Get Social, Embrace Disruption: Serving the Connected Customer

I’m thinking it’s about 6 minutes to midnight on the Digital Doomsday Clock.

Time is running out on the organisations who are yet to board the bus. Yet to start the journey to being different businesses serving changed customers on a multiplicity of screens.

1 in 4 Executives from around the world believe the time has already come to implement digital transformation across their organisations, and that doing so is already a matter of survival. For 63% – the pace of change isn’t happening quickly enough.

I’m in agreement – there are 3 things we need to do , and quickly

1 – Get Social

Having a Twitter account and using a hashtag at a conference doesn’t equate to digital leadership.

The concept is still developing , but the effective digital leader doesn’t say “change takes time” or “there are barriers in the way”. To quote from an excellent article by Mike Clarke:

Digital leaders review and dismantle traditional infrastructures that act as barriers to innovation or which do not add value – they support and champion people that are close to service users and customers – they help people unlearn bad habits & some non-digital skills that impede progress”.

They embrace disruption.

2 – Agree It’s Not So #FutureTech

The future doesn’t arrive next year. It’s here. Now.

John Popham has remarked in a post that there is a  “real divide in our society between those of us who live every day with the possibilities offered by new technologies and those to whom these things are a peripheral interest.”

Having a Customer Services Leader (at any level) with a peripheral interest in social and digital service is no longer fit for purpose – we need to support and re-train people to face up to the connected customer. But we need to balance this with the ticking clock – new skills and thinking may be required.

And don’t make assumptions about your customers. That 75 year old lady you think won’t like the internet is a level 85 Tauren Druid on World of Warcraft.

3 – Reimagine Connected Customer Service 

Let’s not digitise our existing customer service offering . Let’s look at the possibilities and build a new vision. Look at how Amazon have innovated within the digital space. Look at how Wonga have made the user experience really simple and intuitive. Whether you like these brands and what they do is irrelevant. Look and learn.

The steps I would take are these:

  • Align digital with business goals and strategy (If need be , review them)
  • Have a flexible vision. Keep it under review , daily if need be. Don’t try and guess what it’s like in 2020. Nobody knows.
  • Secure buy-in from your Executive team. And continually reinforce it.
  • Develop a project roadmap but make sure this is kept under review too. New tools can emerge very quickly. Agility is key.
  • Develop guidelines for how social and digital tools should be used. Avoid policy as much as you can. Build trust.
  • Agree resources (social and digital are not free). GIve people the tools for the job.
  • Nothing is certain. Accept failure is OK. Just kill things quickly and humanely when they are not working out.

It’s six minutes to midnight on the digital doomsday clock

Better start serving the Connected Customer

The Battle Against Digital Disruption

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A friend of mine – a Housing Association resident – has just received her shiny new smartphone.

  • It’s got a High Definition display more advanced than a TV that just four years would have cost over £1000.

  • It can be controlled without actually touching it. It tracks her eye and wrist movement and stops playing video if she looks away.

  • It automatically scrolls down a document when she has reached the bottom of the page, intuitively following her gaze.

  • It keeps her in touch with news, local information and her community via an ever present blend of her social networks.

She is a digital citizen.

And she is resident of an analogue housing association.

The association has a website – but she says it doesn’t look good on a mobile phone, which is her primary way of dealing with the world.

  • She can interact with the landlord online but it’s essentially an email form. She says it’s quicker just to phone someone.

  • Her landlord sends her post and an occasional newsletter. She finds this both funny and wasteful.

  • The other day she received a paper survey despite giving them her email address three times. The survey asked her if she had a mobile phone, even though she had been using one to deal with her Housing Officer ever since moving in.

Welcome to a new breed of resident. Residents who live digital lifestyles that are completely out of sync with the operating system of the landlord.

This is what Brian Solis has described as “Digital Darwinism” – a time when technology and society are evolving faster than the ability of organisations to adapt. Solis points out that in ten years a failure to adapt to change wiped 40% of the Fortune 500 companies off the map. They vanished.

But that couldn’t happen to a housing association could it? Bricks and mortar are different, surely?

Social Housing is at a pivotal point. It’s fighting on two fronts. The struggle to adapt to a life without subsidy on one hand, the battle against the threat of welfare reform on the other.

But there is a third fight that cannot be ignored: The digital revolution that is transforming the expectations and behaviours of customers.

At the moment many organisations think this is the lesser of the three threats. Some don’t even see it as a threat at all. Many hide behind statistics that show that many social housing users don’t have internet access. But high percentages do have access and have good digital skills. And that figure is growing every day as the cost of mobile devices plummet.

In the meantime:

  • Our customers become ever more digitally adept – overtaking many of our colleagues. (I believe there are as many digital illiterate housing staff as there are tenants)

  • Our Housing IT Systems become old and monolithic. (In this sector it’s not about who has got the best Housing system – it’s who has got the “least worst”)

  • Our Customer Relationship Management systems struggle to adapt to the social media age. (CRM was built in a time when people thought customers could still be managed. Check out your Facebook page – you’ll see that they can’t. They say what they want)

It would be insanity for a Housing Association not to have a plan for how it will survive in a world without subsidy. It would be suicidal for us to not to have a Welfare Reform strategy. But I speak to many people whose organisations have not even considered what digital transformation looks like. Not considered a world where customers will always have better technology and communication abilities than they do.

You need a plan. And it has to be one of your key strategic priorities with the right ownership and the right level of resourcing.

I advised my friend to get in contact with her Housing Association and offer to help them as she would be a great resident contributor.

She went on the website but couldn’t find a social media feed – her preferred way to engage with organisations. So I helped her decipher the housing jargon and suggested she look for a “Get Involved” section.

She eventually found it.  Tucked away at the back end of the web.

It said “Under Construction. Coming Soon”.

 

(This post originally appeared on housingassociations.org. Image and quote via James McQuivey)

Digital Myths

How confident are you using the internet? On a scale of 1 to 10. And how confident would you say the average user of social housing is?

Last week , I posted about the myth of social housing residents and digital inclusion.

How 99% of our new customers said they had the ability to access the internet either at home or in the community.

And 35% had used a mobile to access online services.

The thrust of my argument was that the real challenge wasn’t access , but digital literacy and confidence. But some new research being done by my colleague Vicky Green challenges the extent to which social tenants feel that their online skills are a barrier.

Of the last 300 customers to join Bromford – over 60% rated their digital confidence at 8 out of 10 or above.

35% said they were a perfect 10. 

That’s an astonishing untapped resource. Like finding out that our communities are built on an oil reservoir.

Let’s get the back of a fag packet out….

Statisticians turn away now…
  • Suppose there are 250,000 new social tenants each year.
  • And suppose the stat’s are grounded in reality – that would make 150,000 highly internet confident tenants moving in every 12 months.
  • And nearly 90,000 of them would rate themselves as a perfect 10.
  • And every year , the numbers would increase.

Now imagine we could make a deal with those people. A customer deal – that you agree to when you access our homes.

We give you access to the huge resources available across UK Housing. You share your skills with the wider community. Together we destroy the myth of social housing customers as digital illiterates.

In return for your help we do everything we can to encourage access to the range of jobs and opportunities that are dependent on IT skills.  And , with a UK Internet economy worth over £200billion by 2016 – that will be quite a lot.

Is that a fantasy? Any more so than saying the “vast majority of social residents have no access to the internet?”

We need to stop re-enforcing the myths and start talking up the opportunities.

Don’t believe the numbers? I’d be the first to admit they won’t be statistically comparable with all landlords. And they do only include those of working age.

But even if the numbers are exaggerated by 50% – we could still miss out on the opportunity to engage a quarter of a million Perfect 10’s accessing social housing over the next 5 years.

And that would be negligence bordering on the criminal.

The UK doesn’t trust young people – New Blog

When I was on holiday I sent the following  couple of tweets:

“Talking guy from neighbouring maharashtra. Trad fishing family now working in #mobile. State is as populous as Mexico and India’s richest”

 “Massive number of #geny and enterprising – doing 2,3,4 different jobs. We better stop doom and gloom in UK or these guys will eat us alive”
I’ve been in the UK less than a week and I’m already sooooo bored with the political bickering about how we solve this problem.
Lets be clear – No politician or political party will get us out of this.
The best quote I’ve heard came on the Andrew Marr show – not from Nick Clegg – but from Jeremy Irons who said (and I’m paraphrasing)  “We need to look to the creativity from young people  to reach a solution , not look to those who created the mess in the first place”
We have a problem that’s cultural not political – we don’t trust young people. We think that someone who is 40+ in a suit is qualified to advise them on how they should live their lives and the jobs they be should be doing. Rather than freeing them up to develop and exploit the idea’s that they have.
We live in a world where young people genuinely know more about the mobile economy – the new world – than their elders . And they could be doing jobs that don’t even exist yet.
Here’s four young(ish) people I have come across in the past week:
  • Someone who works selling mobile SIM cards. His employer has agreed he takes time off to do an additional (unpaid) job as a Lifeguard as he has spotted tourists moaning about SMS charges when texting home. So he sells them domestic SIM cards so they can text cheaply whilst away. He’s a Lifeguard who sells mobiles.
  • A young man who makes clothes and has a small shop next to a restaurant. He waits and helps out in the restaurant for free . But he uses the opportunity to advertise his shop to every customer. And the restaurant owner pays him in meals and stops other people advertising to his customers to ensure maximum cross selling. His is a Waiter who makes and sells clothing.
  • A young mother who has been told that because of her child it is “highly unlikely” anyone would want to employ her. She has A level results that put mine to shame.
  • A guy with a treatable back problem who has been told he “will never work again” and should give up looking. He just cleared his 30th birthday.
The first two examples are from India. The second two from Great Britain.
One country has  faith its next generation and is on the way up. The other is …. Well , we will see….
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