Prepare for 2013 and the Dawn of the Conceptual Age

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March 01, 2013
Forward Thinking
Bill Peters - virtual.evolution1@gmail.com

Industries such as hospitality, healthcare, technical services and even financial services need to evolve from the Informational Age into the Conceptual Age if they are to compete in the 2013 market. During the last century or more, we have seen industries mature and develop.  The timeline has been:
1900 to 1960 - Manufacturing Age
1960 to 1990 - Distribution Age
1990 to 2012 - Informational Age
2013 to Future - Conceptual Age

In the year 2000, industries discovered the commercial value of electronic marketing and the sale of products and services over the Internet. Powerful websites were built to offer live product inventory with secure purchasing protocols. Customers could now order and purchase products and services online.  It was an exciting and revolutionary way of shopping, and the general public loved it. However, during the first Christmas rush that year it all came crashing down when customers tried to contact the companies directly for a multitude of reasons. It could have been a lost shipment, a wrong product was delivered or just a return.  Customers were furious; they could not reach anyone at these new websites. Calls, emails and faxes to these companies went unanswered. Many of these companies had rushed to the Web and quickly developed Web-based selling and marketing strategies but forgot one thing: How do you stay connected to your customers?

After the Christmas of 2000, some companies identified that their customers needed to be able to contact them directly via a customer contact center or live Internet chat, and ensured that emails and faxes would be answered within 24 hours. Unfortunately, companies that did not embrace these new ways of customer connection soon found themselves facing extinction.

Companies hired third-party customer contact centers to help address this need, while at the same time developing their own. The fallacy that all business could be conducted electronically proved just that, a fallacy.  People need to connect with people especially when it comes to sales, services and/or purchases.

During the next few years, successful industries kept enhancing their websites and product offerings. This created a whole new marketing approach: electronic media marketing. Now each website was competing for each click, keyword and view. At times it became more important to have the most visitors to one’s site rather than actual sales. At least that was how most electronic marketing budgets were explained to the C-suite executives. Competition for keywords and a first page listing on a Web search became paramount.

From 2005 to 2012 a new electronic media began to show its potential for increased sales: social media,  Companies approached this new media as a means to develop more and more marketing ideas directly from the customer through customer reviews. Companies would then try to influence their customers with the best products or services for them by participating in those dialogs when appropriate and possible. The marketing departments of those companies continue to grow even today.

2013 Is Here; What Is Really Happening?
Consumers now drive the product marketing and service world for most companies. It is not so much a new reality but a twist to the reality of marketing and sales and brand awareness. The consumers are now on every social media site available making distinct comments about their experiences dealing with a company and the company’s product or services. This could be an advantage or disadvantage for the brand depending on how the company responds to these comments. Customers are using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp!, Trip.com and other industry-related sites as their bully puppets.

These comments are now reaching the company’s C-suite executives. In most cases prior to social media, consumer issues were usually handled by a customer relations department, marketing and sales department or the shipping department of the company. Previously, comments did not go viral for the world to see, and C-suite executives never were exposed to them. Social media is now responsible for consumer direct access to the C-suite. The C-suite can now see those consumer comments and how those comments are affecting the brand, sales and revenue and EBITA. The C-suite executives can see what other customers can see about their company/brand, and in most instances, it is not very attractive, right, wrong or indifferent. The customer is always right and word of mouth spreads very quickly on these websites, and a company’s reputation can be brought down very quickly.

The C-suite executives are now looking for better ways to communicate back through social media to reverse any negative trends through consumer comments. This has given the company’s contact centers a seat in the C-suite. Industries need to use the best technology available to the contact centers to bring together all social media connections. This needs to be done on skill-based routing so comments can be addressed almost instantaneously.

This prevents customer churn and also makes the customer feel:

  • That he or she made the right decision
  • The company exceeds his or her expectations in making a wrong a right
  • The company has listened
  • The customer’s business is important to the company
  • The company made it easy for the customer to deal with it
Adding this up equals to:
  • The customer trusts the company
  • The customer will tell his or her friends
  • The positive experiences will go viral in social media, creating a very positive image of the company or brand, which will increase sales

Using the best technology, hosted, premise based or SaaS, is imperative for 2013. The interfaces for CTI, CRM, knowledge-base databases are more essential then ever. Companies need to evolve into the Conceptual Age of 2013 to ensure their successes and to stay connected to customers.

Companies need to evaluate all state-of-the-art technology offerings that are available and begin to implement them as quickly as possible.  In today’s Conceptual Age it is the company that understands its customers from the C-suite on down that will be the most successful for the next decade. There are cost-effective ways to accomplish this. The use of proper technology and human resources must be looked at closely. It’s a proven strategy and can save millions of dollars in payroll and resources when done properly.

The Conceptual Age gives hoteliers the opportunity to create and evolve into top-notch operating companies by addressing the needs of all departments and being open to change.

Bill Peters is a strategic consultant with Virtualization Evolution, LLC, and can be reached at virtual.evolution1@gmail.com.

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