Top Companies Consider Values, Not Just Value

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Consumers increasingly want to do business with companies that not only provide value but also share their values, Accenture notes in its Accenture Technology Vision 2020 report.

“The expectation of customers is becoming different,” says Michael Biltz, managing director of Accenture Technology Vision. “For years, the C-level has been laser-focused on next product.”

But now customers are looking beyond product features to how products are sourced, what companies do to protect customer data, companies’ environmental policies, and companies’ stances on social issues, Biltz says, pointing to recent moves by Apple, Starbucks, and others to lower their carbon footprints.

In today’s consumers’ minds, just developing new technology or adding features to existing technology isn’t enough, he says. “Customers want to do business with companies that share their values.”

Continuing with existing models doesn’t just risk irritating customers or disengaging employees; it could permanently limit the potential for future innovation and growth, the report finds.

“Dazzled by the promise of technology, many organizations created digital products and services just because they could, without fully considering the human, organizational, and societal consequences,” Biltz says. “Today we’re seeing a tech-clash caused by the tension between consumer expectations, the potential of technology, and business ambitions, and we are now at an important leadership inflection point. We must shift our mind-set from ‘just because’ to ‘trust because,’ reexamining our fundamental business and technology models and creating a new basis for competition and growth.”

Companies looking to sell in this business climate, Accenture asserts, would do well to adhere to the following five recommendations:

• Put the I in Experience. Organizations will need to design personalized experiences that amplify customer choices. This will transform one-way experiences, which can leave consumers feeling out of control and out of the loop, into true collaborations. Five in six business and IT executives (85 percent) said competing successfully today requires them to think of customers more as partners.

• AI and Me. Artificial intelligence (AI) should be an additive contributor to how people work rather than a backstop for automation. As capabilities grow, companies must rethink what they do to make AI a generative part of the process, with trust and transparency at its core. Currently, only a little more than one third (37 percent) of organizations use inclusive design or human-centric design principles to support human-machine collaboration. And while the best use of AI today is for highly repeatable tasks, within the next five years, technology will evolve to a point where it can handle more complex tasks, freeing agents to handle the really interesting (and complicated) tasks, according to Biltz.

• Robots in the Wild. Similar to advancements in AI, robotics are no longer constrained to the warehouse or factory floor. With robots doing many of the low-level jobs that people with little education could handle, companies need to retrain their workforces for higher-level tasks, according to Biltz.

• The Dilemma of Smart Things. Assumptions about who owns a product are being challenged in a world entering a state of “forever beta.” As companies seek to introduce a new generation of products driven by digital experiences, addressing this new reality with customers and employees will be critical to success. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of executives report that their organization’s connected products and services will have more, or significantly more, updates over the next three years. So businesses and their customers will need to shift to the “as-a-service,” subscription-based model.

• Innovation DNA. Companies have access to an unprecedented amount of disruptive technology for administration, product development, and other needs. These technologies, including distributed ledgers, AI, extended reality, and quantum computing, all continue to evolve quickly. To manage it all, companies will need to establish their own unique innovation DNA. Three-quarters (76 percent) of executives believe that the stakes for innovation have never been higher, so getting it right will require new ways of innovating with ecosystem partners and third-party organizations.

Disrupters are already taking steps to address the gap between people’s expectations and today’s standards. Other companies will need to close this gap as well if they don’t want to fall behind in the next five years, Biltz concludes.

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