Like most technology industry professionals, I spend a lot of my working life time thinking not just about the present but about the future too. I recently wrote about the tech-savviness of young people and the dramatic effect that will have on our future workforce, perhaps technology's most important legacy; not just more tools and devices but a complete change in attitude and behaviour, resulting in smarter, more efficient and more capable businesses.
But that's just one aspect of a much broader shift, in which technology is driving consumer expectations too. From one-click shopping to highly personalised web services, technology enables things to happen smoothly for consumers in ways that they couldn't imagine even a decade ago, but now expect as a matter of course. So it's no surprise, then, to learn that they really like doing business with companies that have good customer programmes in place - one of the findings of a new survey released this week by Avaya, which shows that 92% of UK consumers would rather spend money with organisations that are easy to buy from.
So far, so obvious. Or so you'd think, given the clearly demonstrable value of having good customer service programmes in place. 81% of companies with solid customer initiatives in place have seen significant profit increases in the last 12 months, according to our survey, a very good reason for everyone to have them. And lots of companies do; eight in ten organisations have put in place projects aimed at improving customer service in the last year.
Bearing that in mind, it's surprising that 81% of companies have seen their programmes fail in the last three years, incurring not just financial costs (as much as £750,000 per organisation) but costs to reputation and future business too. And it's European companies that seem to be affected the most: only 55% of British and German companies have a customer management program in place, compared with 83% in China.
What's behind this general failure of such apparently good intentions? One answer is a lack of appropriate technology within the businesses, a problem cited by 31% of organisations without a customer management programme. Where the right technology is in place, its impact is often diluted by the fact that different parts of the business are responsible for different elements of the customer experience, adding further complexity to the problem.
The lessons from these findings are familiar ones, but they have rarely been as important for businesses. Technology is only as good as the thinking and planning behind it; and new customer initiatives are only as good as their design and implementation. The companies that fail to understand this are risking not just money, but their reputations and livelihoods too. Good customer experience programmes can hold the key to every business's future.