Back in 500 B.C., Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that change is the only constant in life. Since February 2020, the world has experienced a tremendous change, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. And by the way, expect even more change as we figure out how to adapt to the current challenges thrown our way.
Two of those challenges, “The Great Resignation” and supply chain disruption, continue to make headlines every day. Very few companies have not been impacted by the labor shortage or supply chain issues. On top of that, we have inflation at its highest level in years. What happened? How did all this change happen so quickly? More importantly, what can we do about it?
The pandemic has disrupted and transformed many businesses. Companies were forced to shift many of their employees to a work-from-home (WFH) model. Staying connected with remote workers proved challenging, and some companies adapted better than others. Those that failed saw employees losing the relationship they had with their employers.
Daily in-person meetings were moved to video calls. No more lunches with colleagues. And one-on-one meetings with the boss were pushed off because of management’s “more pressing issues.”
Supply chain issues created a separate set of problems. For example, the lack of enough workers to unload freight off ships meant shortages and delays. A decrease in long-haul trucker capacity amplified those delays. Fuel costs increased, and inflation set in, with higher prices to top it off. And all of this impacts the customer experience.
With that in mind, I had a conversation about these challenges with some of the leadership at Avaya, a cloud communications company that works with some of the world’s largest companies and brands, helping them build experiences for both employees and customers. Working with large, complex businesses in industries like transportation, healthcare, and financial services, Avaya has seen the difficulty many companies have had in implementing the sweeping changes required to address the day’s challenges.
Avaya’s CEO, Jim Chirico, shared six insights—or lessons—to help companies solve these problems. After thinking about these, it became apparent that any type of business, big or small, B2B or B2C, can learn something from the conversation. As I usually do with this type of article, I’ll share Chirico’s lessons, followed by my commentary.
1. Experiences come first. It’s an experience economy.
Today’s customers want it now, they want the experience to be personalized, and they want the best customer service possible. And despite today’s challenges, their expectations are even higher as they embrace the brands that have risen to the top.
Customers no longer make their buying choices solely based on a product or service; instead, they weigh their decisions based on the complete experience, including the actual product, service, and overall ecosystem.
2. Employees really need the power to communicate and engage.
Talent shortages can lead to bad customer experiences. Automation and A.I. bots alone can’t solve this. The key to overcoming the talent shortage is managing the employee experience. Just as you want customers to come back again and again, you want your employees to come back to work day after day.
Just as you want to create a connection with customers that drives loyalty, you want the same type of connection that drives employee loyalty. You don’t want employees working for a paycheck. You want them working for the company.
To do that, they must be adequately compensated and treated well, which means appreciation and recognition for their efforts. In addition, employees need the right tools. In the WFH world, that means providing them with the same or better level of productivity and support remotely that they would experience within the company’s four walls.
3. Customers will engage and remain loyal for the long term with companies that create memorable experiences for them.
For over a decade, experts have predicted that customer experience would be more important than the products or services a company offers, and it’s becoming increasingly true.
Today, customers make decisions based on the product or service, the interaction with employees, and the brand’s reputation, and the decision-making criteria are different for each consumer. In other words, you must personalize the experience to make it memorable.
What do you do that makes you stand out? Is it friendly service, fast response times—especially if there’s a problem— or a level of convenience the competition can’t deliver? Find the main reasons customers choose you over a competitor and exploit those strengths to create experiences that drive repeat business and customer loyalty.
4. Agility and flexibility must be part of your DNA.
This allows businesses to embrace disruption, adopt new technologies faster and thrive while others struggle. Just look at the last 20 months, and you can see how disruption forced all of us to make changes. Every CMO and CEO threw out their past playbooks and switched to real-time execution.
We were all tested. Some passed, others struggled, and some even failed. Being agile, flexible, willing to experiment, and most importantly, willing to change what used to work to what might work is what kept and will keep great companies moving forward.
5. It takes a village. Progress requires partners. No company does it all.
You can no longer think of your vendors as simply vendors. You must find partners. Avaya understands this and notes that its customer base is amazingly loyal, collaborative and puts significant trust in the company to underpin its mission-critical operations with its technology solutions.
You want to align yourself with vendors who view the relationship as a partnership as a business. These partners can help you save money, make you money and provide solutions that create better employee and customer experiences.
6. The ability to customize is king—no two companies need the exact same thing.
In the same way, consumers need personalized experiences, companies need the same level of differentiation when it comes to their technology environment. There is no one size fits all. The vendor/partner that does this well can “own” its customers.
Providing something highly customized makes it unlikely your competitors can come in and simply duplicate the product or service. And if you create the right customer experience to go along with it, you are almost bullet-proofing your company from customers wanting to do business elsewhere.
Chirico’s insights and lessons come from the experience that Avaya provides its customers. To that point, the company has positioned itself as the “Builders of Experience.” It’s an insightful tagline. For any company to survive today, it must create an experience that keeps employees coming back to work and customers coming back for more.
This article was reprinted with permission from Shep Hyken’s Forbes page.