Last week, we welcomed Brian Solis, Altimeter principal analyst, thought leader and book author, to Yammer HQ to give a fireside chat, followed by signing of his new book: “What’s The Future of Business?” I was thrilled to interview Brian, and we covered a variety of really meaty subjects – just check out the video below!
The theme of the evening was transformation – transformation that is happening in our lives as individuals, how we relate to each other through technology and what we as businesses must do to stay relevant to the connected customer. Even the book itself is transformation of the book publishing convention. Unlike a regular, information-dense business book, “What’s the Future of Business” attempts to bring together the best of both worlds: hard-hitting facts and practical frameworks, as well as a visual experience. The experience of the book is just as important as the content therein.
What is the future of business?
The future of business is experience, according to Solis. We as connected consumers make decisions outside of the sales funnel that companies have organized themselves around. We reference experiences of consumers who came before us, and contribute our own experiences to this dynamic tapestry. When consumers share, they are reacting to an experience, and the future of any business depends on its ability to provide experiences that are worth sharing. In his talk, Brian talked about the 4 moments of truth that add up to shareable experiences. At every stage of the customer journey, it is our job as businesses to design an experience to trigger the sharing of a moment.
- The Zero Moment of Truth comes when the consumer is starting to explore choices and is just becoming aware of needs and possible solutions.
- 1st Moment of Truth happens when the consumer is ready to buy. Consumer packaged goods companies have perfected providing the right experience at this point.
- 2nd Moment of Truth happens after the consumer purchases, and includes support and other after-purchase experiences.
- Finally, the Ultimate Moment of Truth is what the consumer shares after purchasing, fueling other consumers’ journeys.
With the 4 moments of truth, the customer journey never ends. Brian recommends asking ourselves as businesses these critical questions: “What is the experience we want our customers to have? What do we want them customers to share, feel and do?” Brands miss the point when they get on social channels for the purpose of creating and sustaining a conversation; instead they should be focusing on providing an experience that’s worth sharing, and making it easy to share and amplify, Brian shared.
Shifting to outside in thinking
Thinking of the customer experience in such a way necessitates a pretty big shift in how we do business. We have always crated businesses around what we do, not what the customer wants. “[Customer experience] has always been a priority in UX, but UX is no longer limited to the web. It’s a way of life,” shared Solis. Even if the UX team has great insights for the customer service team to be aware of, most of the time this information remains trapped in operational silos — which is exactly the problem that Yammer is solving.
It takes courage and foresight to break free from the inside-out thinking. “Someone in the organization has to say: ‘we can’t truly be social until we start to change on the inside.’ When people talk to each other, it opens up a new way of thinking; it becomes a culture on the inside,” said Brian.
The people part is the really critical part of the transformation. Where companies are failing is by going tools-first or data-first. A big trend is towards big data, and while data is critical to making decisions, it’s just one side of it. In addition to studying data, we need to study the human part of the equation – how do people make decisions, how they connect and share. “We need to become digital anthropologists,” advises Solis, “so that we can understand how people’s behaviors are changing.” I’d add that we need to study how people interact with each other internally as well as externally, and what role technology plays.
Business value is key
When I asked Brian where businesses aren’t succeeding, he commented that failure in social business is attributable to the use of social technology without aligning it to business goals. According to Altimeter’s research, only 34% of companies align their social strategy to business goals, and only 17% measure business impact. According to Solis, this is happening because we get caught up in the technology and forget about what the technology is supposed to enable. If we are using social tools for the sake of “doing social,” our consumers will tune out because there isn’t reciprocity or an exchange of value. When social doesn’t get tied to business goals, it ends up becoming a silo, which is what we are supposed to be breaking down in the first place.
To get over this bad inertia, Brian recommends working cross-functionally to really understand what the customer needs, what the company can deliver and how to cover the gap.
Change is hard
A lot of you reading this post are there as change agents in your companies. Unfortunately, being a change agent doesn’t exactly fit in a job description – but you take it upon yourself and make a choice. The two choices we have, says Brian Solis, is to be change agents and to rally people behind us, or to quit. To make the most impact, we need to learn how to tie what we are doing to concrete business value. If we can talk to executives in their language, we can start closing the gap between what currently exists and what needs to happen.
Changing minds is difficult, when decisions are made using yesterday’s standards, shared Solis. We need to understand what the connected consumer values, and how technology is central to their experience with just about everything. Because technology and change are evolving faster than we can respond to change, we need to build adaptability and learning into our core organizational principles.
In closing, I asked Brian to comment on some things that we can do today to create change in our organizations. He recommended that we look at our vision statements and compare to what people say in social media. With a few notable exceptions, there is a sizable gap between the two. This realization can help provide the momentum to start your internal transformation. “This is a time for innovation, this is the time for people who are ready to take on the challenge,” said Brian in closing.