The business journal Forbes recently featured an article by Shawn Price, the cloud technology head of technology company Oracle, where he states: “Going forward, I believe 85% of brand differentiation will be based on customer experience. In today’s world, where every transaction is an audition for the next, it’s imperative that companies make the necessary changes to their systems to ensure customers are not just happy, but overjoyed.”
As you might expect, Shawn also suggests that cloud technologies might be one part of the answer to an improvement in customer service. In many ways, he is right, but no business can ever be transformed just by the implementation of some new software.
A detailed report by Forrester research published a few months back explores this idea further. Forrester believes that by 2020 all companies across all industries will be divided into two camps – digital predators or digital prey. The implication is that technology is becoming so important in delivering solutions to customers that there will be a very harsh divide between companies that either get it, and arrange their systems with a focus on customer-centricity, and those who cling on to the old corporate structures.
In the solutions I work on, across several industry sectors, I can already see this playing out. Some sectors are ahead of others and they are – as you might expect – the ones that need to manage a lot of customer engagement; retail, banking, telecoms and ISPs.
It’s not necessarily about the technology that is deployed, although the ability to monitor customers across multiple channels is now essential, but companies that are succeeding know that their internal hierarchies also need to be redrawn. A quick look at any business or marketing journal will show you how the processes of customer service and marketing are blending because customers only see one impression of a brand – they don’t care about the internal silos.
This process is being played out in companies that understand they need a Chief Customer Officer, or a similar role, so that all customer impressions of the brand can be coordinated.
So I entirely agreed that customers, now and in future, would strongly differentiate brands based on their experience. I also agree that technology is going to be an essential tool in getting this right. But the key ingredient that is going to help companies succeed in building a customer-centric organisation is the ability to see beyond the corporate structures they know and trust.
The way that customers communicate with each other has changed. Their expectation of how they communicate with brands has changed. All this change has taken place in little more than the past half decade. Executives need to explore customer-centricity even if it requires some brave decisions that involve changing internal structures.
Photo by Eduardo Zárate licensed under Creative Commons.