Its that time of year when you are almost tricked by colleagues and clients alike to look in your crystal ball and make predictions of what the new year would hold. The real issue is that no one knows… Any consultant worth their salt should tell you that a 5-year strategy is ludicrous with how quickly the world and the consumers that pay our salaries are changing!
My take on some of the trends that I consider important to watch in 2014 and to have contingency plans for are …
#1 Even MORE power to the consumer
Consumers are getting more confortable and savvy with using social media as a weapon against brands that enrage them. The nuclear attacks normal consumers launch against brands will continue to get louder and more vicious in 2014. This will create an even bigger divide amongst the brands that are prepared for it and those who are not. When a 500 pound canary tweets, my advice is you listen, you be real, you come clean and you use it as an opportunity to make other consumers fall in love with you as a real, authentic brand. Which leads me to my next prediction.
#2 If you fake it, everyone will know!
In 2014 it will become more prominent, which brands continue to play the social game as a monologue and continue to pretend that they “talk” to their customers and “care” about their followers. If you as a brand are present in social media to misuse your networks for cold calling and direct marketing, I have news for you! Consumers will silence you, they will unlike you, but before they do that, they will first have their say! So be very careful how you approach social marketing. Make sure that your strategy includes taking your marketing team on a transformational journey that helps them grow the skills and strategic abilities to truly understand social and what it means to engage your audience. Never before has authenticity and transparency in your values, been more important that now.
#3 Instant response will become a competitive differentiator
Competing on price, quality and speed will continue, but my prediction is that the brands that are geared to fast response be on social, email, phone or face to face will be the brands that win. It is no longer good enough to have a 24-hour turn around time for quotes and responses to customer emails. The expectation is closing and I predict that brands that are able to respond the quickest will the attention battle. Brands with traditional Call Centre operations also need to realize that social demands almost instant response.
#4 Leadership demands for managing the social workforce will get tougher!
Creating a culture of trust and freedom and creativity was tough without the additional challenges of the mobile internet enabled, ever connected employee with pressure to poke, check-in, be seen, raise their opinion, support their buddies and the list continues… The employee of today can be more empowered than ever before to create, innovate, learn and contribute. This freedom and empowerment comes with a lot of responsibility and the ability to manage distractions. I look at my kids playing angry birds and I watch them when they look like they are running out of birds and they just give up and start the game before and I fear for the next generation, there are just to many bail out buttons, when life gets tough.
For us as transitional leaders, this poses the challenge of managing and leading a workforce and at the same time developing leadership abilities in the young ones, that will take them into the future and give them the ability to balance passion and freedom with productivity and profit.
For you as a business, managing this delicate eco system of consumers, products and services, brand ambassadors and quality has never been easy but in the era of technology, abundance of noise, power of word of mouth and mouse, you need to be able to adapt and react quickly and responsibly.
Good luck to your brand in 2014 and may you find the balance of power and passion that will make your consumers fall in love with your brand daily as they touch it!
[This article was published as part of a eBook of various Customer Experience practitioners providing their views on what 2014 will hold for Customer Experience! You can download the ebook from here.]