Sustainable growth for profitability has been the battle cry to business transformation for several years now. This is the strategic and tactical challenge that all leadership teams face, whether it is a small to mid-size privately owned business or a multi-billion dollar publicly owned entity. Share and profit gains made through small tweaks (pricing, packaging, promotions, product line extensions, etc.) are very hard to maintain as they can be easily copied and quickly improved upon.
I should say that until 2020 came along, sustainable growth was everyone’s goal. However, for many companies, that goal has pivoted in conjunction with the undeniable need for flexibility and agility. This has applied to companies struggling to survive and all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum where businesses have seen such unexpected and significant growth, they absolutely had no choice but to adjust and change with little or no warning just to keep up with their new workload.
How does Omni-channel help business pivot?
Historical examples are helpful here. Starbucks moved their target customers from sweet, cold beverages to sweet hot drinks by creating new categories of coffee drinks. Southwest Airlines recognized that their competition wasn’t other airlines but the “200 mile” driver who they needed to get out of the car and into their planes. Apple got people to use ‘phones’ for a lot more reasons than making calls. These companies have one common thread to their tactics: they have a customer-centric focus, and they perform with exceptional execution.
These, and many other company stories, speak to operating your business in more than the traditional organic (sell more of the same/similar products to the same, loyal customers) and external (mergers and acquisitions) methods. Instead they created their own space for growth by becoming customer-centric. Now look at a much more current example: instead of capturing the 200 mile driver, they are working hard to compete in the space of passenger trust in a world where close, prolonged contact with groups of people is not healthy. They can make these quick changes both internally and as a customer-facing message because of Omni-channel.
Improving or becoming customer-centric
Always start by putting your focus on the customer and have the fundamental building blocks of any growth (or survival) strategy in place: people, process, and information. Mobile apps are standard now. With B2B and B2C e-commerce, advanced analytics, and other tools the argument can be made that information and how it is used should be the most important of these three foundational elements. If somehow Omni-channel hasn’t impacted your business yet, it’s coming. Successful grocery retailers track on-line sales; restaurants offer novel new options for customers and even make menu pricing decisions by time of day and level of inventory; and manufacturing companies use advanced analytics to capture higher levels of business from existing customers or to move into new lines of product based on expected demand.
A successful, supported, sustained ERP system is critical to any long-term growth strategy. The ability to seamlessly and transparently share information across the enterprise, analyze it effectively and granularly, and act on it quickly with very flexible solutions is required of all organizations.
Growth is achieved not as a mantra or slogan but by transforming your customer experience and your operational processes. This cannot be done all at once, but it can be done much faster than it ever has. Still, priorities have to be established to determine which elements will be delivered and in what sequence.
3 methods to improve and grow with omni-channel
Improving the customer experience
Using technology and information to equip sales teams for more effective customer meetings; tracking historical performance issues and providing quick answers and/or solutions; providing customers the ability to design and order the product solutions they need online and on their own schedule; managing warranty programs; and providing Twitter access to register complaints that can be responded to quickly.
Improving operational processes
Automating HR functions with self-service capabilities so employees get personalized experiences and HR experts spend their time on critical human opportunities; sharing information and knowledge across cross-functional teams for more effective, timely solutions integrating customer forecasts and orders into the supply chain and manufacturing planning processes.
Engaging people in new and impactful ways
Removing the transactional data-crunching work so more people can be involved in creating business plans; financial staffs that get automated, work-flow driven entries so that period-end closes take 1 to 2 days, not 5-10; suppliers who can proactively manufacture products based on consumption and lead time, and not based on out of date and often inaccurate forecasts.
“It is not enough to be busy – so are ants. The question is: What are we busy about”? This challenge is as relevant to business leaders today as it was in the mid-1800’s when Henry David Thoreau first wrote it with a quill pen on parchment paper. In the era of smart technology, his statement is even more valid.