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Adapt or Die: Surviving the Digital Transformation (Part Two)

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the digital transformation happening all around us.  Here’s a link to the original post in case you missed it.  Obviously the world is a much different place now.  We are all wearing masks and wondering how the nation (and world) is going to recover from COVID-19.  Our networks are also literally under attack with over 82% of US based companies admitting to some type of cyber incident in 2019.  The Fed is “printing money” at an unprecedented rate.  We also have many of our staff working from home – they are actually working, right??  This is all scary to say the least – but that is not what this article is about.  I’ve spent the past 30 years pivoting on the massive changes consistent with the IT industry to beat the odds, grow my company and stay in business.  It is interesting to note that in 1958, the average life span of a business was 61 years.  Today it is less than 12.  As per my previous article, you must change and pivot to survive.  The environment right now is harsh and some businesses will unfortunately not survive.  I don’t want to see this happen to any of my friends, family, clients or business associates.  If you haven’t already, please read the original article before proceeding further.  It provides a good foundation for what is written below.

I actually have a very real case in point I would like to replay for you.  I was quite surprised by the events and I believe there is much to be learned from the experience.  I am already reviewing my own business decisions and processes to make sure I am not inadvertently following the same path.

This story actually starts out in late July with my wife and I wanting to get some new flooring for our home.  I’ve always had a certain loyalty for Lowe’s.  Perhaps it is because that’s where my father used to shop when I was a boy, so I just followed suit.  Call me old school, but I tend to be very loyal to companies that have served me well over the years.  I contacted Lowe’s and arranged for them to come out and measure the rooms, which is standard procedure.  It took a week for them to come out.  A week after that, I was called and given the proposal over the phone.  The price seemed fair and I had already settled on the flooring choice so I told them it was approved.  Let’s do this!  The fellow on the phone was very nice but I could barely understand him because the phone system was so bad.  He said he was well aware of the poor quality as well.  He said I needed to come by the store to pay for the project ahead of time and that he could not take a credit card over the phone.  Credit cards were only processed at the front desk.  The front desk was quite busy and it would be much easier for me to just come by the store.  I told him that was fine and hung up.

After putting the phone down, I pondered on this for a moment.  The phone service was bad and the salesman knew it.  He didn’t offer to email me a copy of the proposal or make doing business with him easy in any way.  Forcing me to come into the store just to swipe my credit card is a 40 minute round trip drive for me and frankly a waste of time.  I had a feeling I just wasn’t being given exceptional customer service.  Even though I had two weeks invested so far in this project, I decided to give Home Depot a try right then and see how the experience might differ.  What a difference!

On the Home Depot website, it clearly said to schedule a measurement just fill out the online form.  I did so and within 48 hours a fellow was at my house taking measurements.  Within 48 more hours, I had a detailed quote in my email and a friendly salesperson called me to go over the details and make sure everything was clear.  She said I could just click the Order Now button on the quote and enter my credit card number online for easy payment which I gladly did.  Within 24 hours, I had another email introducing the installers and allowing me to choose my preferred installation date from an online calendar.  Needless to say, this was a very efficient and painless process.

Home Depot eliminated all of the obstacles that Lowe’s just took for granted as being the norm.  It’s pretty obvious to me that Home Depot analyzed the quoting and buying process and did everything they could to make it as streamlined as possible.  As best I can tell, Lowe’s is still using the same methods and technology from over ten years ago.  It cost them the sale and will most likely continue to cost them sales until they realize the world has changed.  Customers want things to be easy and efficient.  It’s time to examine your business workflow, sales process, procurement, payment methods, etc.  What are the stumbling blocks for your clients?  What could drive them to look for other sources or vendors?

The technology and tools are already here and available to you.  There is no reason to put up with an inferior phone system, not have online payment options, leveraging the cloud for efficiency, etc.  These improvements are simple and may not even cost you any more than you are spending now to keep the old ways going.  Are your employees still using computers that are ten years old and slow as molasses?  Rest assured, your competition is making investments to stay quick, nimble and efficient.  If you are not focused on improving your processes, then it makes surviving in the best of times difficult.  Surviving during this COVID downturn may not even be possible.  We will very soon see the rubble of fallen businesses that just couldn’t pivot.  Please don’t be one of them by taking a blind eye toward doing what it takes to adapt.

I hope the Lowe’s and Home Depot example impacted you as deeply as it did me.  I’ve always had a focus on improvement, staying current and removing barriers for business to provide an excellent customer experience.  This incident has renewed that passion for me here at ComTech.  Striving for excellence is a journey with no endpoint.  We should all be pushing hard down that path every day.  Never coast on past success or you may fall victim to the Lowe’s incident I described.  With that said, you can expect some wonderful changes ahead from ComTech.  We have a concentrated effort on making everything simpler and more efficient in many areas.  New services like enhanced security, consolidated billing, a client portal for ticketing, and advanced online billing with auto pay are just a few things we are bringing to our clients very soon.  New services and streamlined workflow are always in progress for us.  I very much look forward to bringing all of these things (and more) to you.

What are you doing to enhance your customer experience?  Give it some serious thought so we can all ride this out together and come out the other side so much the better.

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