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Over the past four weeks I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the field service and logistics industry thought leaders across three continents. These are the people who effectively determine and practically implement the experience we receive as consumers of their services on a day-to-day basis.
When I’ve been asking them how they meet the constantly rising consumer expectation of transparency and control to get what they want, where they want, when they want it (something we obsess about at Localz), a consistent theme emerged which initially surprised me from such large and massively successful companies - they’ve given up!
In truth, the full explanation is that they’ve given up trying to do it by themselves, despite having huge internal resources and brain-power on hand.
I’ve attempted to summarise their very logical thinking on this in the chart below (drawn on the red-eye back from LA - forgive the shaky lines!).
Copyright - the Author
For context in the above chart, a Product is a solution that provides the elements required to meet consumer expectations relating to a delivery or collection.
Some of the key takeaways from this:
1. Large organisations are great at projects, not product (unless it’s their own)
Projects are ideal where the scope is known, largely fixed and the benefits will still be valuable and provide return at the point the project is delivered. Larger organisations are well rehearsed at delivering these, but unfortunately consumer expectations change faster than a project can deliver, requiring constant scope change which is the death of any well-run project.
It requires a product-led approach (and importantly a product culture) where the features, benefits and positioning are constantly tweaked, re-prioritised and released frequently. Enterprises really struggle with this, unless it’s their own core offering, as they are constantly competing for resource, time and executive attention for something that is important, but ultimately non-core.
2. A single industry focus on customer experience is not enough
Companies that are able to successfully take a product approach in house (i.e. an ongoing and permanent roadmap of new features), or purchase a solution from a company that has a single industry vertical focus on customer experience often struggle too. Why? Consumers have a frustrating ability to take an experience they’ve had in one industry, and translate that expectation to a completely different one.
For example if I can see the different stages of my food being prepared and then track it as it’s being delivered, why can’t you tell me exactly when my engineer is turning up to fix my heating? Well now you can for British Gas, but you get my point!
If you only focus on the innovations and expectations of customer experience from a single industry perspective, you may have a chance to keep up with your competitors, but not your consumers and your company is exposed to a new non-traditional competitive threat i.e. Google Energy.
3. You can’t keep up with all aspects of consumer expectation, but you can stay close
Consumer expectations move too fast for any single organisation to keep in front of, and you also need to be able to pick which elements are anomalies to ignore, and which have become standard that you will be quickly punished for not having.
There are of course opportunities to be either the first in your market and category to implement and set the bar, or to develop and release something unique but even the great innovators at Apple struggle to do this on a consistent basis.
So the advice I have been absorbing over the past few weeks to be able to thrive, not just survive in the IConomy era we are in, is to plug your business into an ecosystem of partners that will give you both breadth of alternative industry exposure, and depth and speed of implementation so that you can continue to focus on your own core product development.