Local Business Leaders' Predictions Focus on Technology and Customer Experience
To get some insights into what we can expect in 2018, I reached out to a few Southern California executives in varying fields and asked them what their predictions were for the year.
Once I gathered the data, a few themes emerged. Not surprisingly, many of them had to do with technology, or the impact technology is having on other areas of business.
Here are a few of the trends we can expect this year:
The Customer Experience is Everything
When I began asking local business leaders about their 2018 predictions, I was surprised at how many of them used the phrase “customer (or client) experience.”
Kathleen McEntee, president of Kathleen McEntee and Associates, offers this insight to businesses: “Enhancing the customer experience is transforming the way we do business. And, ‘customer’ includes prospects.”
Many of us think about customer experience, but how many of us are thinking about the experience that a prospect has in their earliest stages of interacting with us? If an exceptional customer experience is required from the first interaction, how can we provide that?
You guessed it, “Technology will be key in sending the right message at each touchpoint, from initial engagement through delivery.” said McEntee. “Videos to personalize the touch, animations to educate and differentiate, and social media to establish thought leadership will become part of the marketing mix for successful, customer-centric companies.”
Finding Qualified Employees Will Remain a Challenge
If you’ve tried to hire someone in the last 12 months, you know how challenging it can be. Unemployment is around 4.1% in California – the lowest it has been since January 2001. Competition for great candidates is fierce.
“One large hurdle that will continue into 2018 will be finding qualified people who have the necessary skillsets to contribute to company profitability," said Andy Anderson, partner at consulting firm B2B CFO. "With California’s new employment laws that begun on January 1st, it will be harder to find and identify qualified people. Employers will need to plan how to provide the necessary training to fill in the gaps in skill sets of employees to make them as productive as possible.”
Patti Cotton, executive coach and organizational development consultant, and a contributing columnist at the Press-Enterprise, had advice for companies who wish to remain competitive. “Disruptive technologies and shifting demands continue to shape the future of jobs and wages. The organization must require personal leadership at all levels in order to remain competitive and sustainable.”
She added some additional insights, specifically addressing those who contribute company’s success outside of a managerial role: “Individual contributors must also master this, acquiring skills in managing up, down, and across teams for business impact and career success.”
Automation Will Increase
When the labor market gets tight, companies look to alternatives – one of these being automation.
Not long ago, tools like complex robots and marketing automation software were reserved for the Fortune 500. But that is all changing. Companies like Rethink Robotics and HubSpot have lowered the barrier to entry so small- and medium-sized businesses can effectively compete.
Lisa Anderson has seen this first hand as president of LMA Consulting Group. “There is already a sharp uptick in executives calling to evaluate and select the best ERP, CRM, e-commerce, and business analytics systems to support their business growth and provide a superior customer experience…”
She stressed the importance of investment in automation saying “2018’s demand will far outpace the recent past and remind us of Y2K as the use of robotics, machine learning / IoT (Internet of Things), and predictive analytics surge and create even larger skills gaps for highly-skilled supply chain resources.
Those companies who get ahead of this curve will have a strategic advantage!”
Eric Roark, President of Roark Financial Solutions, had similar thoughts.
“Companies will continue the trend of replacing manual labor with technology and automation. E-commerce will continue to reshape the way products are delivered to consumers with food and grocery ripe for changes; the Internet of Things (IoT) will gain popularity as manufacturers continue the automation trend; Robotic Process Engineering and Artificial Intelligence, while early, will continue their maturation in automating white collar jobs.”
A common thread throughout these predictions was for dramatic change in the ways that organizations operate and the tools that they use.
Now more than ever, make sure your IT team is involved in your planning process, ensuring the decisions you make will lead you to the success you’re looking for.
The full 2018 Business Predictions report is available at: https://info.accentonit.com/2018-predictions
About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.