As with Brexit, the US presidential election result has exposed deep societal fissures. In both cases, large swathes of ordinary people felt disconnected and disempowered by what was seen as a privileged elite. When people feel powerless and unrepresented, it cannot be a surprise that they vote for change. "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know" doesn't apply in this case, with the seemingly disenfranchised having struck a blow in the only way they could, by latching on to the promise of change.
Whether or not we agree with the result doesn't matter. What matters is that the human dimension must be recognized. That is true in business today, just as it was recognized by Abraham Maslow over 70 years ago. If firms are to flourish and become persistently relevant to their customers, this will be achieved, above all, through their people.
Back in the industrial age where demand outstripped supply and human factors were at the back of the queue in management thinking, there was an uneasy alliance between workers and bosses, where contracts of employment were for life. Today, jobs are no longer for life and this has created uncertainty that few except privileged high flyers have escaped. Most people now fall into the category or class of the precariat, a term used by the economist Guy Standing that highlights the precarious state of most employment today, driven by globalization and technology.
The high correlation between customer engagement levels and customer satisfaction is generally accepted. In today's world, where power has shifted to the customer, firms and leaders that pay only lip service to the wellbeing of their employees will fail to engage their customers effectively. As a result, they will lose their customers to more engaging competitors.
To be persistently relevant to customers, human-centered values must be embedded within the culture of the enterprise. Machine learning and predictive analytics are essential tools for developing the sense-and-respond capabilities such as best next actions. But, ultimately, long-term relationships are built on human values, the most vital being trust.
If these political events and discontinuities remind us of this human need to ascend Maslow's hierarchy of needs from basic physiological needs all the way to self-actualization; then the leaders that take this to heart will be well on the way to delivering growth in all its dimensions – human as well as economic. Let light shine through these fissures to reveal this deeper truth.
The Customer-Adaptive Imperative, IT0020-000091 (March 2015)
"Brexit doesn't change the fundamental need for businesses to become customer-adaptive," IT0020-000218 (June 2016)
Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, Customer Engagement
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