There’s an oft used phrase in business: innovate or die. Highly acclaimed companies such as Apple, 3M and Toyota have attributed this to their success, either in incremental or revolutionary improvements.
Closer to home, you have probably seen the discourse on pay TV with the new entrant of a movie streaming service into the market. Everyone and their relative has an opinion about how the service will disrupt the local pay TV channels, your local distributor’s business and the like. I won’t add to the noise.
What I would like to instead focus on is the power of disruption and innovation. A professor at Harvard Business School, Clayton Christensen defines disruption as the extent to which a technology displaces an existing market or industry, producing something new, more efficient and worthwhile, at once destructive and creative.
In the media industry, the move from analogue to digital inevitably creates a platform ripe for disruption, regulation interference notwithstanding. Beyond predestined industry changes, businesses need to understand that if clients feel ignored, their loyalty will rapidly shift, especially when a viable alternative appears.
Whoever said that we are living in the age of information, and he who has the information has the power was right on the money. But for some enterprises, direct feedback from their clients might as well be smoke signals for all the effectiveness they have on their operations. And this continues to baffle me.
In this day and age of social media where companies have multiple platforms on which to engage their clients, there is no excuse for not taking feedback into consideration when delivering goods and services. It is no wonder then, that in this particular pay TV clients are looking forward to cutting ties with vendors who previously seemed oblivious to their woes.
As more industries ripe for disruption catch the eye of innovators, the most notable ones being energy, education and health it will help for institutions, even those protected by legislation to recall that no one company is so essential that it cannot be replaced and no one single business model or sector is off-limits to a raw burst of change. And regulation will only be a stumbling block for so long.
But there is a flipside – the companies that go to great lengths to gather and respond to information in their organizations. I hardly ever watch TV. Aside from the fact that my hours of work do not allow me the luxury, the fight for the remote is something I always seem to lose in my household. However, I dedicate some time every couple of Sundays to watch the one or two episodes of the show ‘Undercover Boss’.
Let us first dispense with critical analysis from the smarty-pants among us. Yes, I know that being a reality show, it is highly scripted and there is a significant amount of footage that is left out. And after a while, regardless of the disguise created around filming, some staff on camera must have an idea that the purported explanation is a ruse and they are indeed on the above mentioned show.
And yes, it has been labelled as a blatant public relations exercise by the detractors. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
For those who may not have come across it, the show features various corporate (and a few in the not for profit sector) executives who go undercover in disguise. They, among others, are on a mission to identify reasons why various outlets, in most cases franchised ones are not hitting their revenue and profitability targets.
Some are exploring how to support their franchisees better or whether various initiatives introduced by the parent offices are succeeding. At the end of it, most executives admit that they come off the experience having learnt much more than they had bargained for.
Scripting or no scripting, there are some reasons for which I watch the show.
Most people who are solo- or entrepreneurs want to build successful businesses and they are especially interested in seeing the backstory behind how other successful business owners built multi-million dollar ventures from scratch. This aside though, the extent to which some organizations will go to garner information that increases efficiency, staff appreciation and the bottom line always impresses me.
I will give credit where it is due, though. There is a certain food chain that has had ballooning outlets all over the city. A while ago, I saw an interesting exchange on social media where a patron expressed dissatisfaction with some elements of the service including parking facilities. I did not think much of this until I visited said establishment a short while ago.
To my pleasant surprise, the management had actually stationed a parking attendant to help clients find parking space. For all the ills, real and perceived, that this chain will be accused of in the future, they have garnered some loyalty from those patrons who felt listened to, and their pain points addressed.
And this is what real customer engagement looks like, corporate Kenya.