Charles Dickens once wrote that: “Change begets change. Nothing propagates so fast.” In today’s evolving marketplace, where innovators are setting new customer expectations and companies are racing to meet rising demands, Dickens’ words ring true. The first step on a company’s path to thriving in this environment is understanding customers accurately – specifically, identifying how consumer expectations are changing and how fast.
Our Empowered Customer Segmentation measures critical shifts in customer behaviors and attitudes to gauge how consumers are both responding to innovation and demanding it. While the segments are globally consistent, we see insightful differences when applying the framework to unique markets. For example, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows how the segments differ between Spain and France:
These country differences reveal unique opportunities and challenges for companies aiming to win or retain customers in Europe. For example, forward-looking brands such as Banco Sabadell and BBVA can engage Progressive Pioneers in Spain to test innovative concepts before planning a broader rollout. On the other hand, brands with large proportions of French Settled Survivors or Reserved Resisters can retain customers by convincing them of the effectiveness of an experience.
Employees are the lifeblood of a customer-obsessed enterprise. No matter how advanced a company's technology, how big its data, or how trendy it’s marketing, businesses today simply cannot succeed without employees who devote themselves to customers. However, many companies struggle to build a customer-obsessed workforce because they:
Hire for skills and experience. Siloed hiring managers focus primarily on job candidates' technical skills and experience and seek little input from applicants' potential colleagues. Knowing how well candidates can code, lift boxes, or write marketing copy is important. However, skillset alone doesn't tell employers if applicants are willing and able to use their skills and cooperate with their coworkers in customer-obsessed ways.
Have weak training programs. Most training programs consist of long and dry classroom, online, and coaching sessions rather than short and engaging sound bites that employees can access when they need to. Even worse, training focuses solely on employees' job responsibilities, businesses processes, and operation of technical systems — topics that rarely help employees become more customer-obsessed.
Fail to recognize and reward customer obsession. Our data shows that although 42% of companies claim that excellent customer treatment is one of their core values, only one-third of companies actually hold employees accountable and tie employees' incentives to customer experience (CX) metrics.
Leading through change requires that right mix of imagination, inspiration, and gritty execution. And we are in a world of change. Empowered customers and the constant and rapid wave of digital innovation are changing market fundamentals. Leaders are now challenged to respond.
I had the pleasure of hosting a discussion with James McQuivey, Carl Doty, and Sam Stern to talk leadership in the age of the customer. Our conversation covered a range of topics from having the wisdom to see the market for what it is versus how we would like the market to act to putting in motion strategic and operational change that is necessary, new, and risky. Here are the five takeaways:
The customer is in motion. Customers rapidly adopt — and rapidly abandon — technologies, services, and brands. That is wonderful and scary thing. It creates new possibilities. But it also redefines the norms for churn where a decision to shift spend is made by a single experience — good or bad. This dynamic can represent a major threat to growth if companies need to absorb 10%+ churn.
During a recent discussion of the Age of the Customer and how it applies to government, one of the participants from a government agency essentially asked why they should care. The argument was “If I’m providing passport services why does customer experience matter to me? My “customers” can’t walk out that door and find another passport services provider.”
Needless to say I was taken aback – not shocked really, this is the government after all and not traditionally known for accessible or user friendly services. But personally my experiences have never been as bad as the stereotype of government. In fact, I just received a new passport in 2 weeks, having been told that it might take 3 – 6 weeks. And, at least the rhetoric of late has certainly embraced, in principle, more customer centricity in government. But here it was, the government monopoly argument rearing its ugly head. At least to play devil’s advocate, suggesting that the sentiment did exist somewhere in the organization.
The pace of business – heck, the pace of life, gets faster and faster. Faster processing, faster delivery, faster innovation – and faster adoption and abandonment of that innovation -- is the reality we all live in today.
Leaders run fast businesses to win and to stay apace or in front of dynamic customers and disruptive competitive forces. They can’t out-slow the competition. Speed is the only option.
I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar panel to discuss what it means to work at one speed (fast) versus at two speeds as bimodal IT advocates. We discussed why businesses are forced to go fast, the reality and downside of a bimodal IT strategy, and the strategies and approaches to winning based on speed. Here is a quick view of the ground we covered.
The first part of our discussion focused on the factors that are making companies operate at fast speeds. Broadly, it comes down to three factors:
Hyper-adoption and hyper-abandonment: Customers are willing to rapidly try, use, and then possibly discard content, apps, and services in a world of seemingly infinite choices and extremely low cost to entry and exit. This dynamic fundamentally changes – speeds up – what it means to “have” a customer.
CEOs and their leadership teams are at a crossroads as technology underpins virtually all customers' expectations and unlocks new sources of customer value. The choice is rather straightforward: invest heavily in business technology (BT) to win, serve, and retain customers, or flounder under the weight of legacy IT.
This is no time to hedge. Strategies like bimodal IT that advocate for silos and two operating speeds may appeal to risk-averse leaders, but bimodal won't get the job done. In fact, it works directly against the key operating principles of customer-obsessed firms in B2B and B2C industries like General Electric, Netflix, and USAA. These firms and other leaders use the customer as the central design point for their business technology strategy and strive to be:
Everybody is telling us this: Today's modern B2B buyer is soooo empowered! Well, that’s because they can use digital and mobile channels to get access to competitive, pricing, reference and other information they need. Not only that, they even prefer to transact anywhere, anytime, and anyhow they want. So, the pressure is on for sales people to raise their game. Those who can only communicate in terms of product and service capabilities will see their messages fall flat.
Go-to-market leaders that fail to empower their sellers will see their selling organizations commoditized by those that do and their businesses surpassed by disrupters. While change is clearly afoot - I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in Sales! B2B sellers who embrace change, who are adroit at leveraging new technologies to support more contextual engagements, and who seek out less cluttered channels such as social - will not only remain relevant but will be wildly successful!
To hear and see more, watch the below Animated Interview And Podcast with Chad Quinn, President and Founder of Ecosystems.
It is often said that campaigns work in poetry (beautiful language with lofty ideals), but one governs in prose (the pragmatic workings of the day). If we are in a poetic state, this is one strange poem with little rhyme or reason.
However, there are common threads that are meaningful that tell us something about not only the election but also the business climate.
The transfer of power from companies to the customer is driving a wide variety of changes: some small and targeted and some that are far-reaching and fundamentally change the trajectory of companies (and careers, I may add).
I had the pleasure of moderating a video webinar last week that explored the customer dynamic, specifically looking at how it will play out in 2016. We also looked at how companies sense and respond to this dynamic change: how well companies are reading the tea leaves and taking action and what actions seem to matter to compete and win in a customer-led market.
I had a blast moderating this panel with Sharyn Leaver, Michelle Moorehead, and Harley Manning. If you saw it live or on-demand, I hope you had a blast as well and took something away that can make a difference for your company and yourself.
We captured the webinar through a thought-illustration that provides an artistic touch to a great conversation.
It’s complex, right? There are a lot of moving pieces, big ideas, and really big decisions. So let’s break it down:
When it comes to digital, we are at a pivot point. Digitizing your business isn’t about technology: it’s about customer obsession - and in 2016, it will be among your ten critical business success factors helping position your firm for success in the Age of the Customer. In fact, next year will be a year of consequence: those firms that “get digital” will begin to pull ahead, and those firms that don’t will begin to look increasingly archaic, facing the risk of extinction.
The preliminary results from our recent digital business survey are telling. An increasing number of firms are reporting that they have a coherent and comprehensive digital strategy. While this is good news, these firms are still the minority. The vast majority of firms report that their approach to digital is limited at best, and non-existent at worst. But the consistently bleak picture is that most executives think the wrong people are in charge of their digital activities and few (very few) think they have the capabilities to deliver.
But there are some shining lights.
Leading firms like John Deere are pathing the path to digital mastery, demonstrating revenue and share price growth that outpaces less digitally savvy competitors. Executive committees are taking note. Innovation spend is on the rise, digital skills are in hot demand, and a new breed of digitally savvy senior leaders is finally emerging.