Special commentary by Sean Goforth, Research Analyst at Ryan Strategic Advisory
European member states are finalizing their spending plans for a share of the EU Recovery Program. The €750bn stimulus package aims to re-start a European bloc whose collective economy plunged during the COVID-19 pandemic, but, unlike China or the United States, has yet to show signs of a rebound. Italy has among the most ambitious plans unveiled. Last week, its new prime minister Mario Draghi introduced a budget that promises to jumpstart the digital transformation of the EU’s third-largest economy.
Over one-quarter of Draghi’s €222bn recovery budget is aimed at Italy’s digital transformation, with large outlays intended for the installation of high-speed Internet, especially in schools and across the south of the country. The budget also includes incentives for private businesses to digitize operations.
As the 2021 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office Omnibus Survey makes clear, Italy is uniquely poised for digital transformation.
Of the eight demand markets included in the 2021 sounding, Italy features among those with the lowest level of voice-only customer care and the highest share of exclusively non-voice interactions. Email and social media are almost universal among enterprise CX departments in Italy.
Yet, beyond those ubiquitous forms of customer care, decision-makers in Italy’s enterprise contact centers would be right to fear they are on the verge of being left behind. Before the pandemic, Italy was near the bottom of European rankings of digital competitiveness. This is nowhere near the likes of digital leaders such as Finland and Ireland, and only marginally better than Greece and Bulgaria.
When it comes to customer experience management, Italian enterprises offer a full suite of channel deployments. The incorporation of leading technologies, though, remains piecemeal. In large part, this is likely because their ability to offer comprehensive solutions has been hamstrung by low digital penetration.
Family-run businesses dominate key sectors of the Italian economy, and a stark divide between the affluent north of the country and the less commercially-robust south means that many of the country’s consumers are unconnected to the Internet.
But if Draghi’s budget plans are enacted, the country could enter a virtuous cycle. As more southern Italians get online, the effective size of the e-commerce market would increase. Tech entrepreneurs could displace incumbents. And when it comes to CX delivery, inefficient practices have the potential to be replaced with technology-empowered voice and non-voice customer experience management across sectors.
Among the first-order challenges to in-house operations in 2021, Italian respondents to the Front Office Omnibus Survey cited both “keeping up with the latest contact center technology requirements” and “ensuring strong levels of data protection.”
Moreover, a whopping 98% of Italian enterprise contact center operators expect that demand for cloud-based solutions will impact operations over the next year. And 86% of this community think that demand for artificial intelligence will increase over the coming 12 months. Each figure is the highest of the eight demand markets included in the 2021 survey.
In short, leaders of Italian contact centers are keenly aware of the need for more advanced technology solutions, they just have not been able to kickstart the digital transformation of their businesses.
For example, data protection and security are top priorities for Italian enterprise CX decision-makers. So, too, are cloud contact delivery solutions. But Italian operators (as well as French and Spanish firms) registered their anxiety in the Front Office Omnibus Survey that limited budget flexibility would crimp the introduction of leading technology solutions. Given expected budget constraints, implementation appeared daunting—until now.
Prime Minister Draghi’s proposed budget, with its large earmarks for private investment in digitalization, stands to loosen financial constraints and enable the tech solutions of Italian enterprise CX executive’s cloud-based dreams.
Additional insights on Italy as well as seven other demand markets for contact center services can be found in the 2021 Ryan Strategic Advisory Omnibus Survey, which is available for purchase.