21 February 2013

Are you prepared for the business and customer priorities of 2013-14?

With the start of a new calendar year just behind us, it’s a good time to reflect on the challenges facing us in 2013, and how well prepared we all are.

With the huge economic changes of recent years - and the rapid emergence of technologies like social media - is 2013 going to be a turning point for business performance and customer service?

Or, will we be so distracted by the ‘shiny and new’ syndrome of technology, that we fail to deliver on the basics of running an efficient operation that meets the needs of our customers?

After all, you can put lipstick on the pig, but it’s still a pig.

I’ve started the year by studying two key analyst reports and launching a new survey to find out more about the headline issues they've highlighted.

What are organisations’ priorities for 2013?


The Customer Management IQ Executive Priorities 2013 report makes for really interesting reading.  The key highlight for me was the finding that broken business processes remain the number one pressing business issue. Yes, it’s lower than in the 2012 survey results, but the prevalence of (i) broken processes and (ii) frequent data input errors in the top slots again still indicates that many organisations are just not on top of the basics.

The fact that the following three issues of concern are missed sales opportunities, customer churn and low employee morale does not, therefore, come as a shocking revelation.  If processes are broken and people are making mistakes (undoubtedly leading to service failure) then how can we expect things to be going well?

What have we been doing through the last decade or two of quality improvement, process re-engineering, lean six sigma and customer centricity initiatives that mean we’re still dropping the ball?

These findings go to the heart of customer service and business operations.  Let’s face it, having the basics right is still essential for every other initiative that follows on behind it. Surely nobody consciously builds in inefficiency and waste any more, right?

In the Government sector, for example, shared services are still seen as a key to doing ‘more with less’ in an age of austerity.  Yet, the lessons of the last few years from the UK Government sounds a clear warning – that sharing services without addressing the basics of process re-design doesn’t (unsurprisingly) deliver the promised land set out in so many business cases. This is an issue I talked about in more detail back in March 2012.

Gartner Group’s 2013 CIO survey, reported in New Zealand’s CIO magazine, tells us that business priorities remain increasing growth (1), delivering operational results (2) and reducing costs (3).  Interestingly, innovation in products and services (6) comes above improving efficiency (7).

The thirst for knowledge about customers is revealed by ‘Analytics and Business Intelligence’ taking the number one slot as 2013’s big technology priority.  Meanwhile, Customer Management IQ reports nearly 64% of decision makers stating that increasing customer loyalty is their top priority.

We know from academic research (Brady & Cronin, 2001) that a customer-oriented business generates increased loyalty from its customers.  The same research identified the need for organisations to learn (so analytics is a good thing, if correctly applied!) as key to this success, so business may be on the right track here.

But before we get too enthusiastic, we also know that no amount of analytics technology will help if the business processes analysing data and generating business improvement are fundamentally broken.

That takes us back to square one.

Price Perrott survey assessing progress in key initiatives

Insightful as these reports are, what they haven’t yet focused on is the question of which initiatives are taking place 'on the ground' and how much progress is being made.

That’s why I’ve launched a new survey to look at this next level down.  We're assessing different priorities, progress and approaches being taken, based on responses from organisations.

The questions focus on business readiness in six ‘hot topic’ areas:
  • Business leadership
  • Business process improvement 
  • Change management
  • Customer experience
  • Technology implementation
  • People management

As with any survey, it’s only as good as the responses given, so that’s my appeal to you today. For a few minutes of your time, you’ll help provide valuable insight into what businesses are doing in 2013-14 and whether or not we’re likely to meet the challenges that the Customer Management IQ and Gartner studies say we’re facing.

I’ll be reporting back the findings in April, so watch this space and please do encourage colleagues and networking contacts to take the survey as well.

We can all have priorities for 2013-14 : the key question is what are we doing about them?

References:

Brady, M. & Cronin, J.J., 2001. Customer orientation: Effects on customer service perceptions and outcome behaviors. Journal of Service Research, 3(3), p.241.

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