You may get insight but don’t expect to innovate
How are you getting insight on your customers that is deeper than your competitors? How well is it working? Are these insights allowing you to make changes that increase your market share and revenues?
You will already know where the trend is going. GDPR will create some volatility as the implications start to play out, but without doubt it will play out albeit with amended guidelines. What is also without doubt will be the explosive growth of passive data which will be harnessed to increasingly sophisticated analytics as a means of predicting customer behaviour. As data bandwidths increase and become cheaper, the sheer volume of data will explode as almost everything we do becomes monitored to a greater and ever granular degree.
Is it possible that we are relying too much on technology? Are companies now adapting their customer journeys, internal processes and products based on what the technology-driven analytics say alone? Or are there alternatives that will give you better insight?
Technology-driven systems have longevity if there is direct customer experience impact
It’s true that companies who have adopted significant new technology-driven opportunities early and invested wisely have achieved a head start. The UK’s Tesco is a good example. The UK’s leading grocery chain has been on the internet since 1994 and formally launched Tesco.com in 2000. Today Tesco has a market share of e-grocery sector of around 40% – some 12% greater than its overall market share statistics. I obviously can’t predict the future but the balance between cost and convenience is a tight one. More cost-effective distribution models such as click and collect could grow significantly, especially if the click-and-collect locations created reasons to make the customer to want to go there over and above simply collecting groceries. Technology in e-shopping has sustained growth, but for one main reason: it directly impacts the customer experience. In fact, in that market it is central. If you want other examples think Snap for hotel booking, Expedia for travel, Zappos for online shoes and clothing. Technology is directly connected to the experience.
Enablers without direct customer experience impact offer only diminishing returns
Active and passive data collection/analysis systems don’t directly impact the customer. They are enablers that make insight cheaper and faster to obtain. The early adopters may gain some advantage, but systems will become more widely available, will be easier to set up and it will be quicker to gain insight. The level of differentiation between offerings will start to converge leaving customers relatively little ability to differentiate from their competitors because the approaches and systems used will become so similar.
Now what are companies going to do?
We will be back to the one component where differentiation is achievable, buildable and sustainable.
It’s your people.
Investing in systems that give you usable insight means there is less danger that you will be left behind. The differentiated insight that nobody else has thought about – the real domain of innovation – is still the domain of the human being.
So why is customer-driven innovation not being taught and developed within every part of the company? Innovation requires people to think differently but it’s a skill that anybody can harness – at least to a level they can meaningfully contribute.
Why is a customer culture not embedded into every part of the company? Two reasons actually:
- Firstly, many companies still believe customer culture is only for customer-facing people.
- Secondly, It’s hard. People don’t like being pushed outside their comfort zone or out of their specialisation. The psychology of a customer-driven company is 180 degrees different to a product or service centric company. The former requires a deep understanding of customer needs and needs to be at the centre of every aspect of the company. The latter splits the company into component specialisations and rewards people for being good at those specialisations. Today 99% of companies are driven by the latter.
Customer Success is hard. It requires new skills. It requires a culture that everybody shares – customer-facing or not. It requires a happy and engaged workforce. I am not suggesting forgetting about VoC and passive data insight – it keeps you competitive and receptive to shifts in behaviour. It just won’t give you a long-term edge – because long-term we will all have it.