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Digicare – the key to digital adoption

The rise and rise of Digital

Every organisation we talk to wants customers to self-serve (or buy) more on their digital platforms (phone, tablet, desktop etc). For most companies this isn’t an option, it has become a necessity. If they don’t succeed in migrating costly human interactions to digital solutions, they are vulnerable to digital disruptors with lower cost models. The world still echoes with Jeff Bezos' challenge: "your margin is my opportunity" and digital is crashing into and disrupting nearly every business model out there. Amazon, Uber and Netflix are well known examples of digitally enabled businesses that have disrupted one or multiple industries. Getting digitally enabled service and sales right is not a luxury but an essential business strategy.

Even Government businesses are no different. At federal, state and local levels of government, we hear them espouse “digital first” type strategies. They know they are responding to customer demand and expectations. As companies offer the convenience and simplicity of well-designed apps and web sites, customers start to expect that from government. Most governments are also aware of the potential cost savings available.

Despite all the hype and strategic intent, many organisations we talk to want the rate of digital take up to increase. They are also frustrated that the manned contacts (call centre, branch and live chat) aren’t disappearing at the rate expected. In this paper we’ll demonstrate that successful digital strategies must include re-inventing the role and processes of front line customer facing staff. We’ve show how the front line staff hold the keys to Digital success and hence coined the term “Digicare’ and its revenue focused sibling “Digisales”.

Knock down the barriers to make manned service a path to digital

Often, even though companies have spent millions developing the digital platform, we still see companies where it is an unnatural act for front line staff to promote digital. The barriers we have seen include fear for their jobs, ignorance about apps and web sites and metrics and measures boxing them in. We’ll discuss each in turn.


The digital channels appear to represent a threat to sales and service staff. In their minds digital take up may destroy their jobs. Similarly, sales staff fear loss of their sales to digital channels. They see the discounts offered for digital as "proof" that the company favours the digital channel and can end up with a negative feeling against digital. We’ve overcome these barriers by educating staff on the long glide path and time frames for digital take up. We’ve made it clear that in any environment with staff turnover, like contact centres, natural attrition of staff usually runs ahead of the digital uptake. We’ve shown staff how their work evolves as digital progresses and how new roles emerge and we’ve made it clear that in most high turnover organisations, redundancies aren’t needed.

Ignorance is not bliss

We’ve had many clients where front-line staff have not been educated on how the digital applications work. It’s hard to promote or support what you don’t understand and ignorance can turn into negativity. Many service staff hear of the issues on digital solutions (because customers call or chat when things go wrong). They get a jaundiced view of digital through these issues and complaints but never hear from the customers who are being successful. This creates the impression that the applications don’t work. In one client staff claimed that “the apps crap”, but most had never seen or used it.

Our answer is to train the staff on the digital platforms and give them access. They need to be able to guide a customer through the app or show them where something is on a screen. Chat teams also need this expertise.

Counter measures

The third barrier we remove is metrics that motivate staff to work against digital. For example, if staff are measured on the speed of conversation why would they promote digital? Our solution is to measure staff more on the processes to follow (we call them Best Practice Procedures) rather than speed outcomes. If staff follow the right process they will get better outcomes for the customer and business. In sales centres we have seen individual sales targets actually discourage staff from helping customers use digital solutions so these are also a risk. We talk below about how we build promotion into the role and processes. Productivity shouldn’t suffer too much if the practices define when to promote and when not to. What customers dislike is one size fits all “blanket” promotions regardless of why they called or how often.

Make promotion their job

Taking down the barriers is an important step but doesn’t turn front line staff into digital promoters.To do that we have to help staff understand the best timing for digital education and promotion and the best mechanisms to help them become educators and promoters.We develop these processes with front line staff in what we call “Best Practice Procedure” workshops. We work out with the front line when it is or isn’t appropriate to offer customers digital solutions and training. That sounds easy but it can be a delicate balancing act. There are lots of things to get right:

i) The front-line staff have to “earn the right” to be educators by handling the customer’s major need first. ii) They have to pick appropriate times to promote. Blanket approaches (promote on every call or at the end of the call) waste time and frustrate many customers.

iii) Even though they are often “customer care” staff, they have to be effective sales people for the solutions. That means selling benefits and explaining features just as a product salesman would. For many staff that can be quite a change to their role. Chat teams need to know how to keep customers in the digital solutions.

We help staff design mechanisms that give customers choice. So that might be as simple as an SMS with links to a digital page of information or links to a video or tutorial where a customer can learn at their own pace. These tools are also valuable for chat teams. This also means a re-alignment of things like quality checking with this type of “digicare”. These new ways of promoting need to be built into induction training and reinforced with team leader coaching. Staff also need tools that they can send the customer and access to apps and solutions so that they can follow the same path as a customer. In one large telco for example, that meant giving every agent access to a phone plan and being able to use the app just as a customer would. There are also some really exciting technologies coming, that will allow the agent to emulate the exact app screens of the customer and have the service discussion involving the digital experience of the customer.

Learning to listen and drive improvement - Back to WOCAS

In our book “Best Service is no Service” (Josey bass 2008) we wrote a chapter on “learning to listen” to your customer. The types of listening we meant are even more critical today as customers take up digital solutions. The front-line staff become the eyes and ears of the organisation for things that don’t work on the web site or things customers want added to an app. They need a way to get this feedback into the “improvement” cycle. At Amazon they called that process “WOCAS” or "what our customers are saying". This helped Amazon capture issues on the web site, product suggestions and competitor insights. The front line hear where customers get stuck in the digital solutions and other frustrations. It’s critical to encourage them to pass on issues and problems.

New demand

Digital solutions also create new or increased contact types. A second type of critical listening is for companies to get a tight handle on the drivers of contact demand, be that calls, chat or email. High instances of chat on a particular web page or app screen may indicate issues that can be fixed. The chat team know where customers are getting stuck and why. In banking we saw new types of calls emerge as customers got access to digital solutions. This wasn’t just ‘password reset’ type calls, but new queries caused by customer access to data. Contacts changed from “what’s my balance” to “what’s this transaction” and “why is my balance X”. Being able to listen and track these new and changing contact types and then fix the root causes is critical to achieve the benefits of digital. Demand management becomes even more important in a digital world and must now embrace voice, text, chat and digital channels.

Digicare Case Study

We worked with a telco client recently to turn their contact centre from a standard voice care centre to "Digicare”. We identified the call types where digital support and promotion were needed. Then we ran our Best Practice Procedure workshops to build out how and when to promote the digital options. We called it "personalised promotion" and agents really took to it quickly. The test and learn phase included new metrics, realigned quality, trained team leaders and a range of materials and tools for front line staff to use. The results show what is possible. After these process change, promotion of digital went from 1% of calls to 45%. Better still, customers gave 4% higher net promoter scores on calls where agents promoted digital and 16% higher NPS scores when they used the digital solutions after the call. All that with a 7% increase in productivity as well. The COO couldn't believe the change in the centre and agents were revitalised enough to totally throw off the old fears; 20 year veterans began describing themselves as "digital natives". This was a fantastic result for the business as call demand will fall as adoption of digital accelerates and this way of working will drive that acceleration. The design team were taught how to continue this process and have become a continuous improvement hub connected to the agile digital development teams, so it was a lightbulb moment for the entire business.


Successful digital migration is about much more than building the apps and telling people to promote it. We’ve shown here how to create a “digicare” service that integrates front line staff into the digital world. It can make a huge difference to the rate of digital uptake, increased NPS and in the creation of true omni channel solutions. We hope this paper has provided some valuable ideas and we are happy to provide more details. Please get in touch if you think you would like more information by emailing to or calling +61 3 9499 3550. More details are at

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