Humanizing the digital experience

As part of their digital transformation, leading organizations find unique ways to make customer interactions more meaningful, seamless, and faster.

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Today’s digital business strategies come with a list of enticing expectations: improved process efficiency through automation, increased employee productivity, better management of business performance and new revenue streams, to name a few perks. But with all of the promises offered by digital strategy, there is one simple truth:

“The people are the center of any digital transformation. We understand that it has to work for our users or we’re not actually solving their problems or making their lives better,” says Mouneer Odeh, vice president of enterprise analytics and chief data scientist at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health in the Philadelphia area.

Organizations are finding that to be successful, they must improve the digital experience. Many of this year’s Digital Edge 50 award-winning organizations have done just that. Here they share how they’re using new technologies to enhance how customers experience their companies’ products.

Rescuer network puts motorists in good hands

Digitization has revolutionized the way Allstate delivers roadside assistance to members and nonmembers alike. The insurance company is even sharing its mobile technology with industries outside of its traditional circles.

Anyone who has been stranded in a broken-down car on the side of the road knows that minutes can seem like hours when waiting to be rescued. Allstate has been working to reduce the anxiety and uncertainty that come with roadside assistance since 2015, when it rolled out its pay-per-use Allstate Rescue Mobile App. Any motorists could download the app and, with a couple of clicks, get help from a reliable service provider with pre-negotiated rates and even share the status of their rescue with family or friends.

“We have stripped down and thrown away our old ecosystem that essentially was built to ‘dispatch’ help” in an analog fashion, says Kamal Natarajan, vice president and divisional CIO of Allstate Roadside Services. Today, “we pride ourselves in offering humanized rescue experiences for our customers using digitally enabled solutions.”

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While the Rescue Mobile App was successful, it still didn’t resolve the amount of time motorists had to wait for help. Service providers and towing companies typically earn more money responding to municipal 911 calls than roadside calls, Natarajan explains, so they would automatically give stranded motorists a lengthy estimated time to arrival, usually about two hours.

In 2016, Allstate rolled out the Good Hands Rescue Network, the industry’s first crowdsourced rescuer network that can assist stranded motorists by bringing gas, changing a tire, jumping a battery or popping a lock — anything that doesn’t require a tow truck.

“We were able to reduce ETAs,” Natarajan says. “What used to take two hours now takes less than 30 minutes, and it’s a lot cheaper for customers to get that kind of help.”

Today, the network includes about 2,200 active rescuers. The contractors are typically retired professionals, often car mechanics or veterans, who are looking for part-time work. They are background-checked and trained by Allstate before being allowed to respond to service requests through the app.

In 2017, Allstate decided to convert its mobile assistance technology to microservices and make it available to external partners as APIs. It also introduced a developer portal that allows Allstate partners and prospective partners to take the APIs for a test drive.

Not only have the APIs attracted the interest of car companies, ride-sharing services and roadside service providers, but Natarajan was surprised by the interest from other consumer industries, such as family networking and location-sharing apps.

“For these companies that are promoting a sense of community, if they can provide a digital experience that helps manage anything that causes anxiety, then they want to offer it as a value proposition,” Natarajan says. These partners can offer the roadside mobile app as a “vanilla” or a branded pay-per-use offering in their own product.

His advice to other CIOs embarking on similar projects: “Don’t get carried away with thinking of it as a technological idea. Focus on the customer experience, and you will do wonders.”

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