In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at the two most important components of successful companies. Creating and delivering a stellar experience to each and every customer, prospective customer, vendor, employee or stakeholder of your company is the first and most important strategy for every company out there today. In an Internet age, if you deliver anything other than a stellar experience, your customers will find another vendor in six seconds or less. And then they will tell the world about their bad experience with your company in a forum and format that has no expiration date! That bad review will be there for everyone to see for decades to come.
The second and equally important component of business success in this new millennium is the creation of an experience that is flexible—an experience that can change as the world changes—an experience that will be able to survive something as random and catastrophic as a global pandemic.
In Part 2, we will look at two more mission-critical components of successful companies. The third area that executives need to focus their attention on is what I call “True Integration.”
- True Integration: We live in a world that demands information. We live for data. We are compelled to research. We read the reviews. We are so dependent on technology today that many essential skills have been lost. Ask someone under the age of 30 to get you from point A to point B with a map. Why would anyone need to use a map anymore? They just take out their cell phone and Google Map it. The same is true for your company. It is not enough to stock a product in a warehouse. Now you have to have an e-commerce site, with pictures and accurate information of quantity on hand and/or expected delivery dates. But you also need to be able to link to reviews and videos. You need to list alternates or other items they might want to order. You have to be able to give them shipping times—and those times have to be short! Maybe (probably) free shipping! Alexa has to tell the customer when the product arrives … again, the list goes on. The same is true of virtually every department and every industry. People need information. They need data. The must be able to download content.
The term integration has been around for a long time and is generally understood by many of those in the technology industry. Unfortunately, for most, integration is a one-way street. Integrating your systems, processes, data, resources and other assets is much more than the “collecting” of data. True integration is the dissemination of data to the appropriate resource, whether that resource is an employee, prospect, customer, vendor, partner, or anyone else having an interest in your organization and its products or services. Integration is one of the most fundamental components to delivering a stellar experience. It brings with it another overused term; “empowerment.” Even though it is overused, it is nonetheless a mission-critical component of any company hoping to thrive in the 21st century. Data does not empower—knowledge does! Collecting data and having it sit unused is not going to help anyone. Making knowledge available to those that require it allows them to make informed decisions at the appropriate time, with the appropriate tool, as long as that information is accurate! Which brings us to number four on the (total) list.
- Appropriate and Well-Documented Processes: To thrive in this new business paradigm, businesses need to be able to “push decision-making to the level closest to the customer.” And when you think about it, the level closest to the customer is … the customer! But pushing knowledge to the people who need it most requires that the knowledge be appropriate and accurate. It means you have to have a process in place to ensure the information within the sales department is the same as the information on your portal. And the information on the portal must be the same as that being tracked by your finance, accounting, warehouse, shop floor, etc. In company after company, we find there are generally three different answers to any one question. This is simply unacceptable in today’s business climate. Another area where we generally find a disconnect with businesses is their continued attempt to have their old and outdated processes mimicked by their new business solution. That would be like asking your Ford 150 to act like your Ford Fiesta. This is a total waste of the capabilities you just spent a lot of money to obtain. The same is true of complex business solutions. The solutions created today do more and, as a result, they require that you and your people act differently.
The phrase “that’s how it has always been done” should be outlawed. It is probably one of the most destructive business cultures in existence today. It is an extension of the concept of “fear of change.” But as we saw in Part 1, if you don’t change and evolve, you don’t survive! Change is inevitable. The problem with change, especially rapid change, is that institutional knowledge tends to undermine the changes being put into place. And the worst part of institutional knowledge is that, for the most part, it is not documented. It represents the experience that someone has after years of “doing it this way.”
One of the reasons many companies have failed, even after 100 years in business, is exactly because they are 100-years old! Their culture, their experience, their reputation, their look-and-feel, their business model … have all survived for decades and generations. Without a formal, written and mandated set of new policies and procedures, the “old way” is just too strong to be overcome. Written policies and procedures are also required in order to drive consistency in your experience. Again, the experience is the number 1 most important component to success. You can’t have 15 people doing the same thing 15 different ways. Customers want and demand a consistent experience. Nothing drives a customer away faster than an inconsistent experience—or an unexpected (negative) outcome. In his book The E-Myth, Michael Gerber states, “In a world filled with chaos, people crave order.” An orderly business says to your customer that your business and your people know what they are doing. The consistent experience leads to loyalty from your customers and your vendors. A business built on process is scalable—well beyond the systems and people delivering your experience.
You can have the best technology, the smartest people, the best product … and you will still fail if no one knows how to get product to customers in a consistent, effective, efficient, and profitable way. Remember … the systems run the business, the people run the systems!
When you can implement strong systems and processes, and integrate those systems with all the technology and resources available to you today, you can deliver a stellar experience that will ensure a profitable and lengthy journey for you and your company.