, experiences and emotions are critical success factors . And data, intelligence and speed can deliver this precision in digital marketing and business.

“Knowing your customer and his emotions at that moment when he is interacting with you, and ensuring that you are able to deliver what he wants at that moment, is what AI and data analytics does.

“So, precision is very important,” he explained.

He also shared about emotional wait time in the digital space – it takes a duration of 5 seconds to capture the attention and emotion of visitors before they click and move on to the next web page.

“If a video on Whatsapp takes over 5 seconds to load, the viewer is not going to look at it again, ever.

“So, that’s the challenge businesses like ours have. When we get into the digital space, we have to ensure we continuously engage a customer every 5 seconds throughout their journey, until we can monetise their intent and emotions. This is what e-commerce sites like Lazada does.”

Customer experience in airline industry

In any industry, not being able to reach customer support when we urgently need to, can be a very frustrating experience.

Frederic Ducros shared about how technology was leveraged to look into and improve operational parameters like fuel efficiency, air crew grooming and posture, even online customer service.

“Now, instead of hours, it takes only a few minutes to be served by our virtual assistant called Ava,” he shared.

And to be able to reach as wide an audience as possible, Ava supports 7 languages with four more languages in the works.

Frederic shared his organisation had identified 50 use cases for analytics, for example pricing, predictive maintenance and route planning.

Institutionalising analytics

 Vijay Dayinde recognised the importance of letting the business take the lead.

The idea was for the business to suss out what their objectives were first and foremost.

And this was very crucial because after that will come the tech adoption and agile implementation of technologies to enable the business to achieve these objectives.

Vijay said, “Institutionalising analytics is important… you can’t just keep your data scientists and engineers in one corner to do just what they are doing.

“The only way you can sustain is if the business understands how to use analytics and ask intelligent questions. So, train the business on how to use it, let them drive it, and adopt it, for sustainability (of the technology and project).”


Freddy Loo shared, “Legacy organisations comes with a tonne of legacy, and people are the main challenge.”

Freddy simplified all this, to having to demonstrate three things – being able to make money, being able to solve a pain that couldn’t be solved before, and being able to address risk.

“I need to hit one of these,” he said.

Disrupting traditional

It was very clear from the beginning what Dr. Sekar’s organisation wanted to achieve as a financial institution – to disrupt themselves before someone else did it.

More importantly, Dr. Sekar pointed out, “So when there is a disruption in a major way, we are already in those spaces, traditional and digital.”

At the moment, it’s a continued investment for Kenanga to continue to understand their customers’ experience at every touchpoint, and at every moment.

Banking revolution

As the chief transformation officer of a local bank some years ago, Alain Boey reminisced about the 6-month time frame he took to draw up the bank’s digital transformation blueprint.

Recognising that the technology required could not be supported, he broke things down to core technologies and “satellites” which he described as the sexy technologies that had to be implemented immediately.

Alain Boey and Dr. Sekar Jaganathan talk about how to make digital transformation an evolution

“We were the last to have Internet banking, but even though the backbone was not ready we had to make sure the satellites went up, so we could go out and compete,” he explained.

Significantly, the blueprint that he developed was not set in stone; technologies evolve at a pretty fast pace so the blueprint had to be ‘agile’ to allow his team to refine things from time to time.

This was still possible to do back then, but at the rate that technologies evolve today, Alain who is now in the media industry, admitted that a blueprint would only be relevant for 3 years.

“Beyond that three years, the blueprint would have to start again all over from scratch,” Alain said.

Recharging your people

Digital transformation is a journey that seems to comprise of a continuous stream of projects or tasks. For Frederic, he advised to start with small projects, and to nail each one before scaling them.

For others, it is a cultural and mindset shift which requires your people to change the way they have been doing things.

When Alain’s bank closed branches because smart machines replaced them, the pool of tellers who used to man those branches were reskilled for different roles, for example.

Now, any job requires the workforce to be performing at their optimum. That’s the ideal.

But with a digital transformation initiative, often times it is about doing many things for the first time. It is almost like having to set the foundation well for the next batch of employees that is going to work upon it.

Even Freddy shared when he was building his team, he needed its members to be “in it” with him for the long haul.

How does one keep performance and delivery of products and services at optimum level?

The answer may lie in work life balance.

For Dr. Sekar’s team, work-life balance resulted in on-time delivery and no one staying in the office beyond 7pm.

The team was a large group of over 100 staff from 8 different nationalities who were all dispersed across 3 locations.

Despite this, he had established a weekly routine of 15 minute mind focus sessions every Friday. These sessions served as reminder to his team to live their lives during the weekend and be detached from work, mindfully.

“This way, they came back to work on Monday, energised and experiencing the life,” Dr. Sekar emphasised.