• May 1, 2015
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Adapt or Perish When Digital Disruption Strikes

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The Internet's influence on customers and businesses is undeniable. With the click of a button, customers can find and share information and easily buy products and services from the comfort of their own homes. It enables organizations to quickly reach and sell to a broad and international audience. But despite these and other benefits, the Internet can also disrupt large and long-standing businesses that are unable to adapt to the evolving digital environment.

Many industries and businesses unprepared for the digital disruption have significantly downsized or disappeared altogether. Video rental shops, music stores, bookstores, and magazine and newspaper publishers are some examples. Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, calls this "digital Darwinism," suggesting that companies must adapt to their changing environments to survive. Actually, it's the topic of his new book, Disrupting Digital Business. For more information, read Associate Editor Maria Minsker's Q&A with Wang, "Disrupting Digital Business Requires Right- and Left-Brain Thinking" (page 20).

Cable providers could soon become victims of digital Darwinism as well. Recently HBO and CBS opted to stream their video content over the Internet. If enough large television networks follow suit, networks could effectively unbundle high-priced cable television packages, enabling customers to pay for only the content they want to watch, whenever they want to watch it. It's a little early to tell when this industry will fully face its digital disruption, but cable providers should start experimenting with options that can help them adapt before it's too late.

If there were ever an industry that is due for disruption, it's the health insurance industry. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the Internet, this industry's disruption might well be underway. Here's an example that illustrates my point:

My wife, 21-month-old son, and I recently received letters in the mail from Anthem stating that its databases for Blue Cross/Blue Shield customers had been hacked and our personal information had been stolen. I recall staring at the letter feeling angry and vulnerable and thinking: How could you let this happen to my wife and little boy? I was livid. For its part, Anthem is offering identity protection services at no charge to those affected by the security breach. But the damage has been done, and my trust in the company has hit the floor.

Fortunately, I can now visit a health plan marketplace on the Web and look for another comparable health insurance plan. I'm not sure I’m ready to switch yet, but it's nice to have options—that's how disruption starts.


We’re gearing up for our 2015 CRM Evolution conference (August 17–19) at the New York Marriott Marquis. Shane Snow, best-selling author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, will kick things off with a keynote about ways to find smarter paths to big goals and breakthroughs. Jason Young, former senior manager at Southwest Airlines and author of Culturetopia: The Ultimate High-Performance Workplace, will deliver the second keynote about how Southwest was able to consistently rate number one in customer service and employee satisfaction. This year's event will also feature an impressive group of analysts, consultants, and CRM practitioners covering a wide range of industry topics.

The event will be colocated with our Customer Service Experience and SpeechTEK conferences. If you’re interested in attending these events as well, sign up for an All Access Pass, which gives you access to more than 120 presentations across all three events. For more information, visit www.CRMevolution.com.

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