Are you ready for the digital disruption?

Technology may be disrupting the digital frontier but it is having an equally disruptive effect on how organisations engage with people.

Digital disruption has gone from the dark tale of the digital monster that hides under the business bed to a fact of business life. The highway littered with the bodies of organisations that didn’t listen to the noise or pay attention to the change. According to the Accenture Disruptability Index, 63% of organisations are currently in the throes of disruption but only 20% believe that they are ready for it. While some industries may be deeper in the disruptive storm than others, all need to look to how they can harness digital and really look to inventive ways of engaging with it.

While technology continues to evolve at a fantastic rate, it is simultaneously changing the way in which the business operates. Social media is one very strong case in point – it has empowered the customer and made the business accountable. This new level of customer engagement and communication has spent the last few years fundamentally shaking the foundations of the business. Suddenly the consumer has a voice and this voice has a very real impact on sales, reputation and business growth. The companies that stopped, pivoted and communicated quickly with openness and transparency were the ones that thrived. Those that continued to operate behind closed doors may not have turned belly up and died, but they have lost market share, reputation and customer respect. These qualities may not sound like much but when damaged, they take a long time to repair.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that companies have to face right now is the move from their ‘old world’ view, the one that has them appearing as close to perfect as possible, to the ‘new world’ view. The organisation has to accept that they can and will make mistakes and that these are potentially advantages and opportunities. They can help the business keep in alignment with the change that is sweeping the world. Mistakes, a willingness to learn and transparency in an age where the things that were swept under the carpet are suddenly being exposed, is a golden ticket to customer engagement and reputation management.

To this end, every organisation needs someone who takes control of their social media engagement and interactions. The most important factor is responsiveness and if nobody is monitoring social media or has this as part of their role, then it is likely that balls will fall and customers will notice. Companies also need a clear approach to transparency. The parameters around it need to be defined. If there isn’t clarity on this, then they should work with experts to help them. The ability to remain transparent and communicate openly makes a huge difference in an increasingly suspicious world.

Every organisation should take the time to assess its customer base and make decisions accordingly. It is critical that they engage with their consumers where they are most active and in the most relevant ways. From reputation to engagement to transparency, it is time for every organisation to disrupt how it communicates with its markets and customers.

Howard Feldman is a businessman, philanthropist and social commentator.

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