2017 Engagement Predictions From Inward

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 12 January 2017

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The other day I read a blog post by my good friend and former colleague David Sable, CEO of Young and Rubicam, entitled “My 7 Predictions for 2017 From A Cloudy Crystal Ball”. As usual it was an interesting read and stimulated a great deal of thought.

David was trying to avoid the traditional prognosis and predictions about the future in the advertising business such as rich content, big data, disruptive technologies etc. rather, he focused on the idea of “people”. He suggested that people are the greatest source of disruption. People will be the ones who come up with new ideas and innovations that can change the ad world in 2017. He said, “You and I. PEOPLE FIRST. And with that I put my rather opaque crystal back on the stand.”

This idea made me think about our industry, which is somewhat related to the ad world, but narrowly focused on culture, organizational transformation, change management, employee branding and consumer/employee engagement. It made me think about the disruptive variables that could have the greatest impact on the customer experience in 2017.

According to Gartner, by 2017, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be the primary differentiator. This is amazing! Traditional marketing and CMO’s will tell you that it’s your brand reputation and advertising that will differentiate a company from the competition. From my perspective very few companies are promoting their customer experience as their key communications differentiator and advertising value proposition. There are exceptions such as Amazon, Enterprise and Southwest Airlines, but by and large, we don’t see companies brand differentiated by “customer experience”, despite this rather important research from Gartner. We are still witnessing differentiation on product features, distribution channels, location and exploitative imagery of misogyny, senseless humor, sexism, and bravado.

Here at inward, we firmly believe, as we have for the last 18 years, that your people are your brand! The experience they provide, how they live the brand values, and how they behave with customers will ultimately distinguish what your brand is and what it stands for. Yes, David was right. Purposeful and engaged employees have the potential to be your best disruptive tool and capability for 2017. Not just to change the ad world, but to change the customer experience. Wow!

Here are my predictions for 2017 in regard to “people disruption and imagery” seeking differentiation in support of customer and employee engagement and experiences.

  1. Companies and organizations will be driven by “Purpose-Driven Cultures” that will change the way employees interact with their customers. Employees will be more helpful, friendly and show more empathy in regard to the customer’s needs, wants and desires. A strong sense of purpose is more likely to create a productive culture and a sense of confidence, contributing to greater success than companies that do not have a purpose-driven culture.
  2. Social impact is increasingly important to employees in regard to doing “the right thing for people and our society”. This can include social welfare, the environment, poverty, or other social justice issues. This is especially important for millennial’s, as generation X-ers and baby boomers leave the workforce.
  3. People will drive innovation, not technology. People will pursue technology that will help facilitate creativity and innovations in ways that we have never imagined. Innovation has the potential to change the customer experience like never before. In fact, it is already happening with drone delivery services, on-demand real-time customer service, grocery pickup, social media and employee exchanges, and innovation jams.
  4. Employee engagement and the willingness and eagerness to contribute exceptional efforts will change the work environment. Staff interactions among colleagues will change. Organizations will be “open to new ideas”. Social dialogue technologies will allow an idea to come from anywhere and be judged on its merits, rather than the hierarchy of the organization or region from which it came from. Ideas will rule, not the hierarchical power structure that exist today. A good idea can and should, come from anywhere and the contributor should be recognized and rewarded accordingly.
  5. Last but not least, I predict that there will be “senior leadership change in attitudes” and transformation of old ways of thinking regarding management and leadership. Fresh ideas will yield and transformed to embrace the power of the employees so that they can make a significant contribution to the company’s reputation, brand and customer experience. Management must encourage this purposeful transformation and change, fuel it, incentivize it and allow the employees to rise up and make a difference.

At Inward, I am hopeful. I already see slight elements of these predictions occurring in our corporate societies. I am optimistic and looking forward to the coming year and hope to witness the reality of these five predictions becoming into fruition.

We wish you all the best in happiness, prosperity and health in 2017.