Here we are again, this part of the year when reviews and plannings are everywhere. We should look backwards to review what we did, how we achieved it and why we failed. With the single purpose to plan a new year, but incorporating lessons learned from previous initiatives. It will cost us a lot of money, effort and resources to fail year over year on the same topics. Improve what we did in the past is part of the new culture we should embrace if we want to success.
This year, 2018, was pretty interesting with new technologies coming up, new regulations (GDPR) take care of customers, and some privacy issues on one of the mayor players in this digital ecosystem, such Facebook, that affect the landscape of all companies, and even citizens.
When making plans, preparing budgets and thinking how to tackle a new year ahead, it is very common have a look into analysts’ trends, best practices for other companies and check out vendor’s new capabilities. Although, this is a good recommendation, I would suggest to take two other steps first. We should understand what is the global strategy (to achieve the corporate mission) so we can align on how can we contribute. But also we should think on what are our customers needs and what are our main gaps in terms of create this high effective engagement. All this input will be used to streamline our roadmap, that we will shape with the trends. The trigger should be the identification of what are the problems to solve, and then how to land the solutions to fill these gap.
But stepping back from the details, If we look into the big picture of the digitization there are 3 big main areas where should step up, and work on:
The data is the new oil of this age, but only if we know how to use it. Even I can go one step further and say: Actionable insights from data is the new oil of this era. This is not a small detail. It is not easy to get these actionable insights, but the artificial intelligence can help. The role of the data scientists is pretty new or at least not in place in all the organizations. Understand what data sets mean, get a deeper customer knowledge, segment customer based on behavior and not only based on profile are some of the actions to be taken. This is also why voice search devices (Alexa, Siri and others) are ramping up. They not only offer to the customer convenience, but also provide to the companies continues behavior data to be use to predict new needs. This is a new field where more innovation will come up, and even more regulation to protect more and better the customers. The Internet of things is tied to this as well. There will be more than 20 billions devices connected to Internet sharing always online data. This maybe very powerful for companies, if it is known how to process this info and do it actionable. Algorithms (deep learning, neuronal network, linear regression, natural language processing and others) will be more common into our discussions, if we want to (first) process the data, and (second) understand how to use these actionable insights. There are very good examples in the recommendations of Netflix, Spotify or Amazon, not only in terms of return of investment for these companies, but also (and maybe more important) for the customer, and improve significantly the customer experience.
Let’s review what data are we capturing and storing, and more important how are we going to use it. This will help us to draft plans accordingly
A real customer-centric company will look to create a valuable engagement with their customers.This goes several steps away from the classic selling approach, more if we think in the subscription model that a lot of companies are adopting. Customer are looking for something more than products. They look for trust in the brand, for the convenience of the full service, to get the best customer experience. Of course the product is important, but is not everything. Without taking care of the end-to-end experience, companies will not get this desired engagement. That is so needed to create a long term relationship/partnership. Specially in the area of products categorized as utilities or commodities we, as customers, look for something more that the product (as there are not very different between providers), so we want to engage with the correct company, depends on what we are looking for (each person is different, and is where brands play a key role).
Create this correct engagement is the combination of different components. The personalization will help to boost the customer experience, only if this is something more than put customer’s name in the commercial emails. This include a 360 customer view, that somehow was mentioned in the data section above. At the end data is needed to take decisions on the strategy side and is instrumental to perform this personalization. When customers call the consumer care, when ask questions using any channel (web, app, whatapp,..) or when receiving communications with offers or other relevant content, we should avoid general content as well as ask always same questions over and over again. The CRM systems (and the connection with flanking systems such marketing automation, DMPs, …) are the cornerstone to enable this capability. Create a real 360 customer view, does not matter the team that provide real needs and current situation of the customer in any single moment is required.
Amazon is always a good example of the personalization. If you even browse around their web, and buy a product you would experience it. But KLM is a good example with the real integration of all the digital channels (web, whatapp, facebook messenger, email) having a better view of the customer. I would recommend use this customer service via new channels to understand what are the real benefits and how the next customer experience wave might look like.
But the engagement will not be effective providing only a good customer experience. The value proposition has to be what the customers are looking for. In some cases, the market could not be prepared for certain products, or we (as companies) didn’t know how to explain their benefits. The value proposition is something more that the product. It could be defined as the perceived value the customer receives when buy our product. Convenience, brand position (mission and/or vision) and general added value are the key breakthrough toward an engaging business model. Do you know if Nike, Adidas or any other sport brand is making money with all the training apps they built up? Not really. This is a good way to show their values, to unlock their vision, but their real business is the sport gear (shoes,t-shirts, ..). Digital is only a way to unlock more business, providing more value while engaging with customers (sell products will come later)
New ways of working
Technology is very important is our life (professional and personal). All the points mentioned above are related to new tools somehow. But what is more important is how we are able to change our way of working. Nowadays business requires a different approach to be successful. It requires a full integration of digital into our lives (it should not be seen as a different animal), it requires cross collaboration between teams, it requires bring more value, and faster to the customer, it requires think more in the customer. I am sure you heard about Agile, Scrum, design thinking, problem solving, Lean startup and other methodologies. Of course we can be trained, but without deep changes not only in our organization, but also at individual level, these methodologies will not work at all. It is not about check boxes in our CV, or write fluffy sentences using buzzwords in our presentations. It is about change our ways of working. How many IT colleagues are involved in your daily meetings to understand and participate what is going on in the business? Do you still need to plan and scope any single aspect of any project? Do you need a proofed business case to allocate budget for next year project? When was last time sales and marketing teams co-create and execute a business plan together? Do we have a testing/iterative culture or are we still working first-time-right?
These are only some of the questions we should ask ourselves to understand if we are in the correct track, or just making up our ways of working.
New ways of working required smaller cross functional teams, able to work on a topic from an end-to-end perspective, and bringing value faster. So it doesn’t mean more speed, it means faster value.Innovation has to be in the DNA of us (as individuals and as companies). Because innovation is not only bring new technology, is not only about blockchain, AI or systems integration. It is about bring up new ideas that could help to improve and add more value
Next coming year, 2019, sounds very interesting in all these and other topics. It is time to think how to prepare our companies for the present, as the digital age is already here, and our competitors are ready to take over us. We have to be smart and fast during this transformation. It is difficult to build a plane at the same time we have to flight it, but this is the beauty of business now. There is not status quo, everything could change, and all of us are responsible of us.