The term ‘innovative’ puts Permission MD Rick Merten to sleep, and in this opinion piece, argues why it’s in danger of becoming another rubbish buzzword.
“Innovation. We need to innovate. We are innovating. It’s all about innovation…” Yawn.
The word “innovate” is so ubiquitous and omnipresent in marketing and all those who reside in it that it’s in danger of becoming redundant. Another buzzword to throw on the heap of trendy.
Too may businesses are focused on innovation for innovation’s sake – but the real innovators are actually the ones with no tangible product at all but possess a strong sense of customer-centricity. You may not be able to touch it, feel it, see it – but customers know it’s there, at every step of their journey from beginning to end. An invisible comforter.
The term ‘customer-centricity’ was coined when organisations began adopting customer relationship management. CRM software vendors started banding it about and many companies who are actually the polar opposite of the term adopted it, shouting about how customer-centric they were.
But today the whole user experience has turned on its head, meaning organisations – and not just flailing ones – really do need to get their A into G.
Customer-centricity is about giving back control and delivering value beyond cost savings; the customer knows what they want, why they want it, when, how to get it, for how long for and what the cost is.
And the big draw cards are simplification and transparency. Remove all suspicion and confusion. Make it a speedy and easy process. Who has time to read the fine print anyway?
And that goes for everything – the product, its app, website, marketing campaign, direct interactions with the business and, God forbid, the experience if they have to phone a call-centre. And of course, feedback. Freely available reviews that can be found and shared on social media – and that goes for all reports, not just the glowing but also the good, the bad and fugly. Warts an’ all.
Prime examples of current consumer-centric pin-ups include Uber, who has no fleet of cars, and Airbnb – who, despite offering worldwide shelter, has no properties.
They have a different type of brand loyalty, built from obsessive attention to all brand touch points and those business models were based on deep insight through data, harnessing the democracy of social media.
Modern business has traditionally told us it’s all about the product but, in reality, the economics of new technology have entirely refocused the way in which we do it. Market economics define success and brand loyalty is dying – and the true fallout of this product-focused approach is that customers are voting with their feet.
Many industries have realised this all too late, like the music industry and once-feted record labels where, in most cases, the old school show ponies at the top are relying on insight and the digital know how of today’s whizz kids – and in some cases the actual talent signed to these labels – to not only keep their head above water but survive.
But you can only do the ducky principal – where everything looks smooth on the surface, with not one ruffled feather in sight while underneath all hell is breaking loose – for so long.
Companies of the future need to be agile, deft and adapt quickly, and with the speed that technology is developing and the markets are constantly changing with oil prices, exchange rates and failing economies, it’s never been as imperative as now.
The reality of surviving and thriving comes down to having an inbuilt obsession with winning, serving and retaining customers not only at the core of those companies but running through every thread. It’s the only possible response.
Behavioral science tells us that as humans we posses two sides to our brain – a rational, and emotional outlook – and more and more brands need to be aware of these distinctions. The emotion, or empathy, is really a human trait but it certainly transfers into business into making them become customer-centric.
In 2009 n 2009, Airbnb was about to go bust with revenue flat-lining at $200 a week. But now, powered by social media and customer-centricity more than nine million people have used it to find a bed and temporary housing.
And with Uber, despite the continuing scare tactics from governments and all of those who aren’t taking a financial cut from its bursting coffers, the overwhelming message is that customers would rather get in a car with a potential serial killer or rapist than pay through the nose of a licensed one.
The future of commerce will be defined by those who embrace the customer democracy, against those who don’t, but transforming businesses to understand this can be tough.
It needs to both come from the heavens and roots of a business to adopt and grow a customer-centric culture – and those who ignore the foolishness of living in the past will face the disruptive wrath of those making the sometimes uncomfortable, but productive decisions to invest in customer-driven change.