Technology is not a Disruptor, but a Powerful Customer-First Strategy is!

Technology is often seen by marketing as a disruptor of business as usual, but it isn’t. Technology is in fact an enabler, at least when used properly and appropriately. So what is disrupting business as usual? It’s the customer, especially in industries that are not customer-centric.

It was 

I had already been speaking about the need for businesses to prepare for the dramatic change that was coming thanks to technological innovation. However, it was Pacheco’s slide that made me realise why I was so keen on companies adopting a customer-first strategy and running scenario planning.

His five simple examples brought it home more powerfully than I have ever done before. That’s why I wanted to share it with you. The summary says:

  • Netflix did not kill Blockbuster, ridiculous late fees did.
  • Uber did not kill the taxi business, limited taxi access and fare control did.
  • Apple did not kill the music industry, being forced to buy full-length albums did.
  • Amazon did not kill other retailers, bad customer service did.
  • Airbnb isn’t killing the hotel industry, limited availability and pricing options are.

In conclusion it states that:

“Technology by itself is not the real disruptor. Not being customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business.”

That’s music to my ears!

Looking again at the five examples he gives, there are a number of specific aspects of customer-centricity that are highlighted. In my opinion they show the following advantages for the customer:

  • freedom of choice
  • transparency
  • trust
  • being valued

If you don’t want to see your own industry fall victim to start-ups that better provide these, then now is the time to act. Or rather if you’re not already on your journey to adopting a customer-first strategy, you’re probably already seeing a slowing, if not actual decline, in your growth and profitability.

 

The Future of Many Industries is Unthinkable

By this I mean that change is happening so fast that it is difficult for organisations to even imagine the future. This is why I encourage my clients to develop plausible future scenarios, rather than merely follow trends. Only by doing so, can they be prepared for every possible risk and opportunity. Identifying one, most likely future is unlikely to deliver the variation that will no doubt happen. For more on this topic, read “5 Business Success Factors (So You’re Ready for Anything!)”

As I mentioned at the beginning, technology is an enabler that permits industries to provide more of what their customers want. There are already many examples of ones which have been helped or radically altered by technology and science. For example:

 

Verizon data revenueTELECOMS now make as much money from selling (geo-localisation) data than they ever did from selling phones and lines.

Already back in 2015, data accounted for 44% of Verizon’s profits, as shown in this Adage article. Continue Reading

How to Measure Customer Centricity the Right Way

As a customer-first strategist (just like you I hope), I spend a lot of my time searching how to better measure customer centricity for my clients. I also do a lot of analyses on what customers really want today. I’m always trying to understand the exact solutions customers need, desire and dream of having.

My regular searches include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend! However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look up the term, you get redirected to customer satisfaction!  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to source for definitions is  businessdictionary.com which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition limited, since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • A positive customer experience
  • Adds value to a company
  • Enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric:

1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. As we all know, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore loyalty is an incredibly valuable benefit for a brand.

According to recent research by Bain & Company, along with Earl Sasser of the Harvard Business School increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%. OK a very wide range, but I’m sure we’d all be happy with even a 25% increase in profits, wouldn’t we?

One further piece of research, this time from Marketing Metrics, shows that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, whereas the probability of selling to a new prospect is less than 20%.

Clearly placing more attention on keeping our current customers satisfied brings greater rewards than going after new ones. And yet that is what most companies set as a priority. Any ideas why?

2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is constantly challenged to prove these days. With the risk of seeing their budgets cut if they are unable to provide convincing arguments to their bosses.

Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics about this in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience.”

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. Continue Reading

Are Smart Things Really Smart or is it Just Smart Marketing?

Earlier this year I wrote about the impact of AI and ML on digital marketing. The article is called “AI and ML are Taking Digital Marketing to the Next Level.” In it, I compared the positive and negative implications of technology for customers and companies alike.  So this week I wanted to write about the impact of smart choices for business in general.

We seem to be surrounded by smart things: smartwatches, smart clothing, smart cars, smart houses and smart appliances. But are they really that smart? 

The reason for my question is that an article entitled “Taking ‘Smart’ Out Of Smart Things” by Chuck Martin made me think about whether “smart things” really are that smart, or whether it’s something else that’s making them appear smart?

So here are my views on it. Feel free to add your own opinions in the comments below, I would love to start a discussion on “smartness”.

 

The Age of the Customer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In one of their older Customer Experience reports Forrester claimed that we are now in the Age of the Customer. This was music to my ears when I first read it, because as you know I’m a customer champion. However, The World Economic Forum reported a few years ago that we are now on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolutionwhich is blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres.

In their article, they explain that

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Does this mean that people are becoming less and less important as technology takes over more and more areas of our daily lives – and value? Luckily no. The author, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum concludes the article by saying

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”

So no panic; there will hopefully still be a place for people in this brave new world! But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have to adapt – and adapt quickly if we don’t want to be left behind. Continue Reading

What Customers Really Want – And How to Give It To Them Today!

As a customer centricity champion, just like you I hope, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want. And in this period of reset, understanding our customers has become more important than ever before.

Just a few short months ago, I didn’t think that it would have been possible for customer-centricity to become any more important. But things happen and now everyone is fighting to keep their businesses afloat. So the new and constantly changing desires of our customers have become a top priority for us all to follow.

I’m always trying to understand exactly what our customers’ preferences are, and where they may be going. My regular searches online include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

A couple of years ago, I came across some surprising facts, which prompted this original post. But recent changes have made it important for me to update it once again. At the time, the analysis showed a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers. Today it is clear that any organisation that hasn’t spent the past few years putting things right, will most certainly be suffering in this post-pandemic business crisis. Read further and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer Centricity

Wikipedia, a faithful friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look the term up, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable isn’t it?  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to online resource for understanding terms is businessdictionary.com, which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say:

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition somewhat limited since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer-centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric for any and every business:

1. Positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy.  As we all know, it costs ten times – if not even more – to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.

However, with much of supermarket shopping going online – there was a 161.4% increase on March over February – loyalty takes on a whole new meaning. Customer experience is now far more to do with the online ease of ordering than that of store shopping. Unfortunately, most supermarkets didn’t prepare for such an onslaught.

2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing has been challenged to prove in recent years, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut if they can’t. Continue Reading

7 Ways to Deliver Awesome Customer Service

Continue Reading

Adopting a Customer First Strategy. Even the Police Can Get it Right!

In most countries, the population have a love / hate relationship with their police. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself writing about how they appear to be adopting a customer first strategy in Switzerland!

Let me explain. They have recently introduced many new-style speed radars in the villages around my home town in Switzerland. The elements are not that new per se, I know, but last week it suddenly hit me why they are so effective. They are customer centric. They have adopted a customer first strategy! And that’s why I want to share this story here.

One of the reasons why the Police are disliked in many countries, is because of their speed radars.

Whether they are permanent fixtures as on the right, or temporary ones, we all dislike the flash that tells us it’s too late, that we’ve been “caught.”

We then wait a few days, to weeks or even months, naively hoping that it wasn’t our car that was flashed. But eventually the letter arrives asking us to pay a fine.

 

I think the worst of them all are the laser guns that the Police have been using for many years now. We don’t even know we’ve been flashed until the communication arrives at our home, or we are pulled up a few hundred meters down the road.

The relatively new types of radar that are being introduced in my home area don’t flash either. But that’s because we never get “caught” as such.

You see they measure our speed and give us immediate feedback. Take a look at the photo on the right; I’m sure you’ve seen such installations before.

Now if we make the assumption that all four types of equipment are to get road users to decrease their speed in critical areas – and not just to gather money as I’ve heard suggested – then the results must vary widely.

 

 

So let me share my thoughts from the perspective of a customer first strategy champion.

 

Permanent radars

Everyone quickly knows where these are located. In fact, in some countries there are warning signs and they are actually highlighted on the GPS mapping system you may have in your car.

In some places the permanent radars are not always functioning, as the cameras inside them are rotated between installations. It is therefore not possible to know which radars are active and which aren’t. The Police then get a multiple deterrent effect, beyond the number of cameras they have purchased.

What I have observed with these radars is the following behaviour. The traffic is rolling along “normally” and then everyone brakes hard just in time to pass the radar below the speed limit. They then speed up again to continue along the road.

This phenomenon is in fact well known by the Police. They sometimes add a second, mobile radar a few hundred meters down from the permanent one, to catch those who are once again speeding!

Even the warning signs, as on the right, don’t have much impact on drivers and the speed limitation is quickly forgotten. Continue Reading

Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees

Your customers only really care about themselves and your product’s value to them!

I’ve been a customer champion for most of my career. But with the likes of Richard Branson saying it’s employees first, customers second, my confidence was beginning to slide a little.

Thank goodness, therefore, for some new research from Global RepTrak® that has finally confirmed what I have always believed. Customers care about themselves first and foremost! Everyone else comes second.

Dale Carnegie spelled it out really well when he said:

“People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves – morning, noon and after dinner.”

It was the below chart that I first saw on MarketingCharts.com that alerted me to this work by RepTrak™. (I highly recommend signing up for their daily charts by the way; they’re a great source of facts and inspiration!)

 

 

The article that accompanies the chart is a great read too. However, I wanted to take a look behind these numbers and try to understand why some influencers have been pushing employee centricity.

 

Products And Services Are Key

The first four factors of reputation shown in the graph above are all product related. Therefore it’s clear that customers think about themselves first and foremost. They want satisfaction and therefore it’s a product’s value that matters most. I think that’s normal, don’t you? They are looking for a solution that meets their needs and a company that stands behind what they offer.

Great customer service won’t make up for a terrible product or service offer. So every organisation needs to ensure that what they propose is the very best they possibly can.

However, it is also true that the quality and value you offer depends to a large extent on the excellence of your employees in delivering it. If employees are not motivated to give their best, then what they deliver will be sub-optimal.

This is why it is essential that everyone within a company understands their role in satisfying the customer.

One of the quickest ways I have found to achieve this is by providing regular access to the customer. Once an employee sees and understands what they can do to increase satisfaction, they are much more likely to do it. After all, it’s absurd to think that they would want their employer to fail, isn’t it? In fact, I have seen a genuine excitement around customer connections whenever I have introduced them within an organisation.

If you’d like to organise your own customer connection sessions then I highly recommend reading “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

 

Employees Are An Important Touchpoint

I think it was P&G who coined the phrase “the first moment of truth” in referring to the beginning of the shopping experience. I would, therefore, add employees, at least in retail and other consumer-facing industries, as being a close second. However, the vast majority of products are made by companies that rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with their customers. Continue Reading

What a Short Hospital Stay Taught me About Customer Experience

Examples of exceptional customer experience can come from anywhere! You know that. You keep your eyes and ears open and find inspiration everywhere. So do I.

But last week, I had the fright of my life. I returned from visiting my family over the festive season, with an ever-increasing pain in my lower back.

OK, so sitting all day is not good for my posture. I suppose I deserve to finally pay for all the hours I spend in front of a screen every day.

Anyway, it got so bad that I visited the doctor on Wednesday, who gave me painkillers, anti-inflammatories and a muscle relaxant. I took them all that evening, but when I got up the following morning, I fainted from a sudden intense pain. A half hour later I managed to crawl out of bed to take my pills, then hobbled back again to wait until they took effect.

A couple of hours later when I tried to get up, I again fainted with the pain, but now also had the new sensation of an explosive flame which shot down my back to my right foot! I was totally immobilised in three seconds flat!

I was in agony, so all I could do was to return to my bed. However, the mattress no longer offered any relief and I whimpered like a tortured animal as I suffered continuously from these now double injuries.

Living alone I realised that this was serious. Luckily my mobile was by my bed so I called the emergency services who immediately sent an ambulance. All this to say that I ended up spending a night in a hospital for only the second time in my life.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I fell down the stairs as my leg had become partially paralysed. Another visit to the emergency room, an ankle brace fitted, a consultant’s assessment, an MRI scan and finally emergency surgery the following day.

All these experiences of hospitals and doctors gave me the superb opportunity to see the health service from the patient’s perspective. I work a lot with the Pharma industry but luckily never became a patient, until now.

As you probably know, becoming your customer and seeing the market from their perspective is one of the exercises I suggest to better understand your customers. How often do you do it? Ever?!!

I learnt a lot about how to excel at customer experience from all my visits. Surprisingly, many of the practices of the nurses and doctors that I witnessed in my heavily sedated state, are easily transferable to any business. This is why I decided to share them with you.

So here are my seven learnings about excellence in customer experience:

 

1. Introduce yourself

Every time someone came to my room, they introduced themselves and explained why they were there. As the first establishment, I stayed in was a University Hospital, there were tens if not hundreds of staff on duty, so I rarely saw the same person twice over the 24 hour period I was there. Continue Reading

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want me to catalyse your growth and profitability, just book a call.

Join Global Customer First Strategists!

Get our latest posts before everyone else, and exclusive content just for you.

* indicates required