I was recently asked, “Who do we follow?” It was a challenging question. It’s common to follow the top organization in your industry or maybe even the competition. But as a company, we really don’t spend much time looking at others to emulate. When we do, we are more likely to get off track. It leads us to replicating something rather than being strategic. We would rather focus on executing on a strategic initiative.
Who we do follow is our customers. Really closely. We listen to what they want and what they see impacting their organization in the future. But not everything is worthy of action. It needs to be sustainable. We don’t want to be on the bleeding edge of anything, where there’s a high risk of unreliability and greater expense. So, we consider ourselves fast followers.
So how do you know when to take action? Here are some questions we ask ourselves:
- Do our customers want or need this?
Our customers are looking around corners, too. We listen and follow their trends to identify opportunities. We need to see demand – and not just from one customer or a few. For example, we initiated our cloud voice offering because many of our customers were asking for an alternative to a traditional equipment purchase. This looked to be a good opportunity and supported our client retention strategy.
- Does it fit the business equation?
We look at the revenue opportunity and profitability forecast and seek investments that provide a recurring revenue stream. We expect to see revenue in the first year and a return in three years. If it can’t deliver, we wait or opt out completely.
- Will it lead to satisfied – or more satisfied – customers?
Customer satisfaction is important to all of us. It’s among our strategic initiatives each year so we don’t take our eye off it. That means if we are implementing a concept that is in the early stages, we need to tell our customers so they have reasonable expectations, too. We often try new products and services internally first to assess both the solution and user satisfaction levels.
- Will we be paying a “dumb tax?”
We’ve paid our fair share of the “dumb tax” over the years because we took action too soon and either the industry, our customers or we were not ready and we had to learn too much along the way. Now we avoid it whenever we can. We don’t want to get so far ahead of the adoption curve that our profits and customer satisfaction suffer. We want to see some standards developed and the kinks worked out before we proceed.
We never want to be seen as laggards. Our customers expect more from us – and so do we. So, I don’t wake up thinking about others in our industry that we should follow. I’m focused on our customers and what we can do to help solve a problem or drive their bottom line, which ultimately will do the same for us.