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Brexit? Don’t neglect your customers

21st Aug 2019
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In the latter years of the last century business minds were filled with one thing: the millennium bug. Computing had made giant strides forwards in the preceding thirty years.

Nevertheless a number of legacy systems had internal clocks which were apparently not programmed to run beyond the end of 1999. As a result, it was predicted that at the turn of the new century multiple systems would fail and chaos would ensue.

In order to avert catastrophe businesses were urged to review systems and work with their IT professionals in order to update or install date-proof computer systems.

Whether the hard work and planning paid off or whether the initial problem was not as bad as forecast is a matter for others to review; but suffice it to say we entered a new century without encountering a meltdown of the IT infrastructure.

However, those who worked through those uncertain times can testify that vast resources were taken up in systems review and planning.

With time, funds, and expertise all being diverted to the sole aim of defeating the millennium bug; other areas such as product development and customer service suffered. And in some instances customers were further inconvenienced as replacement systems were rushed into place, often without proper scoping or testing.

Learning the millennium bug lesson

As the great wall of Brexit looms up before us, are there any lessons which we can learn from the millennium bug experience?  Now I appreciate that the millennium bug affected a finite number of systems and had a definite end date; whereas Brexit, at the time of writing at least, has no fixed end date and could potentially affect numerous systems including IT, the supply chain and transport.

Nevertheless, those lessons which we learnt twenty years ago remain relevant today. Lessons such as the benefit of robust identification and planning, and of the importance of collaborating with others in order to devise realistic solutions. And the most important lesson of all is to make sure that despite all of the resources which have been diverted to planning, your customers remain central to your business.

It is all too easy to be sidetracked when faced with relentless demands on resources. But it is also all too easy to forget that your customers now will in all probability be your customers once those demands have eased; or at least they will be if your inattention hasn’t driven them away. So now, more than ever, it is the time to put customers first.

I’m not going to list all of the options here; after all, there are plenty of suggestions in the pages of this site. But as a start why not:

  • Empower your people. You may be engaging your efforts in planning so this is a great opportunity to empower your customer facing people to step up, to take ownership of problems and deliver solutions.
  • Build customer dialogue. What is really important to customers? What products and services do they value the most and what, at a pinch, could be left to slide? When your customers become partners in planning you may get some surprising results.

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