The many health, economic, environmental, technological and geopolitical challenges we have witnessed over the past few years have radically changed the world. Before long, the world around us is likely to look radically different again. As a consequence, the way many of us think has also markedly changed.
How to respond to this new world is front and centre for every business leader and how to stay relevant when everyone’s priorities have significantly shifted is every business’ dilemma.
In a new global study carried out by Accenture Song we found that the vast majority (88 per cent) of business executives believe that customers and employees are changing faster than they can change their businesses. Moreover, there is a growing divide between what consumers need and value and what businesses offer. Bridging this gap, when life is becoming ever more complicated by external factors, will only be achieved if companies contribute meaningfully to people’s lives.
The study provides an interesting insight into what is happening with its dive into what we have termed, the ‘human paradox’. Six in 10 consumers (61 per cent) say their priorities keep changing because of external pressures. Two-thirds (69 per cent) of consumers globally who admit to behaving inconsistently think that paradoxical behaviours are both human and acceptable.
In general terms, customers are prioritising themselves but want to effect change for others. They will follow their personal values, but not at the expense of financial value. Put plainly, a consumer will seek to buy ethically farmed, sustainable beef but select the cheaper option, particularly in this inflationary environment.
Customers want to be in control of their fate but also want to be guided to it and according to the research, two-thirds (67 per cent) expect companies to understand and address their changing needs during times of disruption.
This also translates to employees. Our latest Tech Talent Tracker shows the demand for critical skills such as AI, cybersecurity and quantum computing in Edinburgh and Glasgow is skyrocketing. Scotland’s creative and design skills are also much needed to support product and service transformation. Put together, there is stiff competition when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. The ‘human paradox’ study reasons that employees, like customers, should be viewed as ever-changing, ever-evolving individuals deeply affected by a variety of external influences.
This is particularly true as people try to reconcile their core values and sense of purpose with the demands and practicalities of everyday life. Only by understanding these contexts will businesses create the right environment to recruit, keep and nurture their staff.
The conclusion of the study is that the customer experience can no longer be simplified in a binary fashion. And while the report found nearly all businesses are struggling to stay relevant, it goes on to suggest that companies can embrace a more life-centric approach.
An example quoted is of a car owner, who enjoys having the car but is using it less because of spiralling fuel and insurance costs. A life-centric solution would be to offer insurance based on the number of miles driven. Another example given is how to ease access to credit at the point it’s needed or put customers with similar issues in touch with each other as part of a wider life-centric service. Acknowledging the new way of thinking in this way can lead to products and services which are both relevant and useful in the sense of having a purpose.
Given the weight of disruption that people are grappling with in their lives, businesses also need to know when to step back – to be conscious of situations where it’s inappropriate to attempt to retain relevancy. Being sensitive to when and not just how to be relevant will also be important.
By seeing people in their full lives, businesses will be prepared to serve them no matter what external forces are in play. Alive to the new way of thinking, addressing consumer values and connecting with them in new ways opens the door to ongoing growth and innovation. With this life-centric approach, businesses will be best positioned to meet the future—no matter what new challenges are sent our way.
Anna Meikle, Accenture Song Scotland Co-Lead
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