Every organization goes through cycles, from year beginning, monthly and quarterly results and year end. As a new year approaches, one of the exercises every department goes through is planning for the year ahead.
Why is Planning Important?
No matter what business you are in, things change. Change can be driven by competition, market forces, the economy, new government regulations or customer demand. Resources need to reviewed and allocated to those areas that need focus while those that are functioning well, or don’t need emphasis will get less resource. Customer Satisfaction strategies and processes need to be reviewed as well.
What to plan?
Every organization reviews its business strategies from time to time. What customers it want to serve and with what product and service strategy. Has your business environment changed? Are there new products or services? Is the company focused in a new direction? What is the competition doing? Are there new regulations, laws, or best practices that dictate a new approach?
2. Customer Expectations.
Has your customer base acquired new expectations of you? Technology advances that gain consumer acceptance, often create new expectations in customers’ minds.
a. When the internet became prevalent, customers expected organizations to have a web presence. And customers and prospects expected that to be able to find information on those web sites. At IBM, we started measuring the satisfaction of customers who came to our web site. Were they able to find the information they wanted or accomplish their objective.
b. Next came Social Media and now customers expect many organizations to respond to them and engage with them using social media. Some organizations have jumped in and tried different approaches using social media. Others have not started engaging but may be ‘listening’. Still others just don’t get it. And customers are talking about them to their peers without the business even being aware.
c. Mobile technologies are creating new customer expectations as well. Consumers can do e-commerce on their phones. We already have that function with mobile ring tones for example.
d. A new technology, called Near Field Communication, where you just wave a mobile phone near a receptor to make a payment, is bringing mobile to a new level. In Canada, one of the big banks, Bank of Montreal is the first to embrace mobile payments. This puts pressure on the other banks to ‘catch up’. The consumers who adopt this new payment option and want to leave their wallets at home, will now ‘expect’ all the banks and credit card companies to offer mobile payments.
Do you know any banks that don’t offer ‘on line banking’?
3. Customer Feedback Capability.
With blogs, complaint sites, videos (eg Youtube) and social media, customer feedback both positive and negative is now more public. Every year the landscape of customer feedback mechanisms changes. Every organization needs to be monitoring all the techniques customers can use to provide feedback to the company and word of mouth advice to their friends and family. Do you need updates to your ‘listening’ mechanisms or your engagement?
4. Measurements and Targets.
Based on the new business strategies, customer expectations and customer feedback, what needs to be measured and how will that be accomplished?
This is an art not a science but doing what you did last year, may not be enough or may be totally off target. Do you need to change the surveys you do, the questions you ask, the listening tools? What will you pick as your most important measurements?
Next you need to decide if you will pass out targets to the management team. If the measurement is new, it will need to be explained to employees and management, along with the rationale for the new targets.
5. Management Reporting.
Once you pick what to measure and report on, the next issue to address is timeliness. The pace of business is changing. Especially from a customer satisfaction point of view. Doing an annual survey, reporting results quarterly or annually, even monthly may have been fine in the past but with social media and mobile, the pace of reporting or the type of reporting will change. Feedback from the front line (customer service or sales) and social media will need new approaches to bring issues to management quickly when they arise.
Planning for the new year is an important activity as the current year is drawing to a close. The most important things to review are Management Strategies, Customer Expectations, Customer Feedback, Measurements and Targets and Management Reporting. Resources will need to funded, and allocated. Finally, a plan to implement any thing new will need to be created, reviewed and readied for new year implementation.
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