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Keeping up with the customer of the future

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Understanding what influences customers will help CEOs navigate organisational strategies and transformation according to LC Singh, global vice chair and CEO of Nihilent Technologies.
The corporate tsunami is on its way and expected to significantly disrupt the business status quo within two to three years unless companies immerse themselves in understanding their customers.
CEOs will be expected to master the design thinking to business-solving as they lead their organisations through the challenges of digitalisation, disruption and continuous learning in their quest to remain relevant to the customers of the future. Design Thinking is also about coping with change in order to keep and grow market share. The alternative is extinction.
This is no more evident than global brands who were once leaders in their fields such as Kodak, Sony Walkman, Nokia and Blackberry amongst others are becoming unknowns in the marketplace due to new market entrants such as Apple and Samsung.
Had these companies been able to harness design thinking by developing an integrated mindset through combining analytical and intuitive thinking, they may have had the opportunity of creating a new reality for their then trusted brands.

Design thinking for operational strategies
The crux of the design thinking process is analysing and hypothesising the customer’s responsiveness in four key areas namely: functionality of the product or service; the usability of the product or value of the service offered; decision-making based on aesthetics; and the overall emotional appeal the product or service presents.
Awareness about design thinking in addition to machine learning, natural language processing and predictive analytics will help organisations across industries in planning their operational strategies.

Towards a dynamic workforce ecosystem
Not only will CEO’s be expected to ensure their operational strategies are in place to guarantee their companies remain relevant to customers but they will also be expected to transform their organisations internally to deliver to the customer’s demands and expectations.
Significant investment by enterprises into human capital development and re-skilling employees for the jobs of the future as well as their approach to talent acquisition and retention will be required. While processes and technology will assist in bringing about this change rapidly, the real cultural transformation resides with employees and their willingness to adapt to design thinking.
Technologies will come and go, but skills will always remain a strong foundation for humans, helping them do work requiring empathy and human interaction.
Artificial intelligence will play a significant role in identifying individual developmental skills which can help employees in taking a career leap. Through skills development, the job of the future will lead to a dynamic workforce ecosystem.
Business models are changing, taking new developments in technology into account. An example of this is in the banking and financial industry where payment technology and customer service has challenged traditional banking practices as customers demand more, faster. Examples of these in the South African environment include Discovery, Nedbank and Capitec to name a few.

Who is the customer of the future?
This is the first time the consumer community has had so much power over business and the way they are serviced. This has created massive opportunities for companies to devise unconventional methods and service empowered new consumers.
Digital connectivity permeates all aspects of daily life – from the way people interact to the economic landscape, political decision-making and the skills needed to get a job. Consumers of today have embraced technologies like never before and are using sophisticated user experience platforms that they expect to be delivered by enterprises and their favourite brands.
The public and private sector are rolling-out strategies that will address the five key shifts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, namely the rapidly changing world of work which requires new strategies and skills; the interconnectedness of economies and the global marketplace; digitisation, automation, big data and disruptive technologies; individual and higher customer and client-centricity demand and; the ever changing political and legislative landscape – but will they be ready to catch and ride the next wave?
This revolution is not limited to key industry sectors where technology and humans meet, we already see new business models evolving such as Uber and the driverless vehicle, AirBNB, Google and Amazon amongst other customer-centric innovations.

Introducing Gen ‘U’
While Millennials or Gen Y’s born after 1980, are currently the target of most of the attention and focus from companies adapting their products and services, there is a new generation rising – and it is not the Gen Z – of those born after 1995.
Generation “YouTube” (Gen-U) – the post 2009 generation is rising and enterprises need to start gearing their engagement strategies towards them or lose out. Gen-U – many of whom are eight years old and still at school are turning learning on its head. They are using their digital connectedness to grow their knowledge through the vast information the Internet and specifically YouTube has to offer.

Design Thinking is the human-centred approach to business problem-solving
Over the last several years, technology has begun to play a leading role in transformation of business models of enterprises.
At its core is the central theme of empathy, and the trust connection between brands and consumers. Businesses that succeed at design thinking, which reflects a level of authenticity while ensuring human-to-human engagement, will do well in defining and interacting with the customer of the future.
The applications across industry sectors and the overall disruption this will bring to enterprises is unlimited and presents the question – will Gen-U want to own property, buy a vehicle or rent parking space? The answer is a simple no.
The future is scary but corporates must start adapting the design thinking way and build capability to meet future needs and ensure longevity.