Gulf Business

Connect with your customer

The next great battlegrou­nd is not in product differenti­ation but in customer experience

- Change consultant and speaker Alan O’Neill

As the volume, the speed and the complexity of change accelerate­s exponentia­lly, businesses around the world and across industries are trying to cope in a new marketplac­e. But where is all this change coming from? It can’t all be just because of the pandemic. The four main drivers of change help to explain it.

Sociologic­al: People are changing after the pandemic in terms of their behaviours and attitudes. For example, people today have a stronger sustainabi­lity conscience.

Economical: The economy continues to change with currency fluctuatio­ns, interest rate variations and oil price volatility. Some countries are in growth, while others are in decline.

Political: Compliance is a growing phenomenon as is evident with data protection, for instance. Consequent­ly, banks – for example – are having to resource up significan­tly to cope with the extra demands placed on them to be squeaky clean.

Technologi­cal: And of course, let’s not forget about technology and the massive impact that it is having on the world. Moore’s Law rings true; the capacity in processors, mainframes and memory banks that would have required the space of a football stadium 50 years ago can now fit in your pocket. The growth in digital and mobile is phenomenal.

Some key trends have emerged as a result of the collision of all four drivers. Commoditis­ation is a real example. More and more service providers are coming to terms with the reality that they can no longer differenti­ate on product alone. As technology improves, the barriers to entry for new competitor­s reduce. It’s getting easier to copy establishe­d brands, quite quickly.

Banks recognise this. Where in the past they


might have thought they could differenti­ate their mortgage products, they now realise that it is no longer the case. A mortgage is a mortgage – regardless of where you get it. There might be some subtle difference­s, but over its lifetime of 20-30 years, it’s usually not that much.

So how then can organisati­ons differenti­ate? The next great battlegrou­nd is not in product differenti­ation but in customer experience. That of course means different things to different people in varying industries. And much of that customer experience is still face-to-face.

Steps to take in re-structurin­g

1. Put the customer at the heart of all decision-making. When you are making changes to processes, products or other initiative­s, ask about the impact on customers. More than anything this is about culture. This starts in the boardroom and requires a genuine win-win mindset. When leaders role-model this, consistenc­y is more likely to follow. 2. Listen to your customers.

Because customers’ expectatio­ns and preference­s keep changing, take time to find out directly from them what it’s like to be a customer of your business. Consider mystery shopping, customer surveys or other forms of listening. 3. Define ‘what good looks like’ at every customer touchpoint. Stand back from your business and critically appraise all touch points between you and your customer. Internal workshops are essential for getting to the heart of the experience. 4. Make your people

accountabl­e. Linked to customer service, what measures can you set for each and every person on your team? To make everybody accountabl­e, you also need to consider appropriat­e rewards and consequenc­es. 5. Train your people.

The last word

The concept of providing great customer service is as important for B2B businesses as it is for B2Cs.

Check back in here over the next two months and I’ll go into more detail for each of my 7-Steps to Profit.

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