Defining Moments for Your Business

Human-to-human interactions will become rare in dealings with customers, but those that do occur will be more valuable.

“What’s the most important defining moment of your life so far?” We’ve all had defining moments in our personal and work lives, and we can recall them easily as they’re etched into our memories. But how are they defined?

Ed Thompson, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, posed this question to delegates at the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit 2016, in London, U.K.

Defining moments, he observed, are points in time when the essential nature of a person, group, organization or industry emerges.

Ed Thompson, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, kicks off the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit 2016 in London.
Ed Thompson, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, kicks off the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit 2016 in London.

Mr. Thompson went on to explain that defining moments are rare — they happen only a few times in a lifetime or career. To qualify as defining, a moment must be meaningful and amplified.

“The moment must reverberate or echo — it must have consequences,” he said. “Many of us remember the moment when sprinter Usain Bolt crossed the finishing line in 9.69 seconds in Beijing on August 16 2008, the day we graduated, or the birth of our first child.”

Major changes can be defining moments for a company. Examples are the launch of a new product, the acquisition of new customers and the arrival of new competitors. Most importantly, advances in digital technologies are creating defining moments for your customers, and for their relationships with you.

“Those alert to a defining moment tend to exploit that moment better than the unaware,” Mr. Thompson said. “Employees’ defining moments will also likely have a disproportionate effect on customers.”

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Human-to-human interactions will become rarer as digitalization advances

In the Gartner CEO and senior business executive survey, CEOs were asked to what extent their industry would change by 2020. Nine percent of respondents said they expect it to be “Uber-ized” by a new competitor, but a further 41 percent thought it would be transformed by digitalization, driven by advances in technology.

Human interactions are declining with the rise of digital channels, and will become a rarity and more valuable, said Mr. Thompson

The rise of digital technologies will affect businesses’ channels of interaction with customers. Mr. Thompson observed that phone calls between customers and call centers are already declining, and are likely to fall from 35 percent of total interactions in 2016 to 10 percent in 2020.

He added, “Human interactions are declining with the rise of digital channels, and will become a rarity and more valuable. Therefore, if you can apply human interaction at a defining moment for a customer, it will have a far greater impact.”

New technologies will be the most likely triggers of defining moments in your industry

Given the arrival of new technologies, the outlook for IT and digital investment is positive. More importantly, technology is the CEO’s primary object of investment or change as they strive to improve business productivity throughout 2017.

“CEOs recognize that technology is likely to be the No. 1 cause of defining moments for their organization, but is someone in your organization responsible for identifying what technology developments are likely to be defining moments for your industry?” Mr. Thompson said.

This probability is underlined by past examples of defining moments triggered by technological innovation, such as the arrival of the Web browser in 1994 and the emergence of smart machines with IBM Watson in 2011. These examples, among others, are proving that technology is the biggest cause of a defining moment in your organization, but also your industry.

Learn more on CRM trends in the Gartner Special Report "Customer Experience Emerges as the News Competitive Battlefield" by Ed Thompson. This report focuses on how greater competition and growing consumer power have eroded traditional product- and service-based differentiation, forcing firms to seek new, more durable forms of competitive advantage.

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