“In this Age of the Customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers.” – David M. Cooperstein, “Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer,” October 10, 2013.
According to Forrester Research, the Age of Information is over and we are now firmly in the Age of the Customer, a time when a strategic focus on the customer matters more than any other imperative. In two insightful reports, The CIO and CMO’s Blueprint For Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, Forrester Research lists the four key strategic imperatives that are necessary to establish a competitive advantage in today’s customer-driven marketplace.
Every service organization should be following these four imperatives:
- Focus on the customer experience.
In the Age of the Customer, if we’re not strategically focused on designing and continuously improving a valuable customer experience, it is impossible to compete with the top companies in the industry. With all of the digital technologies and disruptions, today’s customer is more empowered than ever. The only way we can anticipate the needs of today’s customer and develop valuable service experiences that excite and delight is to become “customer-obsessed.” The definition of being “customer-obsessed,” according to Forrester Research:
“A customer-obsessed enterprise focuses its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of and engagement with customers and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.” – Kyle McNabb and Josh Bernoff, “The CMO’s Blueprint For Strategy In The Age Of The Customer,” September 12, 2014.
To become customer-obsessed and successfully create excellent customer experiences, we need to improve the way we design all aspects of the experience. We have to spend all of our energy on improving our approach to designing, implementing, and managing the touchpoints in our customer’s journey so that we can provide an experience that exceeds the expectations of today’s empowered customer. This requires an overall change to the organization’s culture, capabilities, and competencies. Implementing a paradigm shift such as this one will require significant process change, a lot of collaboration and communication between the people in the organization and stakeholders, and a complete overhaul of the business techniques used to create valuable customer experiences.
- Make your business digital to create more value.
The key to keeping up with the empowered customers of today is to be more digital in every aspect of our business. While we continue to improve the way we use digital technologies to increase operational excellence, we also need to be thinking of ways to digitally create new sources of value for our customers.
Unfortunately, most organizations still lack a clear digital business vision. If there isn’t one existing yet, we need to craft a comprehensive digital business strategy, including all necessary technology, people, and processes. Furthermore, embracing digital technology should be part of every person’s responsibilities. Whether we succeed as a digital organization is not solely determined by the IT department or executives—we need everyone to start embracing digital business techniques.
- Accept and adopt the “Mobile Mind Shift.”
Mobile adoption is predicted to grow considerably by 2017, according to a report by Forrester Research. The global market can expect 651 million tablet users and 2.4 billion smartphone users by 2017. Mobile devices are used more and more every day by customers to instantly get answers and information in their moments of need.
This “Mobile Mind Shift,” as Forrester refers to it, needs to be embraced before it’s too late. To do that, we need to identify our customers’ mobile moments on the customer journey and design mobile moments in ways that engage our customers and provide value. On top of that, we need to be constantly analyzing and optimizing performance to continuously improve mobile interactions, thus improving the overall customer experience.
- Leverage big data to continue improving.
One upside to today’s empowered customer is that the more customers use our mobile apps, websites, etc., the more information we can get from them and these interactions. In the Age of the Customer, our customers leave behind “digital breadcrumbs” that need to be leveraged to continuously improve our services and create new sources of value.
For a competitive advantage, companies need to be using real-time, two-way, insight-driven data to anticipate and respond to customer needs. Exploiting all available data helps drive new, massive business insights that we weren’t capable of obtaining before. Once our organization has made the shift to the necessary culture, competencies, and capabilities to leverage all of the data shared by our customers, we see major benefits, such as improved customer engagement, increased revenue, and enhanced customer experiences.