What are your main drivers of change? Technological developments, big data, building new markets, fending off competition; all these and more would be worthy candidates but if customers don’t make it onto your shortlist then you are potentially missing one of your greatest advocates for and partners in change.
The trouble is that it can be all too easy to get so carried away in developing the business, building new products and the excitement of new challenges that you lose sight of the essential reason for your being; delivering great products and services that will benefit your customers. And no matter how well-intentioned, sometimes the developments which you see as an enhancement just don’t deliver what customers are looking for.
Even social media organisations which are designed around and for people interactions don’t always get it right. For example, at the time of writing, more than 1 million people worldwide have signed a petition asking Snapchat to rollback its latest update which was designed to separate interactions with friends from branded content. Whether this backlash is simply a reaction to change or whether what Snapchat views as enhancements has made the app less user friendly only time will tell. Nevertheless, a protest of this magnitude would indicate that the company has got something wrong, either by misreading the marketplace or in the way in which it interacted with its customers in introducing change.
That’s not to say that businesses should hold back from change in fear of alienating their customers. If we went down that path mankind would never have even reached the Stone Age! But nor should we ignore the human factor within any change initiative. Interestingly, PwC’s 2017 innovation benchmark  revealed that 54% of executives believe that customer engagement strategy helps to define innovation from early ideation onwards whilst 35% saw customers as being the most important innovation partners.
They are encouraging statistics but they reveal that there is still some way to go before customers are seen as equal partners in business development. So how do we get the balance right between change for the sake of change and change that will actually make a difference for customers? And how do we know when to follow the advice we get from customers about what they want and when to lead them to new places?
One approach is to start by looking at the adaptive capability approach to business transformation. Whilst this is more traditionally applied to internal business transformations, the essential elements of awareness, leadership and learning can equally be applied to any business development initiative. The main difference here is that awareness isn’t simply confined to internal issues but draws in a deep understanding of customers, products, potential and the overall marketplace. Only with this deep understanding, the leadership look to deliver great customer experiences with products which will really make a difference.
Delivering change, developing new products, playing new technologies can be both exciting and energising. The key to success is not to get so carried away that you lose sight of the ultimate beneficiary, your customer.