It’s a New Year. Somehow, even if we don’t believe in New Year resolutions, we use the New Year as a moment to refocus and reset. For those organizations on a calendar fiscal year, it’s a restart—new goals, quotas, perhaps shifted priorities. Even for those organizations with a different fiscal year, subconsciously we tend to reflect and reset much of what we to.
As we ramp up into the New Year, what are some of the key things we should be thinking about? What are questions we might ask ourselves? Perhaps we should take a few moments before going into autopilot.
From a business strategy/execution point of view, we should be thinking about the transformations in our customers’ businesses. In the past year we’ve seen far accelerated digital business/digital buying transformations. Yet many of our engagement models are based on traditional engagement models; marketing creates visibility and awareness, drives initial demand, then sales takes over to manage the opportunity through closure. Finally, the customer is handed over to customer services/experience to manage the ongoing relationship–at least until the customer starts the cycle again.
Customers don’t look at things this way, they don’t operate that way. People searching for solutions are the people who have the problem, who want to make a change. People buying the solutions are the same people–and more, depending on the impact of the problem to the organization. People using the solutions are the same–and more, again based on the problem to be solved.
Customers don’t shift their problem solving from person to person, group to group through the process. They may bring others in, but there is huge continuity in involvement through the life cycle of the problem.
Perhaps we would be more effective and impactful, if we mapped our engagement process to mirror the customers’ processes. We might rethink the people involved, the hand-offs from function to function. We might try to create a more continuous engagement process.
At the same time, customers fail in the majority of their buying and problem solving journeys. It’s a huge loss for them and for us. Perhaps we should start to think about, “How do we reduce customer failure rate? What if we could reduce it by 5-10%? What would it mean to those that we helped? What would it mean to the relationship we have with them? What would it mean to both them and us from a business results point of view?
Of course to do this, we have to drill down and understand where, why, and how customers fail and what we could do to reduce those failures. But again, a small improvement could produce tremendous results.
We need to think of integrated engagement strategies over the life cycle of the customer’s engagement with us. Importantly, we have to recognize, the customer, increasingly, is biased to a digital experience. Are we creating valuable digital experiences for our customers? Are we understanding what parts of the experience need to be digital and when/how we might intercept those with human beings?
From our own organizational point of view, in addition to the strategy/engagement issues, we have to ask ourselves the question, “Are we creating workplaces where people want to work and feel valued?”
Over the past year, a new term has crept into our discussions–“The Great Resignation.” People are choosing, at scale, to move from organization to organization, even out of the traditional work force. None of this is really a surprise. For years, we have seen precipitously declining employee engagement data. In sales we have seen continued declines in tenure and increases in attrition (both voluntary and involuntary).
At the same time, leaders talk about the importance of “talent,” or publicize the importance of their people.
For years, in sales and marketing, we’ve seen the pendulum swing to increased mechanization of the processes, with people as widgets that can be replaced.
But we see increasing failures of this strategy! We are slowly recognizing that business is really all about people.
The fastest way to improve and sustain results, is to create work places where people feel valued. Workplaces that are diverse, inclusive. Where people are aligned with the purpose and values of the organization, and leaders value their involvement. As leaders, we have to start to ask, “How do we create workplaces that people want to be part of?”
Finally, as individuals, we are looking for meaning, we are looking to contribute–even if the goals may be self serving. As individuals, we need to challenge ourselves with the question, “Does what I do matter?” If the answer is negative, we need to reframe or change what we do so it matters.
What other things should we be thinking about? What questions should be be posing to our customers, our people, and ourselves?