To say that 2020 was a challenging year is somewhat of an understatement. The impact of Covid and the various lockdowns that were enforced because of it put enormous pressure on the economies across Europe. However, amongst the companies that managed to power through and emerge in pretty good financial health high growth companies stand out. In part this is due to investors continuing to back growth. According to analysis carried out into European startups by Sifted, in 2014, $1.7bn was invested into European companies at Series B level. In 2019, it was $5.5bn — three times that — and, despite the pandemic, 2020’s figure looks set to equal that too.
Many of these high growth European companies that went into 2020 with strong support now feature in FT 1000. Published by the Financial Times and compiled with the help from research company Statista, FT 1000 lists Europe’s 1,000 fastest-growing companies that achieved the highest compound annual growth rate in revenue between 2016 and 2019. Of the industry sectors, it’s the technology sector that makes up the largest amount of entries at 22%.
But with the technology industry wrought with competitive pressures, to stay ahead these high growth companies need to place a premium on speed, agility and flexibility. This can be accomplished through an investment in digital transformation, which includes moving to the cloud while also embracing critical capabilities in the areas of data and analytics or artificial intelligence. Competitive advantage will be gained by those that utilise these digital tools to boost automation, enable real-time operations and reimagine business models.
While many high growth companies are already on their digital transformation path others have barely got going. The key for those that are not as far along is to start investing in digital capabilities now. If the experience of the last year has taught us anything it’s how crucial technology and digital tools have become. For instance, the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021 revealed that 67% of company leaders in EMEA agree that the global pandemic has compressed the timeline for acquiring new technologies.
A primary focus of digital transformation is to use technology to improve the customer experience. In the highly competitive technology industry this is how high growth companies can sideline more traditionally focused players. Indeed, the report reveals that more than half of customers in the region (57%) say they are willing to spend more to buy from companies that give them a good customer experience.
To be a successful high growth company in 2021 there are actions that can be taken now and a good place to start is meeting your customers where they are. In other words, offer support on the channel of their choice. This may be the traditional channels of phone, email and chat, but increasingly it’s on messaging channels, like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger. On these same channels customers use with friends and family, they want real-time support that’s fast, personal, convenient and secure.
The tools to succeed
To further support customers in getting answers quickly, allow them to help themselves with self-service. By enabling customers to operate independently by relying on online resources to find answers, is not only convenient for them but also helps deflect repetitive requests away from customer service agents.
Further value can also be gained from self-service when paired with AI capabilities. Chatbots, automation and virtual assistants can improve messaging platform capabilities and can, for instance, also be used during the customer journey to recommend help centre articles.
As well as supporting customers, digital technologies have also proven crucial in equipping teams with the tools to do their job well and also connecting distributed workforces. Especially valuable to smaller high growth companies, investing in these tools will promote efficiency and collaboration across teams and departments. After all, although lockdowns are beginning to ease across Europe, the remote working trend is here to stay, and in some companies indefinitely. Even those companies that ranked these initiatives as low priorities before the pandemic are getting on board. For instance, 29% plan to invest more in agile technologies and 27% plan to invest more in the digital workspace.
To further enhance agility, customer service agents also need a unified customer view that connects all the company’s channels, tools and customer context. With 40% of customers using multiple channels for the same issue, being able to seamlessly shift between channels without losing sight of customer context will allow for quick and personalised support. Having this unified view will also lead to better workflows that increase efficiency and collaboration across the company.
Having emerged from a period that has been unprecedented, to continue on their growth trajectory, today’s high growth companies need to invest in digital capabilities to adapt to our new digital-first world, and it’s adapt now or get left behind.