Your world has changed
Not just the world, your world. Because the face of competition has changed. Your business is competing right now with other businesses that are using a host of technology that at best you are not using, but at worst you may not even know about.
Some of the business trends that will allow businesses to achieve lower costs of production, customer service and customer acquisition follow. No business leader who wants to be operating in ten years time can ignore these technology trends.
Artificial Intelligence or AI to respond automatically to customer questions. We are already seeing this as auto-response options in Gmail. The ‘bots’ don’t replace the service staff, but they will augment and displace a lot of the more basic work. Freeing up time for your business to take on more customers with the same number of staff.
3D printing allowing design and production houses to more rapidly create prototypes and concepts for clients and solutions to move forward faster and at lower cost. Already very available, but only early adopters are playing with them.
Customer Centric Design is now key, as is focusing on the right customer. With competition coming at us globally, some of us will need to be the best in the world at something. This requires you to provide a customer experience that can rival any in the world. A tall order, but these global spoils go to the victor.
Remote Workforces are allowing small operations with smart leaders to direct unimaginably large teams of people around the world. Especially small businesses can tap into best-practice thinking at any time and built out support teams very quickly (or reduce them) as projects are won or loss. This helps to manage cash flow shocks, but also to take on bigger jobs than ever.
Augmented Reality and for some Virtual Reality allows customers who are remote to better understand and ‘buy into’ what you are offering. While costly to produce at the moment, the costs are coming down and these products and services have good shelf life.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow businesses to ‘plug in’ to one another and share data in a 2-way setting to provide up and down stream customer services between delivery partners. For example, Xero (accounting) allows you to plug into Zendesk (customer support) so your support team can see if a customer is behind on their account while addressing their issue. Or that the caller is your most valuable account and needs to be looked after very, very well.
Internet of Things (IOT) is the ability to provide automated sensors that track environments, things and even people. Creating more data for management to make decisions about service levels that win and keep customers. For example a wine shipping company that tracks the temperature of their wine in transit to assure customers it has not been baked and spoiled.
Big Data Analytics allows us to interpret all this data being created and allows management and service staff to quickly see actionable insights to identify high and low value customers, activities and find opportunities to improve the business’ performance. As they say, you can only manage what you measure.
If any of these terms were new to you then take 15 minutes now to research them and consider how your competitors might be using these tools to steal your customers, and of course how you might look to do the same in reverse!
Words by Mark Jones, Managing Director
Originally published in the Townsville Bulletin