Will Technology Be Your Best Business Differentiator?Ramon Ray
The intersection between business and consumer is not what it used to be. With a growing base of tech-savvy consumers, many businesses are struggling to cater to an audience that has greater expectations and more options than ever before.
In partnership with Microsoft, Smart Hustle is sharing this article on Will Technology Be Your Best Business Differentiator
Cindy Bates, Microsoft’s Vice President of U.S. Small Business and Distribution, recently reviewed the results of Microsoft’s 2016 consumer survey. In this brief analysis, she uncovered some especially insightful:
- Businesses are expected to manage customer communications through various channels, including in-person, digital, and traditional contact points.
- Customers care about how businesses use technology to improve and streamline the customer
- Online security can make or break the relationship a customer has with a business if their privacy and safety are compromised.
- Businesses should be looking at technology as a key business differentiator.
As your customers grow more reliant on technology, it makes sense that technology would need to play a larger role in your business, both on the front- and back-end. What you may not have guessed though, is the role it would have in helping to differentiate your business from the competition.
Technology: The Key Business Differentiator in the Digital Age
For a long time, marketers have focused on defining the superlatives that made their businesses stand out from one another.
“Largest Health Food Store in the Greater Philadelphia Region.”
“Highest-Rated Salon Services in the Bay Area.”
“Voted #1 Sandwich in Miami Three Years in a Row.”
While these differentiators are still important in establishing the clear difference between your business and the competition’s, consumers want something more tangible to hold onto. It is not enough to claim that you are the best/first/biggest/etc. You have got to be able to show with that tell.[Tweet “Please customers and differentiate your #business by using smart technology – @Microsoft survey”]
As evidenced by Microsoft’s survey, technology has the potential to show customers how and why your business beats the rest. Moreover, when you are a smaller company trying to get your name out there and make a hefty dent in the market, technology can make a big difference. Even if you do not have the resources or the budget that larger companies do, customers will take comfort in knowing you made smart use of technology to improve their experience.
Looking for inspiration on what may work for your business? Here are a few real-world examples that demonstrate various ways others have brought technology to the intersection between business and consumer:
In the example presented by Cindy Bates, Scottsdale Healthcare used the cloud-based Azure platform to give customers anytime/anywhere access to their providers. According to Microsoft’s data, Scottsdale Healthcare’s customers were extremely pleased with the mobile-friendly technology solution. It resulted in a total customer satisfaction score of 98% and a savings of $115,000 in just the first year.
Zappos has been obsessed with developing a “customer-first” culture since its origins over a decade ago. Not much has changed except maybe in how creative they have become in using technology to surprise and delight their customers. These days, Zappos maintains a steady presence on social media, fielding feedback, encouraging personal stories, and sharing some of their own from customers as well as employees.
As more and more retail sales move online, there is an increasing amount of pressure put on package delivery service providers to deliver more packages, in less time, and on time. One company looking for a solution to this problem is German mail service company DHL, who tested out their Parcelcopter drone in early 2016 in Germany.
The restaurant industry is regularly searching for new ways to automate their operations to cut down on inefficiencies, save money, and improve the customer experience. Unlike many restaurants that take their technology solutions directly to the customers’ tables, Olive Garden looked to ePowerCenter’s contact center technology.
As a result of the new back-end tech, Olive Garden saw improvements in customer email responses and conflict resolution turnarounds. They were also able to make effective and well-received updates to menu items and promotions based on customer insights.
Much like Zappos, Amazon is one of those companies that’s synonymous with technology-driven customer service solutions. In their latest business venture, Amazon is looking to launch checkout-less grocery stores. While most businesses cannot afford the sensors and computer vision Amazon uses to streamline the shopping experience and cut out the middleman, there are other forms of sensor technologies that smaller businesses can use (like beacons).
The key to using technology to differentiate your business from the competition is listening to what your customers need. They will tell you exactly what they want, expect, and need—directly or indirectly—if you listen closely enough.
As you can see from the examples above, there are a variety of ways to introduce technology into your business model. Just remember that this is about improving your customers’ experience, so be careful about investing time, money, and training on a new technology if it is not the best fit for your customers (or your bottom line).