I recently spoke with Lynette Dicey, a reporter from South Africa’s Financial Mail, about disruption and the challenges facing businesses as they strive to remain competitive amid a rapidly-evolving marketplace. Sometimes the best offense is a good defense, and in this case”defense” means strengthening customer relationships and fostering loyalty. To do this, businesses need to keep their pulse on customer wants and needs and consistently deliver positive experiences. This isn’t the kind of thing that you can change overnight, and customer experience (CX) management is the core of customer-centric strategy.
Businesses, however, shouldn’t totally neglect their “offense”. Customer feedback and experience insights can be leveraged to improve customer journeys, though businesses need to encourage their staff to be innovative.
Focus on customer experience to avoid being disrupted
“Any industry with a middle-man or broker model is a target to be disrupted,” says customer experience expert Julia Ahlfeldt. She says even risk assessments and scenario planning don’t necessarily guarantee accurate predictions.
So what else can businesses do to safeguard their operations and stay relevant in an age of ever-changing technology?
The big take-out: Businesses that focus on customer experience and live the adage of the “customer is king” are less likely to be disrupted, says customer experience expert Julia Ahlfeldt.
According to Ahlfeldt, it all boils down to awareness of the importance of customer experience. The “customer is king” adage has never been more true, she says, adding that the most successful disruptors in recent years have been those who have launched sleek, innovative and customer-centric solutions into established industries.
“Customers have never had more choice and more power than they do now, and relegating customer experience issues to the marketing department is a risk CEOs take at their peril,” she says.
Ahlfeldt reports that businesses that pay attention to customer experience are 81% more likely to enjoy repeat business and report 60% higher profits than competitors. “Given that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain one, investing in how to keep customers happy is critical,” she points out.
She outlines three steps towards embracing the value of customer experience issues. The first is to listen to customer feedback and address the major issues. “Their biggest pain point is likely to be your weak spot for disruption,” she says.
Second, embrace customer-centric change as something positive. “This is easier said than done, but proactive change management will pay off in the end,” says Ahlfeldt.
Third, develop in-house innovation capabilities and encourage employees to allocate a portion of their working hours to exploring innovation possibilities. “Not every idea will take off, but giving employees time to explore new ideas has been hugely successful for disruption leaders such as Google,” she points out.
The new generation of business leaders understand the influence of customer experience instinctively and know it can make or break their business, says Ahlfeldt. “The challenge in SA, however, is that many senior executives still have a traditional mindset and are struggling to keep up with new trends and technologies.”
The original article was published by the Red Zone section of Financial Mail in December 2017, and you can find it here.