The New Competitive Differentiator

A new competitive differentiator — known as organizational velocity (the speed at which companies conduct business) — needs to be a focal point for today’s successful airlines. As such, they must be as nimble with their data and technology as travelers are with their personal devices.

hanks to some of the most popular “necessities” of 21st century life – the smartphone and social media – when a business angers or even delights a single customer, its blunder, and far too infrequently, its success, can be broadcast around the world within a matter of seconds.

In the past, the business may have responded to the misstep by reviewing the customer’s history, analyzing the transaction in question, talking with the parties involved, escalating the situation to upper management for review and a few days, weeks or months later issuing an apology and compensation. By then, the damage is done and the customer has switched his or her brand loyalty and moved on to face the next challenge.

The immediacy of social media, broadcast over myriad mobile devices, now dictates that businesses try to keep pace with their customers. Organizational velocity, or the speed at which organizations conduct business, including customer engagement, has become a critical factor to their success. Moreover, as Forrester Research noted, organizational velocity is the new competitive differentiator.

Basically, increasing organizational velocity requires businesses to work smarter and/or do less to achieve satisfactory results. The need for increased speed impacts all aspects of business, including research, product design, operations, communications, marketing, sales and customer service. It’s a task that is becoming more challenging, as organizations find themselves buried under a deluge of data from traditional, transaction-based systems, as well as massive, unstructured amounts of tweets, posts and other digital content.

The unprecedented proliferation of data in the marketplace has resulted in the compression of the customer lifecycle, and in turn, the need for businesses to quickly gather and analyze information and immediately act upon customer insights.

In the past, organizations leapt ahead of their competition through informed decision making. Simply making decisions that are data-driven is no longer enough. Now, the speed at which an organization is able to take in, interpret and action data in an automated fashion empowers an organization to make decisions based on what is predicted to happen, not what happened in the past.

Moving from diagnostic data analysis technologies that evaluate historical data to predictive or prescriptive models enables organizations to increase their agility, personalize the customer experience and consistently respond in real-time at any point in the customer journey. Companies that are quick to adapt and respond to customers hold a competitive advantage.

Traditional businesses processes, as well, must be retooled to better support new technologies and accelerate customer engagement. Necessary adjustments often include:

  • Prioritizing tasks and completing the most critical ones first;
  • Defining the minimum requirements needed to produce a satisfactory customer experience;
  • Training and empowering customer-facing employees with the information to make and execute decisions in real time.

The airline industry, in particular, is challenged by the need to decrease response times to customers. Although numerous points of engagement with customers offer ample opportunity for data collection, airlines’ ability to efficiently and effectively convert that data into insights and insights into actions is critical.

“Speed of insight and speed of action are becoming core differentiators,” said Mary Salfen, general manager of IBM Global Travel and Transportation Industry. “The tools are now readily available to any airline.”

While data volume is certainly important for creating a comprehensive view of the customer, the velocity with which information can be converted and utilized to enhance the customer journey is of even greater value. Companies must become as agile with their data and technology as their customers are with their personal electronic devices. Organizations that fail to do so may soon become obsolete in the rapidly changing marketplace.

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