What Canada’s All-Digital, Work-From-Anywhere Future Means For Business Leaders

Companies must reimagine how they operate and adopt a beginner’s mindset

Created by Salesforce 

The technology industry often talks about digital transformation as a journey. So after a year of disruption, the natural question for many Canadian business leaders is probably, “Where to next?”

During the pandemic we saw organizations across the country move into new channelsand in some cases new business modelswith almost breathtaking speed. We watched our customer Women’s College Hospital in Toronto set up an interactive COVID-19 online self-assessment tool using our technology in just four days. The tool is fully integrated with their electronic health system.

Loblaw made strategic use of our customer service technology to help more than 600 of its contact centre agents respond to a surge in urgent customer questions about their PC Optimum points. Technology solutions like Salesforce allowed agents to stay seamlessly connected to customers across the web, email and other channels, regardless of their work location.

Then there was furniture manufacturer Teknion, which moved its entire team of office employees to work-from-home mode overnight, allowing them to keep up with the tens of thousands of orders the company processes every year. 

These are businesses that have come to realize disruption is now normal, a force they have to take into account as part of their planning. Beyond making a pivot during a crisis, though, what they’ve all done hints at the answer to that “Where to next?” question for other firms across Canada. 

The answer is that the digital-transformation journey shouldn’t be focused on taking an organization to any single destination. Instead, the continued embrace of technology should be driven by a goal of achieving success from anywhere, and by offering the greatest possible experience to customers everywhere. 

How customer expectations across Canada have changed

A recent 2021 survey we conducted with more than 1,500 Canadians offers proof of the shift that has taken place. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they expect customer service online to be as good as or better than what they experience in store. 

Forty three per cent said they were also less loyal to brands than in 2020 because they’ve realized there are plenty of alternatives online. And loyalty goes beyond offering points: 48 per cent said they also want access to exclusive discounts and offers. 

Of course, physical shopping isn’t going away completely, but the customer expectations are higher there as well. Besides the 43 per cent who cited safety as key to a great in-store experience, 36 per cent stressed the need for personalization and more than a quarter wanted a variety of shopping and return options.

This all started for many companies as a shift to digital—expanding into e-commerce, offering support through social media, marketing through email and mobile apps. It now has to become an ongoing effort to rewrite the playbook for engagement as change continues to happen. 

That may sound daunting. Yet organizations that adopt a beginner’s mindset are showing how it’s possible to reimagine the way you operate and embrace, rather than simply confront, the post-pandemic world.

A case in point is Honda Canada. Its MyGarage app uses Salesforce technology to connect all its data about specific customers into a single platform. This gives its car buyers a hyper-personalized experience that makes it easy to manage everything about their account, no matter where they are. It also offers consistency across physical and digital channels.

The customer experience is the new battleground, in other words, but those that win won’t simply avoid losing business to competitors. They also have highly positive growth prospects. Our survey data showed, for example, that 31 per cent of Canadians expect to buy big-ticket items like a vehicle or a house online. That number goes up to 44 per cent among younger Canadians aged 18 to 24. 

Collaboration for inclusive, long-term success

As we come out of the pandemic, some things will no doubt look very different, but the technology changes businesses made (and are still making) could simplify how we look at everyday concepts. 

For employees who need flexibility and empowerment to bring their best selves to the job, what we call “remote work” today will eventually become just “work.” Meeting new customer expectations online will see previous distinctions between commerce and e-commerce fade away. 

That work has to be coupled with a commitment to ensuring all Canadians are part of this evolution. That includes helping reskill and upskill people to prepare for the future of work, or becoming a trusted advisor to businesses that have yet to transform. 

At Salesforce, we offer a free online learning platform, Trailhead, where Canadians can earn resume-worthy credentials to help them compete for in-demand jobs. We’ve seen a four-fold surge in the use of Trailhead since last year. 

The digital transformation hasn’t simply accelerated. The direction businesses in Canada and around the globe must take has also become clearer. It’s a journey guided by values, informed by customer expectations and powered by technology that allows organizations to succeed in an all-digital, work-from-anywhere world.