How Your Company Can Keep Up With Customer Demands

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“You can have any color you want as long as it is black.” History attributes this famous quote to Henry Ford referring to the production of his famous Model T automobile. It’s not really clear whether he actually said this, but it serves as an interesting contrast to today’s customers. It’s clear the days of “build it and they will come” are long gone. Today the customer is in charge.

How Adaptable Is Your Company?

Like it or not, the world has transitioned from a make-and-sell model to a highly sophisticated sense and respond model. Customers expect companies to keep up with their shifting demands month by month, day by day, and minute by minute. With this in mind, companies that are skilled at quickly adapting to customer needs have a valuable competitive advantage.

We don’t need to look far to find an extreme example of adaptability. The recent pandemic forced organizations to adapt in ways like never before. Grocery stores suddenly offered pickup and delivery services. Contact centers quickly transformed to enable employees to work from home. The use of virtual meetings exploded.

While the influence of the pandemic is a glaring example, there are countless other less obvious instances that demonstrate how quickly customer needs and preferences shift and how important it is to be skilled at meeting those demands.

Are You Eager for Change?

Think about your organization. Is there resistance to change? If your organization is like most, change is not something you welcome with open arms. After all, we put a lot of time and energy into developing efficient processes. We don’t want to keep changing them. But we are not the ones that matter. Customers are in charge, and we need to be keenly attentive to their demands.

What if we shifted our mind-set to be ready for change—even eager for it? What a difference that could make! That’s the attitude of most adaptable companies. They anticipate change and are ready to adapt to the constantly changing needs and preferences of customers. What’s more, they recognize the impact of this outlook—better experiences, more loyal customers, greater customer retention, and more.

Building a Framework for Adaptability

With the right mind-set, organizations can set their sights on creating an effective framework to better understand their customers at all times. Leading organizations are becoming increasingly sophisticated at constantly monitoring behaviors and insights of customers so they can respond faster.

The framework starts with a complete knowledge of the customer journey so you can monitor and interpret behaviors and feelings of each customer or customer segment. It’s important to capture all types of feedback, both structured and unstructured. For the greatest impact, combine these customer insights with customer data that exists in your company—financial data, operational data, behavioral data—to provide a full picture of customers at the most granular level.

But having rich customer data isn’t enough. It must be put to use by making the right information available to the right people at the right time. By setting up closed-loop processes, organizations can effectively understand and respond to momentary experiences of individual customers. This also can help identify ineffective processes that affect all customers. This bigger-picture view allows organizations to learn from the momentary experiences, analyze root causes, and refine or correct process-level issues.

Yes, this can be a little overwhelming, particularly for complex organizations with multiple locations, delivery channels, or extensive product lines. The right technology can help make the concept of adaptability a reality, capturing important customer information across channels, directing insights to the right people, and enabling the organization to act quickly.

Where Should CX Leaders Begin?

Like many large undertakings, getting started is the most important step. However, aspiring to implement such initiatives across an organization is intimidating. Instead, begin by narrowing your sights on a particular function or department.

Look for sectors of the organization having an abundance of data that could be leveraged further. The contact center is a great place to start for many companies. Here there is a treasure trove of customer data that is not always leveraged effectively, even though contact centers have feedback from surveys, performance data, and phone and chat logs.

The contact center is just one example. Look at your organization and consider a data-rich area as a starting point for developing a solid framework for adaptability and a culture that is eager for change.

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading experience management services firm. He leads marketing and experience management programs and can be reached at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.


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