The Customer Is in Control
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It's all about creating value for customers in the most efficient way possible. When businesses get this right, innovation and disruption become very real.
Throughout history, businesses have had to devise products and solutions that meet customer needs. However, within most industries and in most situations, customers have had little choice about how and where interactions took place. Simply put: Interactions and transactions have taken place in stores and, over the last two decades, on e-commerce sites.
But digital technology is radically changing the equation. The number of channels for marketing, sales, support and more is growing. Over the past few years, B2B and B2C relationships have increasingly migrated to a mobile-first environment that spans chat, email, social media and apps.
If your organization lacks a presence in the mobile space, it's probably at a serious disadvantage. Increasingly, things take place on customers' terms—not companies'.
In a recent MarketWatch interview, Pieter Elbers, CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, stated that the company no longer expects customers to flock to its site. Instead, "We need to go to where our customers are," he said. "It's about offering our services in the platforms and environments where they want to be."
But mobile-first may not even be good enough. Ultimately, the company is moving toward mobile-only.
What exactly does this mean? Obviously, it means different things to different companies in different industries. However, the common denominator is a need to route data, information and knowledge to the exact point where it's needed as it's needed. This real-time enterprise requires tablets, smartphones, conventional computers, IoT devices, machine automation, big data and more.
Ultimately, it's about extending the network and connection points deeper and more broadly. It's about using data to take preemptive action rather than waiting until a problem or breakdown occurs. It's also about knowing customer preferences and putting this information into action through personalization and context—and at the right time.
Right now, despite all the hype and hoopla, very few companies are on track, and even the most advanced organizations have only begun to scratch the surface. CIOs and other leaders must focus on this emerging framework and use technology to blaze a route to this new future.
In the end, it's all about creating greater value for the customer, but doing so in the most efficient way possible for the business. When companies and CIOs get this right, innovation and disruption become more than concepts. They become very real.
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).