Lessons Learned from #Pivotcon: Listen, Learn & Humanize in the Age of People-Centric Business

Author: Meg Bear

Author: Meg Bear, Group Vice President, Oracle Social Cloud

Last week I attended the annual Pivot Conference in New York City. The theme of Pivotcon, “The Digital Imperative,” focused on the creative disruption digital is having on society and how that is changing our culture, behaviors, businesses, homes, transportation, media and much more. The convergence of mobile, social and cloud technologies has altered how we view and interact with our world and empowered us to learn more, engage more, explore more, buy more, create more, share more and expand our digital capabilities beyond mere physical limitations.

Think about these changes within your own life.  Uber has simplified and enhanced the transportation experience. We seek Yelp for locating the perfect spot to eat. We share stories on Facebook. We voice our opinions on Twitter. We network on LinkedIn. We control our homes remotely with Nest. We are never without our smartphones. And information is always just a click away.

We are an empowered people. And it’s happening across all generations and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the rising millennials, no more a novelty but a mainstream reality, completely embody the digital imperative. They grew up mobile, social and open. They think and operate differently, embracing technologies for the greater good in a transparent, engaging and social way. They expect the businesses they buy from and work for to operate the same.  Here’s a reality check: In 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials – that’s your employees, partners and customers.

Organizations must completely re-think how they approach business. People now expect a higher level of interaction, personalization and value. Gartner analyst Laura McClellan said her research shows that in only two years 90% of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience.  Not on price. Not on product. On experience.  How’s that for a change?

Customer centricity and a priority on customer engagement is the business imperative. But I’d take that a step further. It’s not just a “customer” experience; it’s a “people” experience. Businesses need to enhance engagement and experiences not just for customers but also employees and partners.  Believe me it all ties back to the bottom line. Happier more engaged employees can be your best brand assets. Ditto for partners. Listen, learn, personalize, engage, deliver value and build trust. You aren’t talking at “audiences” anymore; you are building relationships with people. If you listen carefully, with humility and openness, people will help guide you and co-create with you. You need to shift your idea of who has the power. Don’t operate as an impersonal entity; humanize your brand. Talk about a pivot.

Becoming a people-centric business requires major change and disruption. And it’s not going to be a clean, easy and fast process. But it’s something you must start championing inside your organization today. How? Well, that’s for another much longer discussion. But below are five reoccurring themes we heard throughout Pivotcon this week that are absolutely relevant to becoming a people-centric business. So think about how these should apply to across your business.

  • Collaboration: You absolutely can’t embrace major change and innovation without a collaborative effort across the enterprise. This falls in the “no more silos” bucket. CMOs can’t go it alone anymore. Never can the CIO. Or the CCO. The famous Greek phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” is totally applicable here. Break down those departmental silos and start communicating across departments and people.
  • Information: This is all about learning and insights. You need to understand your people (consumers, employees, partners) as well as possible. It’s not about the volume of data; it’s about actionable insights. One of my favorite quotes from Pivot revealed a certain truth: “We are drowning in data but starving for information.” But with the right technologies in place, you can aggregate, analyze and simplify data for invaluable insights that will allow you to understand and engage like never before. Listen and learn. 
  • Integration: This refers to technologies. And as our partner Rebecca Harris of GM stated at Pivot, “Integration is the linchpin of the customer engagement strategy.” To truly be customer and people focused you can’t have systems that don’t integrate, communicate and exchange information.  A big difference today is the pervasiveness of technology and the ability to integrate and weave it out the value chain to engage with the customer. Organizations must make integration key across the enterprise.
  • Personalization:  We are accustomed to technologies and experiences that are tailored to us. Whether that’s an ad, article, merchandise or media, the more it is targeted to our likes and needs the better it resonates and more value it provides. The data is out there to understand your people. You just need to listen, learn and follow their cues. Personalized content and interactions are the cornerstone to people-centricity.
  • Trust:  As Brian Solis said during Pivot, “Trust will be the new currency related to people-centric engagement.” We are operating in an open world where social networks bring forward the good, the bad and the ugly.  Consumers don’t expect businesses to not have flaws, but they do expect authenticity and transparency when things don’t go right. Businesses and executives who operate in an open and accountable manner will earn trust. And that will be key to cultivating and establishing relationships with your customers, employees and partners.

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