Consumers are more demanding than ever. They expect us to be able to react in seconds to their demands and no longer expect a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm service, and who’s to blame them? So why are organisations unable to react in time and deliver a customer centric offering?
So what are organisations doing to mitigate this? Are they fleet-of-foot and able to react to and manage customer needs? And what is their planning process when it comes to a new product launch? Ask any of these organisation if customer centricity is on their radar and the answer is usually yes.
Time and time again in large organisations, we hear there are many lines of business with fragmented pots of data and different warring factions all fighting for ownership of the customer. Furthermore there is always a need for a single customer view or data warehouse, which is being worked on, but that project never seems to come to an end. Surely there is an opportunity to make a difference?
Yes there is. Organisations need to start focusing on the customer need that is in front of them and start to address these challenges in a bitesize approach. Sure the single customer view and data warehouse projects are hugely valuable, but do they really address the need of the consumer right now?
Let’s look at an example. A luxury goods company is looking to launch a limited supply of a new product line. They have identified the customers who have previously purchased from them and are also able to identify where these individuals might be reached through media.
However looking at the digital platforms, is there really a need to build out a completely new website and go through a long planning process internally and with their existing marketing agencies?
Maybe the brand could:
– Create a microsite.
– Use a crowd-sourced network to create the content and design.
– Use an existing template with their content management platform.
– Engage with bloggers to create feedback and content on the new product.
– From here leads could be directly passed into their lead management system or extracted manually.
– These new leads may not go through the single customer view but have a set of triggered messages, which are sent to both the customer and the retailer.
– This could then be sent to a call centre to follow up to confirm the meetings on a payment on performance basis.
All of this could be achieved very quickly and be out in the market before some organisations have even completed the planning process. Is it best practice, the best approach and in line with existing company policy? Probably not, but a polished solution which engages consumers and can be adapted and iterated to meet their needs is surely the right solution, particularly if the company is consumer-centric.
Time and time again organisations spend many, many months planning and discussing ideas without putting many of them into action and potentially missing the market opportunity to engage with consumers.
Why not take a series of ideas and hypothesis and test to see which is gaining traction in the market with the one person who is willing to give you feedback, the consumer?
Who is doing it out there?
I was lucky enough to work with Eric Reis, who conceived lean startup and mentored the growth of Dropbox. He continually pushed us to stop thinking in the old ways of releasing our software solution every six months. Why not release monthly, in fact why not weekly? In the end we were able to use two other products within our organisation and build a Salesforce.com app in only six weeks. This might not seem that incredible, but when you have worked at an organisation that had never released a product into Salesforce.com, took six months to release funds for new ideas and took 12 months to research and release new products to market, this approach was unbelievably rapid.
What is interesting when you speak to Eric and other entrepreneurs is that they do not have the constraints, bureaucracy or politics or a larger organisation.
They are able to make fast decisions on the fly, without hours of meetings, the challenges of finding a meeting room or having the right dial-in number. Some of the decisions mean they fail, which they can learn from, iterate and apply new ideas for the next evolution of their product or service.
Go out there and start doing
So if you’re in an organisation which has a long process for product development, why not start doing something different and making a single fast decision which can get actioned. By this I mean something which a consumer will see the benefit of. Of course there are regulations and processes which need to be adhered to, but does this apply to every part of the customer journey? Could you make a small change to homepage to see what effect that has had? Could you A/B test the application process by changing the old process to a lighter registration to measure conversion?
Could you stop talking and start doing?