With 2013 coming to an end, it’s time to bring out the crystal ball and make some predictions about 2014. Those who follow Forrester’s research will know that we’re living in the age of the customer, a period in which customer obsession will be the key to winning in all markets. Computing is a critical technology element in the age of the customer: The use of tablets by sales professionals creates richer experiences for prospects and customers, even as the use of wearable technologies by health professionals helps phlebotomists find the vein in a patient’s arm more quickly. Computing is a front-line, customer facing experience that helps companies win and serve customers more effectively.
With that context in mind, I present six meta-trends that will be critical for computing in 2014:
These devices are starting to find their way into the hands of consumers, but much of the retail channel has yet to catch up. Smart locks, smart wearables, and smart fitness devices are all generally being sold through the traditional online and offline channels for electronics and devices; sports stores, clothing retailers, and home hardware stores have been slow on the uptake. In the US, we have already seen some electronics retailers (such as Best Buy) significantly expand their “smart wearables” section from a small pod to an entire aisle or even a dedicated corner or section of the store. At the same time, many sports stores have not even started carrying the latest fitness tracking devices — something that should be in their sweet spot.
Most of them are US startups initially backed by venture capital (VC). Some of them are now worth more than $1 billion; others are planning for an IPO; and a couple of them have been acquired for a lot of money while generating little (if any) revenue. Most originated in social media, in the collaborative economy, and pretty much all of them depend on mobile as a significant and growing part of their business. They represent the typical attendees at the LeWeb conference in Paris, looking to become the next Facebook or Amazon in the next 10 years. Some other smaller and less well-known startups competing in LeWeb's startup competition this year may join this list: http://paris.leweb.co/programme/startup-competition
In fact, what they really have in common is that they are all digital disruptors leveraging digital platforms to create new experiences on top of connected devices. They are taking advantage of open development tools and free infrastructure resources to overhaul products, invert category economics, and redefine customer relationships. They are more agile than traditional companies. As my colleague James L. McQuivey stated recently, digital disruption requires an organizational fix if you don’t want your company to be disrupted.
The age of the customer is a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful companies will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. Re-engineering your company to become customer-obsessed will be hard work, but savvy C-level executives I’ve been speaking with about this tectonic shift immediately grasp the opportunity.
I spoke about the age of the customer today at LeWeb Paris (you can see the video here, and my slides here) where I focused on one early element of customer empowerment - the mobile mind shift. Your customers expect any information or service they desire be available to them on any device, in context, at their moment of need. Forrester’s global Mobile Mind Shift Index measures how far along a group of consumers are in this change in attitude and behavior.
To serve these customers, you will have to move from systems of record to systems of engagement. Apps are just a small part of that equation. Instead, we’re talking about re-engineering your entire company to deliver great digital experiences. Your brands will compete against Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon for setting the bar for great customer experiences. What It Means: In the future, every company will be a software company. Software is the new business currency more important than financial capital.
I regularly hear CIOs and IT suppliers discussing the “four pillars” of cloud, social, mobile, and big data as if they’re an end in themselves, creating plenty of buzz around all four. But really, they’re just a means to an end: Cloud, social, mobile, and big data are the tools we use to reach the ultimate goal of providing a great customer experience. Most CIOs in Australia do understand that digital disruption and customer obsession are the factors that are changing their world, and that the only way to succeed is to embrace this change.
I am a new senior analyst on the customer experience team, based in London, and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and share some thoughts about my first report. My areas of expertise include digital customer experience, measurement, strategy, customer understanding, and design. For my first report, I have decided to tackle a topic that occupied a lot of my time as a customer experience (CX) practitioner, namely technology.
As a former customer experience practitioner, I found myself gravitating between the driver seat, the passenger seat, and the backseat when it came to technology decisions — part buyer, part advisor, and part bystander. I worked closely with IT on digital CX and had some very fruitful interactions with IT colleagues about customer experience in general — and customer journey and ecosystem mapping, in particular. I also experienced firsthand the fragmentation of IT spending as more business owners spend more from their own budgets on IT in order to win, retain, and engage with customers. And of course, as many of you, I witnessed IT projects derail or gain a life of their own, to the detriment of the customer experience. Technology is everywhere, every business is now a digital business, and customer experience professionals are facing a tsunami of technology choices as the tech industry enters a period of unprecedented innovation and more and more vendors align themselves with the customer experience buzz. In this first report, I want to explore:
How involved are customer experience professionals in technology decisions? Are they in a position to influence these decisions?
Over the past few months, SAP Services has embarked on a major software-enabled services transformation of its offerings and operating models. The strategic intent is to increasingly rely on IP-based solutions (including SAP’s Rapid Deployment Solutions portfolio and assemble-to-order methodology) to deliver outcomes faster, with lower risks for clients and, eventually, support value-based pricing. Next on SAP Services’ transformation road map? I believe that the organization needs to quickly change the perception of the rest of the SAP ecosystem, which still views SAP Services as a competitor.
SAP Services’ business model used to merely rely on staffing “rock star” consultants on client projects in order to facilitate the implementation of complex solutions. The new strategy aims at positioning the 15,000 service professionals on SAP’s newer solutions (e.g., cloud, mobile, HANA . . .) in order to ensure that early projects generate the promised outcomes. In order to achieve this goal, the delivery teams need to be much more focused on collaborating internally (with the R&D team, for instance) as well as externally (with clients). SAP Services will also need to increasingly work collaboratively with its partners in order to ensure the success of the overall SAP-as-a-Platform strategy.
HP recently hosted its Asia Pacific (AP) and Japan analyst event in Singapore. The company presented its “New Style of IT” value proposition and how it intends to position a combined HP hardware, software and IT services stack to deliver client value. After the Boston event back in February, I was particularly interested to see how HP Enterprise Services (ES) is positioning itself as the tip of the spear of the “one HP” messaging and offering in Asia.
When assessing service providers’ relevance to customer needs, I focus on two major areas:
Red ocean offerings – where service providers need to help their clients build scalable, flexible, secure and cost efficient technology foundations around cloud, mobility and analytics.
Blue ocean offerings – where service providers need to help the CIO engage business stakeholders to drive better business outcomes in areas like customer experience, for instance.
Today’s customers are highly empowered, hyperactive, and incredibly distracted by all of the options available to them for connecting with the things and people that matter to them most. These customers come to you with highly complex goals that they themselves cannot always accurately define — goals for which they don’t necessarily follow the seemingly logical linear paths you’ve laid out for them. As customers multitask their way through stages of information gathering, evaluation, purchase, and servicing, they connect with multiple outside sources that influence and transform their goals if they don’t hijack them altogether.
Gone are the days of the funnel when companies could lure customers with big promises and push them through a set of steps that would lead to purchase. Today, customer processes are far more complicated than ever, and while many firms believe that the purchase is the endpoint of an experience, for many customers, it’s just the beginning. Instead of taking a fragmented approach, firms need to look at the broad customer journey and understand how they can meet their customers’ needs when and where their customers want to interact. They need to understand their customers’ context and weave together a unified experience that matches the expectations customers have of the brand according to their in-the-moment needs.