Guest blog by Tim Streather
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What's the first thing you did when you got out of bed this morning? Brushed your teeth? Fed your dog? Took a shower?How about checked your phone? Don't worry - you're not alone …According to a recent study from IDC Research, 80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning!
In fact, in some cases, we've actually become addicted to them! Ever had that sinking feeling in your stomach when you've realised you think you've misplaced your phone? Or forgotten to take it to work?
It's become so bad, that there's now even an official condition for people who can't be without their devices. Yes, the age of the "Nomophobic" - those who are afraid of being without their mobile phone, is upon us!
Now, most people believe this is the generation that's addicted to their phones.And yes, that's partly true - the "Millennials" are heavy device users, and talk in terms of "Mobile Only", never mind "Mobile First"; however when it comes to Gen C - AKA "Generation Connected", it's not just the youngsters that are part of the tribe.
That's because, Gen C isn't defined by our age group, but our collective behavior.Anyone using smartphones, tablets, and laptops - and anyone spending time on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube is part of "Generation Connected".So unless you're one of the real minority that doesn't own a smartphone, or doesn't have a social media account of any kind, you are a "Gen C'er" - a generation not only connected to our devices, but to each other.
So how is all of this relevant to business and in particular, your organization?Because there is a war on attention right now. Getting your message heard is harder than ever before. Getting your product, service or offering to stand-out in a sea of noise is near-on impossible.
Think about it - as consumers, wherever we turn, it appears a company is desperate for us to notice them - desperate to try and sell us something. And that feels uncomfortable. We simply aren't tolerating it anymore. The irony is, through our device usage, we are "more connected" than ever, yet it is becoming harder than ever for organisations, companies and brands to "connect" with us.
Some of you may remember the days when popping to the local store for a loaf of bread was more like going to visit a friend.No sooner had we walked in, the shopkeeper had got our loaf of bread ready for us to take away. He knew what we wanted before we even asked. And before we left, he was sure to ask us about our family - how the kids are, how our parents are.The experience was deeply personal, and because he knew "us", we remained steadfastly loyal.
Fast-forward to today. Where not only is the personalized experience gone, but the shopkeeper himself has! Replaced by a machine - a machine that is frustrating to use, barks orders at us, and doesn't know us from Adam.It couldn't't be further from what we grew up with. It's deeply inhuman and deeply impersonal.
So in the age of advertising overload, and the new "digital economy" do we have any chance of having a personal relationship with those who we serve?Where we know people by their names, instead of a customer number?And actually, is there any point in trying?
I believe there really is. You only have to look at the success of organisations such as Amazon to see the difference it can make.Amazon wins because it "knows" us. It uses data we feed it, to deliver a better personalized and relevant experience to us. And because it feels personal, we remain loyal.Amazon treats us as individuals, not as a number. Amazon takes the time to "connect" with us, therefore we remain "connected" to Amazon.And the same goes for Netflix. Netflix studies our history - not to try and sell us something we don't want. But to deliver a more useful, engaging service. A service we can't help but come back to.
And it's not just on-line retailers, or streaming video providers - the financial services company MINT is connecting with its customers via an App which pulls together all of their financial information from a variety of sources - presenting it in a clear, concise view.They take the supplier/customer relationship to a new level, by offering tips and advice, as well as personal financial goal setting for their customers.They are connecting with people by being useful, not a nuisance - they are becoming an important part of their lives.
Sounds great right?! However, it's not as simple as it appears.To connect at a deeply personal level, you first have to connect at a machine level.In order to deliver a relevant and engaging experience, you have to join together a multitude of different systems - all of which hold vital clues and information to your customer.And, if you're like many companies we deal with, your IT estate has likely grown over time. You probably have a mixture of on-premise, and off-premise solutions, modern ones, and legacy ones.
Therefore seeing a complete view of a customer, and serving them in a personalized, individual way, no matter how, where or when they chose to interact with you is a real challenge …
The answer is made complicated by many IT vendors - Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Big Data are all key paradigm shifts, and have their part to play; but ultimately none can drive significant benefits without a strong connectivity foundation. Most organisations, if they are honest still exist in fragmented silos; hence my vision to "connect the systems that matter, with the people that matter".
Going one-step further; to connect with people at a human-level, you first have to connect at a machine-level. And connectivity is at the heart of everything we do at my company:Connecting together systems, so you can connect with people - delivering personalized, enabling relevant and memorable experiences to be delivered to your audiences.
CSI will be attending the IBM Business Connect event on the 5th of November - if you want to chat more about what we do, please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter@timstreatheror post a comment on this blog and we can arrange to meet at the event. You can register atibm.biz/BCBlogs, and get involved pre event with#IBMBCUKI.
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