Thursday, January 19, 2017

Staying Ahead of the Competition

Image courtesy of vigdor
Do you know what it takes to stay ahead of the competition? Is that one of your business goals?

I recently did an interview with someone for an article she was writing, and one of the questions was about competition and how to best research the competition. Other questions on the topic revolved around how businesses can stay relevant and how they can set themselves apart in over-saturated industries. (I'll share the link here once the article is published.)

I’m a huge believer in innovate, don’t imitate. I think it’s important to understand what the competitive landscape looks like, but you cannot stay to focused on the competition. Do your homework. Be aware. Understand what they’re doing. But focus on your customers; research your customers and your customers’ needs, and then go and do your thing.

When there are clear, differentiated choices of products, services, and/or experiences in the marketplace, the decision is made easier for your customers. Bring your own unique value to the table. When customers' experiences with one company stink, they have the ability to go purchase from someone else. Let them decide.

So, to stand apart, innovate the experience. In a world with so many commodity products and services, the only real differentiator becomes the experience. Deliver a unique and differentiated experience. In most cases, that’s pretty simple. Honestly, just make it easy to do business with
your company.

The day after that interview, I saw this article from strategy+business about What It Takes to Stay Ahead of the Competition. Of course, I was curious to see how the authors addressed this topic. No surprise that we were in alignment; in their research, the authors found that four particular capabilities emerged as integral to sustaining high-quality performance:
Improvement. This capability was defined as a firm’s ability to make incremental product or service upgrades, or to reduce production costs.

Innovation. Defined as how strong a company was at developing new products and entering new markets.

Sensing of weak signals. Defined as how well a company can focus on potential banana peels in order to improve overall performance, including analyzing mistakes, actively searching out production anomalies, and being aware of potential problems in the surrounding business environment.

Responsiveness. Defined as a business’s ability to solve problems that crop up unexpectedly and to use specialized expertise to counter those complications.
I cannot argue with any of those four; as a matter of fact, I've written about these topics previously.

Improvements are critical. Without them, your customer experience will be stuck in the same rut it's always been in. Take your customer feedback, and do something with it. Here are a few examples of what I've written about Improvements.

5 So Whats: Prioritizing Improvement Opportunities
#CX Improvements and the Streetlight Effect
CEM Toolbox: Taking Action

Innovation is probably one of my favorite topics to write about when it comes to differentiation and staying ahead of the competition. A few examples on this topic include:

Innovate, Don't Imitate
Four Voices That Could Pull Your Company Out of the Innovation Rut
Moving at the Speed of Innovation
Customer Experience Fuels Innovation

Those slow-moving or slow-rising competitive threats are called Weak Signals. They are everywhere, and the trick is often knowing which ones to act on.

Weak Signals and Boiling Frogs

I've not written a post specific to Responsiveness, but it is a critical component in delivering a great customer experience and in standing apart from the competition. One way to counter the complications and implications of unexpected issues is to be proactive, to conduct pre-mortems (what could go wrong?), and more. A few proximate posts include:

What Role Does Intuition Play in Customer Experience
Is Proactive Customer Service Still a Moment of Truth?
CEM Toolbox: Setting the Stage for a VoC Strategy

Don't let the competition dictate your business decisions and your customer experience. Don't make the competition your primary focus or driving force. Do your own work. Understand your customers. Be prepared. And innovate. Continuously innovate... your products, your talent development, and your experience.

Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity. -Nancy Pearcey

4 comments:

  1. I wonder Annette if companies really do need to innovate. If an organisation simply focuses on giving its customers what they want could that not be enough?

    So many companies appear to be self centred that simply changing the focus could well be enough.

    The competition isn't that strong...

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    Replies
    1. Food for thought, definitely. It could be enough, but then we'd still be walking around with a Walkman and going to Blockbuster for a movie.

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  2. Some of us still do Annette. And my bum bag (fanny pack?) is amazing. :)

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