The basic issue of winning and holding on to customers while also growing profits has consumed business professionals for generations. Solutions come and go, but the advanced technology explosion now demands that we approach problems in a quick and holistic way, writes Tom Puthiyamadam for Strategy+Business.
Workflow methods, like total quality management adopted in the post-war 20th century, gave way to software-led enterprise resource planning as technology developed. Then came the Six Sigma statistics and data-driven method for measuring and improving performance.
Over the past ten years, the shift away from manufacturing to a service-driven economy has made fast-paced change essential. Whether your customers are individuals or other businesses, technology has opened up much more choice – and people are ready and willing to explore it.
A CASE OF AGILITY
So, the pressure is on to solve people’s problems in the shortest time possible. That means reviewing the whole customer experience using devices like design theory and agile management, delivered by multifunctional teams. It means working closely with stakeholders, creating a continual and sustainable cycle of innovation with smaller, simpler and more frequent product or service launches.
Puthiyamadam, a principal with PwC US, says: “The companies that will ultimately prevail are ones that focus on the best solutions that can be deployed in the shortest amount of time. The solution may take different forms: a new tech product, an app, a customer experience, a service offering, or some combination of all of these.”
He gives the example of global lighting, electronics and healthcare giant Philips’s offshoot Signify, where the focus is now not so much about lightbulbs, and very much about a circular, waste-free economy and finding solutions for customers’ sustainability issues.
Evolving to meet the demand for problem solving saw delivery firms UPS and FedEx take a journey from simply shipping packages, through more complex and specialist services like customs clearing, to products that use solid data-enhanced technology to solve customer issues.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
PwC research shows that businesses are after the same thing as end-chain consumers – “speed, convenience, ease of use, and results” – and they will pay up to 16% more for it.
They all look for instant action, prioritising holistic solutions from the outset rather than piecemeal measures over a period of time.
“It is vital to translate intellectual capital and insights into products that can be deployed and show results almost immediately,” says Puthiyamadam, who runs PwC’s Experience Center, helping clients create next-generation experiences for their customers, employees and partners.
TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF
Solutions for other people’s problems can emerge when fixing your own issues. At PwC, for example, they introduced the Digital Fitness app in-house to help boost their own employees’ digital attitude and knowledge, in small bites, according to their individual need. When clients showed an interest, the app was put on sale.
Products as solutions may require a significant mindset shift for customers, but it’s an important development, especially when achieving quick results in one area can persuade people you are the best choice to help with other challenges.