Customer trends require technology to leverage

Even in a world dominated by digital technologies, some companies still hesitate to adopt tools that could take their business to the next level. That’s often preventing businesses from engaging in developing customer trends, most of which increasingly rely on digital technologies to leverage.
Smart Business spoke with Jim Altman, Middle Market Pennsylvania Regional Executive at Huntington Bank, about some burgeoning digital trends, as well as strategies to take advantage of them.
What digital transformation trends are taking hold?
Companies today are using personalization to differentiate customer experiences. The experiences customers want differ based on who they are and what they need. With greater personalization and customization, companies can segment their approach so that narrower customer segments get catered products, experiences and services.
Unlocking the collected customer data companies hold goes a long way to understanding the uniqueness that a business can provide its customers. Every company collects a great deal of customer data, but many don’t use that data to drive experiences. It’s important that companies learn to analyze the data that they capture, in part so they can drive more personalized experiences.
Another trend has companies creating ecosystems that serve as a platform for broader interaction, either between a company and its customers, or with customers and other companies. Companies are starting to figure out who they need to partner with — often because those partners work outside the company’s first line of expertise — to provide value to their customers, in part by offering multiple services in one place.
Why might businesses hesitate to adopt newer technologies?
Often business leaders, when presented with a new technology, aren’t eager to employ it. They may understand that the tool offers a more efficient way to perform a task, but they resist, instead relying on the way they’ve always done it because, in their mind, it’s easier.
Additionally, as more applications are based in the cloud, some companies avoid using them because they are uncomfortable relying on cloud services. That’s typically out of concern for security, as some companies believe the cloud is not as secure as software hosted on on-premise servers. While this might seem to them like a prudent risk mitigation strategy, it often means the company misses out on opportunities to save costs through increased efficiencies, or to better connect with customers.
Overcoming that requires educating leadership about the pros and cons of cloud-based applications, making communication key. It takes working with someone who is able to explain the applications, how they work, and how to establish procedures that mitigate as much risk as possible.
Once the benefits and risks are clearly communicated, businesses should start small. For instance, use one cloud application to begin with and work into more as the organization gets more comfortable. Companies tend to think they need to move all applications to the cloud at once. But starting small can help the initiative gain credibility at all levels of the business, which instills confidence and helps the organization move to the next stage. The process can begin by creating a transition plan that identifies specific applications to move to the cloud one at a time. Once most people are comfortable, it can really take off from there.
How can companies mitigate technology risks?
A lot of risk can be mitigated by working with external partners. For example, there are a lot of fintechs that have created niche businesses that can help companies in very specific areas. For companies facing a risk that’s outside their comfort zone, partnering with one of these up-and-coming companies that have mastered a specific functionality where that risk is found can help mitigate security concerns while connecting with valuable expertise.

Look for ways to partner with entities that have expertise and have already assumed certain risks. There are so many businesses that specialize in certain areas that companies often don’t need to develop products, software or procedures internally because specialized partners can do it quicker and with less risk.

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