Of all the business lessons we have learned in the last 10 years, one lesson stands out: “listen to your customer”. As the tales of business disruption show that no industry is safe, large companies that used to be able to rely on their sheer size for market dominance are peering at the horizon figuring out where the danger will come from next. It’s manufacturers offering their products for lease instead of a traditional all-out purchase, it’s financial institutions trying to rid themselves of the shackles of brick-and-mortar and going the way of app-based services. It’s the pressure high street retailers are facing the online shopping platforms. Every company has taken the lessons of the taxi-industry and VHS/DVD-rentals to heart and is, in some form, challenging the way they conduct business. All in an effort to stay relevant.
Where’s the Drag
And if it’s not in the form of an innovative ‘greenfield’ project, businesses will take a magnifying glass to every aspect of their operation and ask themselves: “how does this add value to our customer?” And this goes beyond the traditional cost-cutting and looking for efficiencies traditional business practices of the late 90s, where this type of fundamental business reviews were purely driven by creating shareholder value. No, this effort in finding every last bit of ‘drag’ is focused on survival.
Power to the People
The thinking is that every process in the business that does not lead to direct value and/or is not simplifying things for the end-user is a weakness. Agility, in business terms, no longer only signifies the ability to industry changes, it now also extends to the ability to listen and react to customers. And those customers are asking: “why do I have to accept that?” And if a business is unable to listen and respond, customers now have enough purchasing power, amplified by consumer activism, to bring companies to their knees.
Don’t Just Copy
This is why it not only makes sense to shed and outsource business processes that don’t contribute to the bottom-line, it also provides the perfect opportunity to transform the business completely. For example, if consumers are changing the way they consume media, research and act upon their needs, a business shouldn’t just take those inputs and try to make them fit with their existing infrastructure, they should try to make a more fundamental change. Take the change ride-hailing apps have made to the taxi industry. We are witnessing a wave of traditional taxi companies trying to plug the gap by creating apps themselves. The problem is that this doesn’t fundamentally change the way they operate and therefore are still behind the curve.
A different example could be looking at the workforce businesses employ. As parts of the gig-economy siphon through the whole economy and employees demand more flexibility to make work fit around life (and not the other way around), companies could benefit from providing that infrastructure. For example, shift planning software in the UK can provide easy solutions that benefit both business and employees. After all, everything that helps a company focus on the consumer (and reducing admin is one of those things) is not only beneficial, it’s critical to surviving.