One of the most effective drivers of change has been identified to be crises or as aptly put by the Harvard Business Review, “a crisis or some kind of burning platform”. It is very difficult to disagree with this notion as we have seen it influence change across various spheres of the world. After the Hillsborough Stadium disaster in 1989 which resulted in 96 deaths and hundreds of injuries, the English police and Football Governing body decided to reduce their exertion of force during football games as it was later confirmed through a myriad of investigations that extreme exertion of force was one of the causes of the stampede. This change in procedure was borne out of the crises that occurred at the time.
The advent of the Corona Virus provides the fertile ground for transformation in the space of digital utilization. Most parts of the world have been under lockdown during this period of pandemic and by inference, people must sacrifice being physically present at locations for virtual presence. Consumer spending on Amazon is up 35 percent from the same period last year, according to estimates from Facteus. This means more customers prefer utilizing digital channels than being in brick and mortar shops for their supplies due to fear of infection. The hike in utilization has been welcomed with opened arms at Amazon with leadership taking decisions to expand their fulfilment team to meet the surges.
This presents the best opportunity for organizations to move out of their traditional approaches to business and embrace a more digital approach. The difference between Amazon and the grocery shop around the corner is not only in the profits they rake in but also in the fact that Amazon has realized the digital agenda is non-negotiable. According to data gathered in April by GSMA, 5.28 billion people which represents 67.95 percent of the world population have a mobile device. It can further be inferred that this group are high on convenience as they prefer to stay in touch with their associates without being physically present. This presents a wide market for business leaders to think outside the box. One of the primary beneficiaries of this statistic is the Banking sector.
It is important for banks to find ways of tapping into this market by providing digital solutions which are tailor-made to the needs of these people. Customers have become more sophisticated and require quick and convenient ways to solve their problems and as a result, it behooves on their leadership to appreciate the fact that the customers being served are advancing in their taste and require the same level of advancement from their service providers. The reason why Kodak failed was not necessarily because they did not have the brains within their team but basically because they refused to advance with their customers. Good leaders can spot the thin ray of opportunity amid the thick fog of challenges.
Driving the digital agenda undoubtedly comes with extra costs and organizations must be ready to foot these bills. Expenditure into better technology is often a driver of exponential growth within organizations. Let us use a typical banking hall as a scenario, a teller can serve a customer who needs to transfer funds to another account within the space of say three minutes. This may seem a short period of time however, a robust mobile app can serve all the customers of the bank in one go within the same three-minute period. The branches can then focus on more sophisticated transactions and advisory services which add more value to the operations of the bank. This approach is highly likely to increase the bottom-line however, it does not come easy. JP Morgan Chase and Co. invested USD 11 billion in technology alone in 2019 and this brings to fore the importance they attribute to technology. This represents an investment of 7.8 percent of total revenue in technology alone.
The digital age we find ourselves in requires a lot of flexibility in service delivery. It is important for restaurants to know that the high number of customers who sat in their premises for a good meal would drastically reduce as a result of busy work schedules and social distancing rules which have become a part of our lives. The big question then becomes, “How do we still remain relevant?” The restaurant needs to first understand their customers and work towards meeting their needs. Most businesses in the wake of driving digital agenda fail to consider the customers they are serving and their specific needs. Will opening more branches of the restaurant be the best way to remain relevant in these times? I doubt. It will be more prudent to be digitally present through a website or an easy to use application which allows customers order for food form the comfort of their homes. This needs to be buttressed with the addition of efficient delivery services to aid order fulfilment.
Again, the banking industry can benefit immensely by analyzing present customer needs and tailoring technological solutions towards addressing these established needs. This helps in easy adoption by the customers. For examples not all customers have access to a smartphone and as such a simple USSD solution is all that may be required for a segment of their customers.
It is important for business leaders to open themselves up for learning. No matter how robust a strategy may be today, a crises situation or a change in customer taste and preferences may render it useless. The 10-year strategy Kodak may have developed was rendered redundant once the customers changed their taste and preference. It is thus important for businesses to understand that in the field of technology there is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.
Francis Tetteh Padi