Taking a future-focused approach is critical to business success. To create and maintain a competitive advantage, a company needs to understand trends, to maximize opportunities as they arise and create short-and long-term plans for the future.
The traditional management paradigm is that flawless execution of today’s plan is the key to competitive advantage: align to the plan and gather data that will enable us to stay on track. But in a rapidly-changing business environment, improving predictive analytics helps a company respond to changes with agility and maintain that competitive advantage.
This focus on the future can be applied to product planning, marketing, and expansion: but it is particularly important to a company’s approach to customer care.
What are my customers’ future needs, pains and pinch points?
Having the foresight to accurately forecast customer behavior can help a company to:
- Reduce churn
- Forecast needs
- Personalize marketing
- Workforce planning
Getting better at customer foresight gives the business a means of evaluating past actions, a better grasp on current activities and trends, and the foundation for creating effective plans to meet future challenges as well. But to improve customer foresight, teams within the organization must have the mindset and the skills to keep a focus on the future of the customer experience. To help your team achieve this, consider:
An inquisitive environment
Build an environment where any member can question the status quo, by ensuring that employees asking these questions are heard, responded to, and rewarded. Challenge your team to start to look forward in the way that they tackle everyday problems. Too often, a leader will ask for reports that support decisions that have already passed, reinforcing a focus on the past. An inquisitive environment rewards employees for thinking about tomorrow — finding the real value of analytics by identifying and filling the gaps in our understanding.
Using the 0:20:80 principle, a team’s focus should be:
• 0% on what happened yesterday
• 20% on what is happening today
• 80% on what is going to happen tomorrow
This is a mindset, not a framework.
Ask better questions
The first step is creating an inquisitive environment that supports asking questions: from there, teams must learn to ask better questions. This means asking questions that are relevant, focused, and can lead to real improvements for the future.
Asking better questions allows teams to test, iterate and learn through data. These are skills that need to be built and applied every day, reinforced in meetings and leadership interactions to support challenge thinking.
“Asking better questions is a team sport”
- Graham Hogg, Seeing Around Corners
For example, imagine your team starts with the hypothesis, ‘Our promotions are ineffective and not driving results.’ A team in an inquisitive environment may formulate questions around things such as promotion frequency, effectiveness, competitor activity, use of technology, etc.
Break siloed thinking
The average team wastes seven hours per week dealing with siloed information — a productivity loss of 350 work hours per year. This was echoed in a McKinsey Global Institute Report which highlighted the barrier that siloed information creates to the advancement of data analytics within companies. Time and again we see huge value locked with the walls of organizational project teams; and while technology may contribute to lack of collaboration and information-sharing, the core problem is a cultural one.
Maintain your team’s enthusiasm to share insights where they can add value elsewhere. This involves both actively encouraging information sharing with other departments, and actively seeking data from outside sources. Leveraging alternative perspectives from outside your projects can have a multiplier effect — adding context to everyday activities, and pushing the team’s desire to understand more about the team, the organization, and the business environment.
The idea that “information is power” — and behaviors that contribute to withholding data — must not be modeled, tolerated or supported by leadership for companies that are looking to unlock the value of data analytics, and support a future-focused customer experience.
Build your experience here.
Raising awareness and motivation in your teams to support tangible changes to team culture, and behaviors, is the first step to creating a team focused on customer foresight. The fastest path to these results, and improving overall team collaboration and performance is designing experiential learning activities, such as team simulations. In a simulation, a team can experience first-hand the challenges of a today-only focus, and the benefits of building a future focus. Once these are clarified, teams can draw line-of-sight to a path forward.
see6 offers contextual simulations targeted at improving the performance of virtual teams, providing the insight needed to create real behavioral change for real business results. If you are interested in learning more about how see6 can help your virtual team reach its goals, contact us today.