It has become a truism over the past couple of years that business must focus entirely on the customer experience. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that’s right, but people forget that creating a seamless customer experience involves much more than focusing on the customer—it demands a rigorous focus on liquid business models and operational practices.
It’s the customer who provides the impetus for liquid business models, but we must also look beyond the customer to be successful. Here’s why.
Traditionally, business models have been hierarchical and siloed, focusing on specific parts of the value chain. In the past, it was taken as read that customers would do the work necessary to move between service providers as they progressed through their purchase. Today, as we all know, customers are saying “No, I want one single experience from one provider,” and this means you need to rethink your business model.
There are three fundamental changes that you must oversee in your business, all of which are internal—rather than customer-facing—transformations.
Rethink Your Partnership Models
The first task is to understand how you can work more effectively with business partners to create that seamless experience. Concentrate on your core business and ask yourself whether you can farm off elements of your value chain to partner organisations that are better equipped to run them. This is something the restaurant industry already does really well, increasingly outsourcing functions such as food delivery to digital partners (think Deliveroo or UberEATS). For me, liquid services can only be created with liquid partnerships, and this means that your organisation needs to be agile. You need to be able to rapidly integrate new partners into your value chain and boot them out if they’re not up to scratch. In short, you look to set up your business so you can reconfigure it at will without causing any operational disruption.
Atomise Your Services
Next, you must rethink your whole approach to product and service delivery. We’re all aware that customers use more channels than ever. Content and services need to be tailored exactly to each and every one of these channels, as each brings with it unique customer expectations and contexts. As the nature of the product changes, so too does the required payments mechanism. Key questions you, therefore, need to ask yourself are: what is my product; how can it be atomised; and how do I charge for it once it has been atomised? For example, if you’re a broadcaster, you’d need to understand how to atomise content to fit the various new digital channels (e.g. mobile and social media). It might be that atomisation in this context is something as simple as offering shorter form content, but then how do you charge for it? Pay as you go or subscription? Or do you offer it for free and live off ad revenue? All these questions are fundamental to your new business model.
Extend Your Business
The next question you need to ask yourself is how you can use new digital capabilities to extend your business. One way to do this is to look at your core assets and see how you can build on these to create new services (and they will be services rather than products). For example, sportswear companies are increasingly building wearable fitness devices into their clothing and then looking to launch new data services off the back of them, such as health and fitness apps. Digital allows you to transform your business into a platform for customer engagement and will have a profound impact on your business model, moving it from the delivery of products to the delivery of services.
Is your business ready for these changes? There are several key questions you need to ask.
First, do you have in place a technology infrastructure that enables your business to work like a jigsaw puzzle? The ability to take out services, business applications, and networks, and rebuild them according to the solutions you’re trying to build is absolutely essential to offer liquid services.
Second, do you have the right culture in place? Is your business product-centred or service-centred, transactional or relational? And, finally, can you deliver a seamless experience across your value chain for your customers?
To answer these questions, you need to look beyond the customer experience to your internal business and your partner network. By thinking about digital in a 360-degree way, you will quickly be able to build the sort of services you need to thrive in the modern business environment.