When the pandemic started, many companies struggled, from procurement, retails to high technology among several sectors. Almost overnight their employees and customer interactions were made obsolete, and everyone scrambled to adapt — both tech and non-tech sectors.
In the months since then, we have seen some companies change very quickly and effectively, while others are taking more time to develop new, streamlined experiences for their workflows and customer interactions. In supermarkets and grocery stores especially, we see a wide discrepancy between businesses, some of which have designed experiences that are safe, simplified, efficient, and even convenient to consumers in some unexpected ways. Others appear more reluctant or slow to respond to the urgent needs of their employees and customers.
What is it that enables some businesses to respond more effectively than others? They are more prepared, with leadership and employees accustomed to continuous change.
Like humans after a certain age, at some point organizations need to work to maintain fast-paced adaptiveness. That is not always easy, especially in our hyper-fast, always-evolving society. The key is to build a human-centered culture that focuses on relationships with customers and employees. In return, those relationships increase in effectiveness and value, and they grow.
Here are a few principles that help innovative companies train continuously, so when the world turns upside down, they still land on their feet.
6 Principles of Organizational Adaptiveness and Resilience
Humans often enjoy choosing from a wide variety of options; however, this preference can depend on many factors: everything from their mental, physical and emotional state, to their location, timing, and whether they are committed to the purchase.
Imagine it’s the end of the day. You have to buy some products in the supermarket on your way home. With a household of kids waiting for you, are you going to enjoy having a choice of 20 different products, all of which do pretty much the same thing?
Having a lot of variety can be marvellous, until it becomes overwhelming. In 2016 researchers at Stanford University discovered more about how our decision-making works with additional dependences and triggers. More options are good once we have committed to the purchase. However, if we are looking for a product before we have decided to buy, then more options can actually make the process more difficult.
Thus, the value of options changes drastically when we are unsure what to do next. When we are not fully committed to our next action, we value fewer options, not more.
Minimalism can be achieved by following a strict process of simplification. Following the supermarket example, stores could avoid unwieldy portfolios by eliminating low-margin SKUs (Stock-Keeping Units) with no clear strategic role, for example. If you design a technology product or service, start by developing the app first. If it’s a website, start with the mobile experience view. This forces you to develop in a simple and simplified way. This approach is emphasized for enterprise technology sectors that tend to create unnecessary complexities.
Variety can be good — when measured and well calculated to generate the expected results and returns. However, eliminating unneeded or less useful features or options can help your real assets (customers, employees and partners) achieve their goals faster. Think about it this way. By adding choices you add difficulty. When you minimize by responding to human needs and the purpose of the solution, you generate adoption and add value.
I often advise organizations to enable smart complexity. This allows for complexities to remain when necessary or if serving a key reason. The perception of complexities, oftentimes, are different for each one of us humans. We all perceive things in a very different way.
Many companies are simplifying their businesses to increase efficiency and effectiveness and to decrease unnecessary costs, but there is also a limit.
Some complexities serve as leverage and empower human decision-making by avoiding unfortunate, preventable outcomes.
The only action you need to take with these forms of complexity is to clarify their motivation to all stakeholders. Customers, employees, stakeholders and partners who understand the purpose of complexities feel more protected, empowered and engaged.
Communication is crucial always. If humans cannot understand the logic behind an annoying rule, procedure or process, they tend to feel almost the exact opposite feelings: antagonism, frustration and dissatisfaction.
That is a big difference in terms of customer and employee experience!
In 99% of cases a simplified model will be a give and take between simplicity, complexity and convenience across the interactions, transactions, and services. Simplification, simplicity and convenience are the result of great work done, oftentimes in the back office, often unseen and thus under-appreciated but very deeply felt and impactful.
Reflect for a moment on the process to receive FDA approval for a COVID-19 vaccine? How many tests need to be conducted and approved during the three phases of trials? Clear procedures, thoughtful processes and clear metrics to define success and failure are more than acceptable; they are desirable, if not necessary to keep us alive.
Unfortunately, paying the cost of a new enterprise technology does not necessarily lead to adoption. It doesn’t matter if the solution is cloud-based, on-premise or multidisciplinary: it takes time for users to learn. Even when everyone uses a tool, the degree of its utilization varies. Some product capabilities that would be useful remain unused, thereby preventing the ideal ‘’adoption’’ outcome. This is money left on the table and is by itself an undesirable incurred cost. Both the seller and the buyer lose value, so both their interests should be aligned in addressing adoption. Business today runs on adoption Business today runs on adoption and indirect procurement spends (software subscription, marketing services, HR, etc) take a big portion of its budget.
Firstly, the supplier should be trying to understand why you are not adopting their modules or solutions. They should be taking active steps to improve, enhance, train and ensure optimal adoption. Their customer success team should be extracting usage reports to gauge outcomes for their customers. If you have requests, they should be listening. Even more importantly, they should be solving adoption issues with simplified, intuitive design and a great experience.
They should be leveraging your data to enhance adoption because adoption means renewals, loyalty, satisfaction, recommendations and Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) growth. For you, the purchaser, this means your real ROI is adoption. The worst-case scenario occurs when technology is acquired and then not used due to poor understanding of the details. Yet we see this happening today. Think about the incurred costs that this will cause. No adoptions means higher cost for your acquisition. For the seller it means you will generate fewer opportunities.
The business itself also needs to take an active role in optimizing adoption. Make requests. Take advantage of trainings, on boarding and continuous training programs. Extract and analyze data on what modules are being utilized, so that you can make wise requests and decisions. The relationship between the seller and customers should be 100% collaborative. It is not a transaction, even though it may sound like one. The most valuable “transactions” behave more like long-term partnerships; they value adoption with mutual interest.
It should now be clear that we are entering new territory with regard to simple interactions, not only between you and your customers but also other stakeholders. These could represent large shifts in thinking and culture for employees. Thus, executing change on a large scale also requires an adaptive culture: Are your people curious, flexible, and collaborative? Do they take and lead initiatives? These characteristics help to generate adoption and to ensure, from the supplier’s standpoint, that people will do everything to help their customers or partners.
Remember: your customer, partner, and employee experience are directly related to your people’s ability to digest, adapt and adopt
When humans are good at responding, and they focus on humans, they become good at creating products and services that their humans love. Human adoption is the same core capability whether your business is adjusting to new solutions, realities or requirements and leads naturally to the creation of adoptive products and services.
This always starts by developing the right culture and leadership team. This team will spread, train, and evangelize your customer-centric approach. They will spur execution of the strategy while developing tools and ongoing training programs. Onboarding programs are not enough. On-going training will work — when they are aligned with the right people and the right questions. But leadership is not enough. Adaptiveness also depends on the talent of your organization.
Digital solutions require talent to get things done and to develop the right kind of experience that instigates adoption. The more prepared and highly skilled your talent is, easier it will be for them to adopt technology and generate adoption in the solutions they create for your customers and partners.
Digital transformation (in fact any kind of transformation) is not a matter of a project or a limited time period. It is a continuous force that continues even if life were to suddenly stay the same. After we overcome the pandemic, there will be something else — with a different buzzword but also requiring us to transform.
Changes occur in organizations continuously. Solutions change continuously. The next version of your services and products will have different features and capabilities. Your employees will need to adapt to these, as well as technology acquired by your organization. Thus, continuous trainings will be necessary, as will people with adaptive personalities, high curiosity about customer afflictions and the ability to solve them efficiently. Whether B2B or B2C, all companies are required to change.
To deliver customer centric solutions; you need to do more than put the words in your mission or customer statement. It means your people will live for the success of your customers. Look for that same relationship you have with suppliers, but using their perspectives to ensure you understand your customer.
Now it is your turn to communicate, train, and listen to all stakeholders on this customer journey. Take honest feedback and frustrations. These are priceless gifts to your talent and business. They can be used to work toward delivering on the brand promise, to enhance the power of your company, to prove you stand true to your words.
We are not yet in the era of perfect products and services, but we still aim high. Quality, customer value, delivery, engagement and standing by your promise: This is what matters — in any relationship!
The bad news is: there is always work to do. But the good news runs much deeper. Continuous learning attracts more talent and reduces frustration with technology. It creates happier, more satisfied, engaged and retained employees. The same employees, who in turn serve customers better, bring in new ideas and help your customers, partners and the entire organization to grow.
This article was originally published on his blog.
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