Consumers are becoming more technology savvy everyday. In many cases, disruptive innovation is providing tools more advanced than the most sophisticated commercial enterprises had just five years ago.
Today, “smart customers” can see, learn about, and/or purchase almost anything, anytime, from anywhere. They research, connect, and purchase online with laptops, tablets, and smartphones without a second thought. Disruptive innovation has provided consumers with the power to behave in a far smarter and better-informed manner than ever before.
With this power comes exponentially higher customer expectations on experience and personalization, and a much lower tolerance for mistakes or interactions that require thoughtless repetition. The world has changed dramatically over the last few years, but many companies have not. Firms entrenched in the same old ways of doing business just succeed in looking stupid. The sustainable business model today is acting as smart as the customers your company serves.
An article at FastCompany.com by Bruce Kasanoff and Michael Hinshaw, co-authors of the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Thrive, And How To Be One Of Them, got me thinking about smart customers and dumb companies. The article outlines 7 ways established firms can reinvent themselves and disrupt their own industries to stay alive. Some of the ideas are slightly far fetched, others could be implemented rather quickly.
- Totally eliminate your industry’s persistent customer pain points
What are the practices in your company that drive customers crazy. How do all companies in your industry behave stupidly? Identify these practices and wipe them out.
- Dramatically reduce complexity
The more complex the practices and processes in your industry, the greater the opportunity to gain competitive advantage by simplifying them. Sure, doing so will be very hard. But the first firm to do so gains tremendous advantages.
- Cut prices 90 percent (or more)
Incremental change doesn’t disrupt an industry; radical change does. Radical price reductions require radical new processes and business models. Smartphones and tablets create numerous opportunities to identify these.
- Make stupid objects smart
Take every product you sell, and make it smart…or accept the fact that you must forever more compete on price and accept low margins.
- Teach your company to talk
Imagine a digital, computerized persona that speaks on behalf of your company. It takes orders, upsells, answers questions and provides support. All of this, and more, in response to verbal requests by customers. Sound crazy? Now imagine your competitors’ companies talk, but yours doesn’t.
- Be utterly transparent
What if your company didn’t simply try to stop hiding, but instead radically embraced the truth? How might it impact your culture to decide that your firm would be the most powerful force in your industry making certain that every speck of the truth was obvious to every customer, analyst, and reviewer? Think: not just no secrets, but also no spin.
- Make loyalty dramatically easier than disloyalty
Consider every major purchase decision your customers face. How can you make it easier for customers to remain with your company? Now, think even bigger. Can it be five or ten times easier? Subtlety can be lost on today’s customers. The challenge is to make loyalty so much more convenient, so radically easy, that customers won’t even consider switching to a competitor. Ever.
Walter Jessen is a digital strategist, writer, web developer and data scientist. You can typically find him behind the screen something with an internet connection.