By Chuck Fazio, VP Global Partner Ecosystem at Smart Communications

Global business leaders face several challenges – some that have been around for a while, and others that have emerged or intensified more recently. Customers’ ever-changing expectations and increased appetite for digital-first engagements, remote work and more have forced most organizations to rethink customer engagement. Gone are the days of one-way, transactional communications. Today, enterprises must deliver meaningful, two-way customer conversations.

We recently sat down with Steve Park, Technical Director, Global Partner Solutions at DocuSign to discuss what’s on the horizon for businesses this year, plus how we can all learn and grow from the lessons we learned in 2020.

How did the big changes of the past year impact the employee experience? 

DocuSign: The transition to a remote environment quickly altered our culture in some significant ways. The ability to gather, collaborate and connect with our colleagues and customers had to be managed differently in order to maintain DocuSign’s standard of excellence. We’ve had to rely more heavily on the systems and services that keep us connected with each other in order to keep business moving forward.

Smart Communications: It’s interesting that while digital transformation has been a focus for many companies in recent years, it took the challenges of 2020 to really accelerate these efforts. One silver lining of this experience is that it made clear that just translating traditional processes into a digital format isn’t enough. It’s really about making the end-to-end interaction more effective and engaging.

What can business leaders do to ensure employees have the resources they need for success? 

DocuSign: Increase the touch points. High levels of engagement from your employees and customers are only achievable the more you communicate with them. That’s even more important in a virtual setting.

Smart Communications: In 5 Key Trends Transforming Customer Conversations in 2021, we collected insights from leaders across industries, and without exception, the employee experience is a key focus for this year.  Making the remote work experience as seamless and efficient as possible is essential. Companies that are leading the way are investing in technologies that support a digital-first approach and help employees be more successful by eliminating silos, reducing manual processes and creating more powerful connections at scale.

What kind of impact did COVID-19 have on your customers’ expectations? What changes did you see as a result of the pandemic, and how do you expect those to evolve in 2021? 

DocuSign: The vast majority of our customers indicated a need for digital transformation well before the pandemic. Consequently, COVID-19 accelerated those initiatives and DocuSign was ready to assist our customers during these complex times. It’s impossible to predict how things will evolve in 2021, but the power of the DocuSign Agreement CloudTM portfolio of products —coupled with the power of hundreds of partner integrations—can continue to help customers on their digital transformation journey.

Smart Communications: COVID-19 definitely brought the need for e-signature software as a business continuity tool to the forefront! Interestingly, we’re seeing that it is motivating businesses to take a look at all of the steps in their customer engagement processes to ensure they are digital-first and mobile-ready. Reducing the need for re-entry of data, enabling two-way data exchange and creating more personalized experiences are high priorities this year.

What are some business processes that are ripe for transformation? Where do you see automation having the biggest impact? 

DocuSign: DocuSign has built a reputation of trust unparalleled in the market which is why hundreds of thousands of customers process millions of transactions on the DocuSign platform. However, many of those agreements still require negotiation and evaluation before they are signed—and we believe that’s ripe for transformation. Technologies that use AI to analyze, automate and simplify the process of negotiating, signing and managing incoming agreements will be valuable—DocuSign Analyzer being one example.

Smart Communications: In looking at engagement holistically, we couldn’t agree more. For many, e-signature solutions are just the first step. We encourage companies to evaluate the entire customer journey and identify ways to enhance every interaction by exploring how two-way conversations can improve the customer experience and maximize results. When it comes to collecting information and dynamically generating communications, AI is becoming a powerful tool for enhancing the process. We are truly on the cusp of this promising technology becoming a scalable solution.

What are the biggest risks to businesses in 2021? What are the greatest areas of opportunity? 

DocuSign: The biggest risks to any business in 2021 and every year thereafter is complacency. Business doesn’t get any slower. So companies have to evolve, fast. The same is true for innovation—that has to continue at pace, and those that innovate effectively will capitalize on the market opportunity.

Smart Communications: Neil Greathead, Smart Communications’ Chief Customer Officer, recently said that the biggest risk to businesses is doing nothing. After the challenges of this past year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But this is not the time to slow down or stop making progress.  Companies that are thoughtful both about the way they collect data and how they use that data to build stronger connections to their customers are going to quickly get ahead.  Technology is important, especially as we focus on being more strategic, as well as continuous improvement and adapting to new realities.

How will technology enhance the customer experience? How can businesses make data more scalable and actionable? 

DocuSign: Technology used wisely can make tasks easier to do and in less time. If not, what’s the point? And it starts with data you already have. If you can use systems that make use of that data in logical ways, the sky is the limit.

Smart Communications: Most companies have great insights about their customers in their existing systems. The challenge is connecting the dots and putting that information to work effectively in customer interactions. By connecting core systems of record to customer engagement points, companies have the power to personalize and transform interactions into opportunities to delight. It’s about reimagining forms, communications and everyday touchpoints. Once companies do that, then using AI and advanced analytics to better understand customers and optimize the experience is more feasible. Being ready for what’s next starts with digital-first.

Learn more about how solutions like DocuSign can be a powerful starting point for elevating the digital customer experience in our eBook, Moving Beyond E-Signature: How to Elevate the Digital Customer Experience.