Who moved my cheese — yet again?
(The following blog entry is a re-post of my article from www.successfulworkplace.org)
In the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, the book Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life was a popular motivational book by Spencer Johnson. It addressed the issue of experiencing change in one’s work and life and possible reactions to those changes. The premise of the book is that mice in a maze are rewarded for finding cheese. When the cheese moves, some go in search of it while others keep coming back to the same place, weaker each day.
Boom!! With the explosion of mobile devices, analytics, higher bandwidth and social media, it may be time to re-read a not-so-old classic. The frequency with which business paradigms are shifting is ever more rapid and compressed. We blink and discover the cheese just moved again. We need to be serial cheese-finders.
Corporate cheese finding
Companies are no different. For them, the cheese is found at the intersection of the customer’s preferences and loyalty. When things move rapidly, some companies will double down on finding the same cheese in the same place while others will see the change coming and begin to change tactics. Like the characters in Johnson’s book, businesses today have three paths to choose from…they can ignore change, worry without making a decision, or act and take advantage of the situation.
The biggest challenge to finding the new cheese is tradition, especially traditions (processes, techniques, skills, personalities) that have been most successful in the past. Traditional businesses will find their data in traditional sources, analyze using the same methods and execution will continue through the same channels. Look no further than Borders, who did not adjust when their cheese moved and their customers began buying books online and using tablets and e-readers. Border’s is now extinct and its stores are closed.
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese
Businesses have an opportunity to “own” their customers by focusing on their preferences and making the offers more personalized. Everyone enjoys feeling important and special. There is a restaurant that my family and I frequent that serves a great set of curry dishes. The prices are comparable to a similar restaurant across the street. But at this particular restaurant, the chef/owner knows who I am, knows my voice on the phone for takeaway orders, and uses my name when he sees me. With that kind of personalized service along with the good food, it makes it me loyal to his restaurant.
More importantly, he stays close enough to me to know my changing tastes and preferences.
In contrast is another example of one of my local grocery stores. They have a great idea of providing coupons to you when you are checking out. The intent is to provide us with more incentive to come back. Unfortunately, they are not products that my family has purchased in the past, nor are they products we intend to buy in the future.
They don’t know me and probably never will. Their cheese will move and they’ll never see it coming.
When you move beyond your fear, you feel free
With paradigms shifting so quickly, many are having a difficult time changing. They are following the human tendency of sticking with what they know while their cheese disappears, revenues drop and customer-base deteriorates.
The businesses and marketers that take advantage of the new information sources, data management techniques and intelligence tools available and deeper insights into their markets will have a much greater chance of success. They can be my favorite restaurant, but with scale.
Move with the cheese and enjoy it
With change occurring with increasing frequency, the companies that are nimble, proactive and embrace change are the ones that will thrive with each shift of the market or customer. These will become “anti-fragile” because they are able to adjust and even capitalize on change. These companies are more likely to survive and thrive as the economy and the buying habits of customers change. Those that are reactive will always be behind the competition and the distance between them will grow. Those that do nothing will no longer be in the race.
Did you blink? The cheese just moved again.
Big Data: Mountain of Differentiation
There have been many discussions on the topic of Big Data over the past couple of years. Is it being over-hyped? The Gartner Group thinks so.
Big Data has become the generic term for the massive amounts of data businesses have accumulated during the course of their operations. There are ongoing discussions on how useful it might be and how it can be used. By applying the right analytics software to the data, most believe it can lead to new efficiencies, improved business processes, lower costs, higher profits, improved customer experiences, services and loyalties.
Communication Service Providers (CSP) have an absolute mountain of Big Data within their domain that is clearly untapped – or at the very least under-utilized. Is this a missed opportunity for differentiation? Let’s take a closer look at their current business model and assess if there are new possibilities.
Mobile CSP’s revenue streams are based on service usage and their major costs are subscriber churn, device subsidiaries and keeping their networks current. To differentiate themselves from their competitors, they focus on devices, price plans and network. The problem:
- They all have the same or similar devices and price plans.
- They all claim the fastest 4G/LTE network.
Within their domains, they have available both real-time and “static” or near real-time data. A small subset of available real-time data includes:
- Currently active identity and device(s)
- Current location, presence, availability
- Active content
- Charging preferences, prepaid balance
- Minutes and data usage
A small subset of “static” or near real-time data includes:
- Real Name and Billing address
- Number of devices
- Web-sites accessed, searches made
- Friends and Family, Business associates
- Defined preferences
- Content and genre purchased and downloaded
For CSP’s that also offer wireline, broadband and video services, this list can grow to include number of devices in the home, devices active, channels watched, time of day, days of the week and many more data items.
Each service provider also has multiple third-party partners that augment their services. These partners are also going to have more information about subscribers relevant to what, how and when services and content are accessed and utilized.
With 10, 20 or even 100 million plus subscribers initiating a combined millions of transactions each day, all of which gets distilled into data records, that is a massive amount of data that can be used to establish insights and intelligence about subscribers and understand their preferences.
Identity and Master Data
All of the above data items are tied together by the mobile number/account number which acts as the common Identity or primary key of the subscriber. By using master data management techniques such as centralization, virtualization and federation, CSP’s can establish a single, universal view of the individual subscribers.
With ongoing advances in analytics software, CSP’s have at their finger-tips the means to truly understand how their services are used and by whom. They can also define, redefine and fine-tune market segments, demographics and buying characteristics. As a result, it doesn’t take much imagination to brainstorm a list of ideas for service providers to:
- Personalize the service experience
- Develop enhanced loyalty management programs
- Enable targeted advertising specific to the individual’s preferences
Are there opportunities for service providers to differentiate themselves beyond just price plans and devices? Absolutely. There is a mountain of Big Data available to make it happen. With just a subset of the available data, there is much more that a service provider can do to enhance the experience of their subscribers. The category of personalization alone can create a whole new set of ideas and innovation.
Corner Office Wisdom:
In order to think outside the box when it comes to finding new opportunities and enhancing your business, sometimes you just need to look inside the box.