Written by Andrea Belk Olsen, MSC and CEO of Pragmadik
Most "predictive rundown" articles that kick off at the beginning of the year focus on big technologies, major disruptions, or massive breakthroughs that will upend your market. While these possibilities may manifest at some point, there's something to be said for going back to the basics. They say, "what got you here, might not get you there", that doesn't mean as an organization you toss out the good with the bad. More importantly, you don't lose sight of the practical essentials that make a business successful - customers.
Why are customers the key to growth in 2019? Because they are the key to growth EVERY year. Not just simply focusing on "more customers" or "new markets", but how you can shape your organization to serve your customers more effectively, adapt to their changing needs and perceptions, and most of all, engage with them. No matter the next big thing that comes along, truly understanding your customers will always be a differentiator you can take to the bank.
When we examine the concept of understanding customers in 2019, there are three trends to keep in the forefront of your strategic vision:
1) Businesses will further adapt to the modern customer. "Customers today have more choices than ever, and they have shown they will gravitate toward those who prioritize the delivery of fast, seamless and personalized service. This is true whether they are ordering lunch, getting their car repaired or making a financial transaction. In my industry of financial services, we've already seen large legacy companies start to fall behind smaller startups who offer better user experiences." – Bernardo Martinez, U.S. managing director at Funding Circle
2) Technology will not replace the human touch. "Technology is always improving, and with the latest and greatest tempting every organization, we need to keep in mind that AI and predictive analytics will not replace the human when it comes to delivering the customer experience. While there are definitely some great opportunities ahead for AI … it will not be a true game-changer, at least in the next year. AI can really be thought of as 'augmented intelligence,' because it can augment the human, giving people better information, greater insight and the ability to perform their roles better." – Claire Sporton, senior vice president of customer experience innovation at Confirmit
3) Genuine relationships trump technology. "Technology runs our lives more than ever, but it is relationships that drive business and commerce, so people will find more ways to connect in person to build trust and strengthen connections. Make sure you offer several ways to talk with [customers] and get to know them. Algorithms can only tell you so much about a customer, [but] transactions are driven by relationships. Use automation where you can, but do not ignore the power of the personal touch." – Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls
As we look into 2019 and beyond, it's important for organizations to not get distracted by the next trend or shiny new object - many of the critical fundamentals that got your organization to where it is today, are the ones that will help you continue to grow it into the future. As long as you're focused on understanding your customer like you did on day one, the answers on how to stay competitive will naturally follow.
About the Author
Andrea's 22-year, field-tested background provides unique, practical approaches to creating more efficient, more competitive, customer-centric organizations. A 4-time ADDY® award-winner, she began her career at a tech start-up and led the strategic sales, marketing and customer engagement efforts at two global industrial manufacturers. She now leads a management and communications consultancy, dedicated to helping organizations transform their organizational cultures from "internally-focused" to "customer-centric".
In addition to writing and consulting, Andrea speaks to leaders and industry organizations around the world on how to craft an effective customer-centric organizations. Connect with Andrea to access information on her book, workshops, keynote speeches, training or consulting. More information is also available on www.pragmadik.com or www.thecustomermission.com.
Andrea's NEW book, "The Customer Mission", is available on Amazon.com.
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