Thought leadership

2013 was a defining year in the world of employee and customer engagement – and has set the scene for further rapid changes through 2014 and beyond.

When Michael O Leary, chief exec at Ryanair, said in a TV interview after issuing two profits warnings that his job was to ‘change customer behaviour’ he clearly had got it wrong – and deep down inside he’s an intelligent enough  person to know he’s got it wrong. Indeed it is Ryanair who is changing. Customers will no longer tolerate having two fingers continually put up to them by organisations such as Ryanair. Those days are well and truly over. And the 50 per cent increase in profits at Ryanair’s arch rival Easyjet who base their business model on a robust customer service and engagement offering is testament to that.

So we have a sea change in the dynamics of the relationship between organisations and their customers, and the employees that serve those customers. This is the change that we forecast back in 2009 when we (myself and my colleague at Engage Customer Chris Wood) formed the Customer Engagement Network.

The perfect storm

We predicted that a perfect storm of financial meltdown, leading to the need for sustainable customer retention strategies, new customer communication channels to market, and in particular the now ubiquitous mobile channel and the proliferation of social media tools such as Twitter – and many more – as customer and employee communication channels, would all come to pass. And indeed they are coming to pass. The game has changed Michael my boy, and changed forever.

It’s true to say that for the first time in history our customers – and our employees – have access to, and are using, more advanced technology than the organisations that purport to serve them. This fundamental shift in the dynamic of the relationship is acting as a catalyst for customer and employee behavioural change – and that pace of change is continuing to accelerate as we enter 2014.

My 10 year old daughter is typically on four given communication devices at any given time – and none of those is the telephone as a voice channel! The telephone as a voice channel will of course always be an important communication and customer service channel – indeed it is increasingly being used as a ‘last resort’ when other channels have failed, when failure demand kicks in. To that extent the way organisations interact with customers on the telephone as a voice channel will increasingly make or break them

Time for HR to talk to marketing

It is my strongly held belief that the customer of the future, indeed of now, is not in the least bit interested in your internal silos.  They will expect the organisation they are interacting with to be on the channels of THEIR choice at a time when they want to use them.  If as an organisation you do not live up to that expectation they will leave you and find a competitor that does – and they will never ever come back. Period.

And it’s important to remember that whatever else happens your customers HAVE ALL THE MONEY.  Yes dear reader HR has got to be talking to marketing if you are to have a realistic chance of long term survival. It’s as simple as that. And deep down in his soul – for deep down he does have a soul – Mr O’Leary damn well knows it. The change has come.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all of you in our 25,000 strong community around the globe.


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