We are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – whether we’re ready for it or not. The fusion of physical, digital and biological technologies is transforming the way we work, live, shop and connect – paving the way for radical disruption across all business sectors.
Emerging technologies from AI and “internet of things” to blockchain, virtual reality and even social media are changing how businesses can work and provide value to their customers. It also means those businesses face an imperative to innovate ever faster and deliver an ever more seamless, personalized experience to their customers.
As different technologies come together, they’re changing what’s possible for businesses and customers.
Businesses can transform products and services to meet the evolving needs of their customers by processing and analyzing data from everyday interactions. As a result, customer expectations will increasingly shape how businesses operate.
Successful CEOs at organizations of all shapes and sizes need to prepare for a very different customer, workforce and workplace in the not-too-distant future.
Here are three areas that are becoming increasingly important for businesses to understand as they begin to navigate the promise and perils of the changing landscape.
Everyone is more connected.
Savvy customers expect a different customer experience, one that is proactive, personalized and seamless both at brick-and-mortar shops and online.
According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer study, 75 percent of customers expect companies to provide consistent experiences regardless of channel and 89 percent expect companies to understand their unique business needs and expectations.
Customers have more options than ever and the experience can be the differentiator.
In fact, 80 percent of customers say that the experience a company offers is as important as the products or services they sell and 76 percent report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
Customers will switch from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.
Companies that leverage innovative technologies to provide the type of experience each individual customer wants will be the ones to attract and retain customers. In order to build a personalized journey for the customer with customized messaging and recommendations at every touchpoint, employees, whether in store, on the phone or online, must have access to a 360-degree view of that customer. Learning to apply AI to aggregate all the data sources to cater to the individual will be critical to ongoing success.
Everything is changing very quickly.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution reshapes the future of business, CEOs will wrestle not only with how to transform their companies to meet customer expectations but also with how to prepare their employees to thrive in a very different workplace.
The advancement in automation and AI will redefine most employee responsibilities and skill sets. A Salesforce report indicates that 59 percent of hiring managers believe that AI will impact the types of skills their companies need.
Many types of jobs will disappear altogether while others will emerge that require upskilling and training on a continual basis to keep pace with changing technology.
According to the World Economic Forum, technological trends are happening at an unprecedented rate of change. Nearly 50 percent of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree will be outdated by graduation.
Inevitably, training will become a permanent part of every job moving forward to help employees keep up with evolving job requirements.
Companies are expected to take a more active role in society.
It’s no secret that the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings with it both opportunities and challenges.
As businesses are the drivers of that innovation and disruption, they also must play a role in finding solutions to some of the problems that are being created — from training employees to countering inequality and thinking about the ethical impact of AI.
This is more than just a social shift. Given that customers wield so much power in the future business scenario, it will become imperative to a company’s survival.
Small and big businesses alike are vying not only for customers’ business but also trust. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, only 48 percent of the general population in the United States trusts businesses.
People are increasingly worried about how technologies are being used and how they might affect their privacy, jobs, livelihoods and welfare. For 92 percent of the “State of the Connected Customer” respondents, the ability to control what personal information is collected makes them more likely to trust a company with that information. Yet, 57 percent of customers are uncomfortable with how companies use their information and 54 percent don’t believe that businesses have their best interests at heart.
Because data is at the heart of creating a more personalized experience for the customer and a more efficient business for the owner, it is important to create a sense of trust around that data.
“Deploying AI will require a kind of reboot in the way companies think about privacy and security,” says Salesforce Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff. “AI is fueled by data. The more the machine learns about you, the better it can predict your needs and act on your behalf. But as data becomes the currency of our digital lives, companies must ensure the privacy and security of customer information. And, there is no trust without transparency — companies must give customers clarity on how their personal data is used.”
Winning customers’ trust requires new ways of doing business. Adopting a value-driven approach is one way a company can demonstrate that it stands for something more than just the bottom line. The result is customer loyalty, as well as a boost to employee engagement and productivity.