Everyone seems to be talking about disruption lately – particularly digital. But disruption is such a bigger topic than just digital or technology. Most people seem to overlook customer led disruption – could that be their Achilles heal?
Evidence is proving that the successful businesses over the next decade will be the “customer-obsessed, technology assisted” ones, because it is empowered customers, not technology, that are disrupting every industry!
Yes technology will always play an important role in a business’s on-going success, and ignoring it will likely prove fatal for most businesses. However I believe there is something far more important and potentially more fatal to businesses than ignoring technology – and that is ignoring your customers and what they are telling you.
Agreed, technology allows us to deliver “things” to our customers much quicker, easier, wider, better and cheaper ……. but the key is the “thing”.
How do you know what the right thing is?
Make customers, not technology, the centre of your business, that way you know which thing to make, improve or invent – history is full of brilliant things that no one wanted or bought.
Innovation is no different
Technology also doesn’t drive innovation – customers’ needs and expectations do. Innovation is about coming up with ideas for new or improved things which meet the needs or expectations of your customers. Again technology assists by helping to identify and transform ideas into things that your customers want to buy – but it is still the customer that is the driver, technology the helper.
Technology has changed “how” we do business, but has business itself changed?
Sure technology has changed how we do business – faster, seamless, 24/7 etc but fundamentally, business is still about delivering a “thing” that your customers want to buy, in a way that is valuable to both parties, and better than your competitors. Apple is a classic – they start with ‘what do our customers want to buy and how do we deliver it” not ‘this is what we can make, how do we sell it to our customers”
The most successful businesses have been doing this for centuries, from Henry Ford to Apple, first finding out what their customers really wanted or needed, not what they thought or said they did, and then using technology to help deliver it – better and faster. They are customer centric first, technology based second.
Today technological advances are happening at an ever increasing rate, and every business has, is, or will be disrupted – no business or industry is exempt.
So Disruption – is it technology or customer driven?
While this could be a bit of a chicken & egg scenario, I personally believe it is customer driven. The businesses that will survive disruption are the customer obsessed ones. Those that put the customer, and the overall experience they deliver to their customers at the centre of everything they do, and then use technology to deliver and improve. As opposed to the business that puts technology at its centre to produce something that they hope their customers will buy.
Still haven’t won you over – then let’s look at the 2 most topical industry disruptors at present – Uber & Airbnb. These guys have turned their respective industries on their heads, totally disrupted them. While the idea and the technology behind them are brilliant, they both came about due to fundamentally the same reason – customers wanted a better, quicker and cheaper way to book rides and beds. They were dissatisfied with what the incumbents were offering.
Just like the little people in Who Moved My Cheese – the incumbents failed to recognise changes in their customers’ needs and wants and the technological advances that had made meeting those new needs and wants possible. They forgot to stay alert to how the business environment, aka the cheese, around them was changing, and by the time they did they became followers not leaders – just like technology follows customers’ needs and wants.
Technology is your enabler, loyal customers are your saviour
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