2021 .. The year of innovation, data and collaboration
Phil Malem

2021 .. The year of innovation, data and collaboration

Phil Malem, CEO of Serco Middle East
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Phil Malem, CEO of Serco Middle East, shares his thoughts and predictions for 2021 where the customer experience will remain at the heart of the public services industry


The focus on outsourcing

In a post Covid-19 era, service excellence in all sectors and putting end-users first to improve experiences will be front and centre for the UAE.  More and more governments will turn to outsourcing in 2021 in the wake of the pandemic, to give more flexibility, increase cost savings and to increase efficiency, thus enabling governments and entities to focus on their main areas of specialism and the tasks at hand.

This will be realised through frontline services, use of automation services (including robotics and AI) and behavioural insights which can enhance the customer experience. The outsourcer will bring with them an outsider’s view and therefore a fresh perspective, along with years of experience and best practice. Whether it’s a passenger or a customer experience, specialists will look at this across a number of different industries. And for governments, choosing the right partner with the right financial, technical and operational track record is absolutely pivotal to success.

Customer experience remains paramount

After a year of turbulence, the customer experience has never been more important. A great customer experience breeds loyalty, as well as boosting happiness and a sense of positive wellbeing. And when it comes to public services, its effects cannot be underestimated. 2021 is the year of the much-anticipated Expo in Dubai, and therefore millions of visitors will be experiencing the UAE for the first time. There’s no margin for error, so everything within the customer journey, from the booking and planning the trip, to the airports, to the transportation, local attractions and the event itself need to ensure the customer experience remains paramount.

Whilst good customer experiences may not always be remembered, a bad one certainly will. So with such positive events happening next year, we will start to see an even greater focus on investment in this area.

Importance of understanding customer behaviour

To create these excellent customer experiences, we need to understand customer behaviour first. What do people think of a service? Is it meeting their needs and surpassing expectation? Data plays a huge role here when it comes to providing real-time information to analyse patterns about the customers’ wants and needs. This insight will play a huge role when thinking about the UAE’s focus on tourism in 2021, as economies look to accelerate out of COVID. By analysing such data; customer-facing touch points – whether that’s an experience of shopping in a mall or using public transport to get to a destination – can be enhanced and transformed thus leaving a positive perception of that interaction, and them likely wanting to repeat the experience. Its effects in terms of creating a best in class destination for those who live, visit and work in the country should not be underestimated, and data is very much the enabler to understanding the customer experience.

This is why we have been excited to see the success of our integrated, research, design and delivery offering, ExperienceLab, which in alignment with our business focus on managing people, data and assets, helps harness behavioural insights to transform a customer’s experience when they interact with a service or product.

Indeed, the data we gathered is already helping clients better understand what customers want through analysis of their behaviour. For example a recent survey conducted via ExperienceLab showed that 80% of survey respondents ranked physical distancing as the first or second measure that makes them feel safe the most. When thinking of public services, ensuring health and safety is front of mind is of therefore of the utmost importance. The research also showed that access to information around safety measures and constant communication about changes being made play a major role in restoring customers’ trust in using public transport services. Decision-makers representing public services can use this information to adapt and make changes to respond to these asks from the customer.

As such, with so much flux in 2020, there will be a renewed emphasis on the power of data to really bring about a level of customer experience we have simply not seen before, and the UAE has the opportunity to be the authors of this.

Technology: the driving force behind healthcare in 2021

Extending from data, technology, of course, will continue to play a vital role in driving innovation in 2021. There’s no doubt that the healthcare industry has been the lifeblood of economies in 2020, and therefore investing in and creating a sustainable infrastructure will run through to 2021. Technology continues to play a key role here not only in terms of innovations in medical care when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, but also in terms of managing people, ensuring that the most critical patients are seen to first. This again extends to the whole patient journey, so technology can play a role in ensuring the patient is given the best possible experience, from the moment of entering to the moment of being discharged. The impact this patient centric approach has is phenomenal, even helping aid recovery through this positive journey.

What we’ve seen in 2020 also when connected to healthcare is the need to ensure a critical speed of response. Having teams that are mobile, adept, and quick to respond on the frontline will continue to be important as we move to 2021; there is no margin for delay or error here. Indeed, our work on the frontline this year supporting governments in the UAE and across the globe to stem the spread of the pandemic has seen us act decisively to ensure the continuation of the vital public services we are privileged to deliver. On a Dubai level we were honoured to work with the government to establish a 3,000-bed field hospital at the Dubai World Trade Centre, as well as develop numerous other health solutions for our customers in the battle against Coronavirus.  Ultimately, in 2021 innovation in the healthcare sector underpinned by technology will be vital.

A localised workforce, with international expertise

Investing in the leaders of tomorrow will be a big priority as well, with Nationalisation continuing to be a priority across UAE and KSA. What will be important in our role as leaders in the private sector, is how we can support this, by creating a localised workforce, but with international expertise. By investing in training and development that has an international flavour and focus, we are not only enhancing the skill-sets of our workforce, but we are also helping to create global citizens, that have the future skills we need from the leaders of tomorrow.

Given it will be the UAE’s 50th National Day in 2021, we are excited to support the country on its journey, and our ambition into 2021 remains resolute: we are committed to creating a nationalised workforce, and we look forward to building our Graduate Programme even further in 2021 and taking on new cohorts within our other national apprenticeship and intern programmes such as Al Fursati and Qudrati. As well as this, another focus for us is the importance of diversity and inclusion within the workforce. As we move into 2021, ensuring we have a talented, well-rounded workforce that provides the opportunity to grow and succeed for those who share our values and have the passion and determination to make a difference every day will be something we will always celebrate.


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