The biggest business trend in the coming year will be transforming customer experiences, and the driving force behind that transformation is technology: both in how technology has changed customer expectations and how technology is enabling disruption, according to Vodafone’s annual Trends Barometer report.
Vodafone said that 88% of participants in its business trends survey reported that they “have a clear objective to transform the customer experience.” Eighty percent also said that tech-based experiences, such as virtual or augmented reality, were “vital to their future.”
The report, based on a combination of survey responses from 1,700 global business leaders, analysts and Vodafone’s own experts as well as some in-depth interviews, identified four major trends for 2019.
-Trust is king in an increasingly digital world. “Trustworthiness has become a valuable commodity,” Vodafone concluded, adding that “in this context, trustworthiness is defined by keeping data safe and being transparent with the use of data.” The most common business concern, cited by 55% of survey respondents was the need to retain customer trust.
Data and digital services now serve as the foundation for many business models and business decisions — and consumers and businesses are willing to pay more for peace of mind when it comes to their data, Vodafone said. But it added that “consumers are more aware than ever of the value of their personal data at a time where enterprises are under pressure to take care of it. There may come a time where business models reliant on customer data may be unworkable. Organizations are being forced to think about the data they have and use and whether they need it.”
-When it comes to competitive position, ethics matter. Vodafone said that traditional measures of brand loyalty are “becoming irrelevant as everyone constantly seeks the best deal and most convenient way of purchasing.” But as businesses respond to that pressure by competing on price, they also need a new differentiator. Vodafone said that “ethical business practices, and social and political factors are becoming a distinguishing feature to help customers make their purchasing decisions. … We live in a world where everyone can be held accountable for their actions – it’s not just about answering to the court of law anymore, but the court of customers.” More than 80% of the survey respondents said that they believe that acting in an ethical manner ultimately leads to more revenue.
-On the question of humans versus artificial intelligence, balance is needed. Humans and machines will need to be able to work together toward positive results, and it will take “a new breed of executive” to lead companies toward that goal, Vodafone said. “Businesses need to create an environment that allows people to thrive, supported by automation and machines,” where human skills are still appreciated but machines’ efficiency is also leveraged. The questions around ethics also relate to the use of AI, Vodafone noted. Companies that are already using AI to automate their processes were more likely to agree with the statement that “although ethics are important in business, profit is always the priority”. In contrast, respondents who expected to see an increase in ethics in business in the next few years were more likely to agree that “automation provides opportunities for a better work-life balance.”
-Disruption means a renewed focus on being customer-centric — and on attracting and retaining the right employees. Vodafone acknowledged that customer centricity has always been part of successful businesses, but said that “today’s pace of change has placed huge pressure on businesses. Customer needs shift rapidly, their expectations are on the increase and their perceived power and influence is growing, resulting in a culture of ‘now’. This poses a problem for businesses, which must not only adapt to new demands but do so at the speed to which customers have become accustomed. Our research finds that businesses are changing the way that they work with customers to take this into account – and that technology is a key part of building and retaining good customer relationships.” But while technology is important, Vodafone also said that specific human skill sets are being sought among employees to help enterprises navigate the current landscape — and that may mean new emphasis on experienced, permanent employees rather than gig-based or freelance employment scenarios.
Read Vodafone’s 2019 Global Trends Barometer report here.
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