The more they stay the same…
This adage has been around forever – well at least since 1839 when it was first coined by Alphonse Karr. His original French quote is “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
In this time of such reported upheaval and business disruption, how could I possibly be focusing on this?!?!
Well, consider that none other than Jeff “richest guy in the world” Bezos, popped back into the news last week as one of his famous quotes from 2017 was:
“I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection.
It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, “Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher.” “I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.” Impossible.
And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”
But wait! There’s more! In Bezos’ 1997 shareholder letter he wrote:
“We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term … Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies.”
So while we are reconsidering our business models and delivery systems and staff structures and how to eat in public places we seem to be scurrying about madly without focus. No one can predict the future, so how best to plan for what is next coming out of this pandemic?
If we understand our current customers (from our target profile) and try to learn more about why other target customers do not actually buy from us now, we will understand what won’t change. Consider the following for your business:
- will your customers still need your product or service in the future? If not, what is actually stopping them from leaving you today?
- what customer behaviour – likes and dislikes, wants and needs – will not change in the future? If you are in retail, people will still want to try on clothes. The question then becomes – how do you deliver this?
- how much will people want to continue to shop online? Curbside has been great, but don’t you want to pick the fruits and vegetables yourself? What about a nice steak? “I’ll take that one…no, the one right next to it.”
- how easy have you made it to contact your business? Have you really upgraded all your contact points? Several large businesses and government departments I have contacted have NOT improved their customer contact points. Hey, telecom provider – why did you send me duplicate bills in the mail this month???
- what have your sales reps been doing? Are they lamenting not being able to see their customers or have they increased the contact? And I am NOT talking about a “we are here for you” phone call. Be helpful and ready; not maudlin.
- are you increasing communication with your employees? Why did it take a crisis for you to do this???
This is a good starter list for assessing what might and might not be changing. Hint: check human behaviour in past major crises and see what has not changed forever.
The big suggestion is to think deeply about this topic. It is an important initial step in creating your winning game plan – something else that won’t change.