One strategic imperative for organizations is determining what customers want and how the organization can smartly acquire the organizational capabilities to close those gaps.
Gaps exist regardless of industry
During a recent business trip, I had several experiences with various service providers. Whether it was a hotel, retail store or restaurant, I realized many people in these organizations are working to close gaps in their customer offerings. Some of these approaches are not new. A hotel may offer food because customers are short on time or might not have local transportation once they arrive. The hotel’s restaurant and room service provide a means for customers to feed themselves. Of course, food is an additional revenue source, but it also meets customers’ needs.
Even large, complex organizations need work
Leaders of large organizations in more complex industries also seek more and better ways to add value. I recently met with the executive vice president of a technology company in the medical device industry, whose customers are primarily doctors. He said his organization is guided by looking at the doctor’s entire journey as a customer. They have asked themselves, “What does the doctor need to meet the needs of their patients?” With that information in mind, this company is building and acquiring the products, services and capabilities that doctors need across their entire continuum of services. While this company originally provided diagnostic tests, their research is leading them into adjacent, logical therapeutic product and service extensions. They are working to build out an entire portfolio of offerings. This strategy is driven by trying to anticipate what the doctor (their customer) needs and closing the gap.
How to identify organizational capabilities that fill the gap
Here are a few suggestions to help organizations identify capabilities they could build or acquire to meet customer needs.
Step into your customer’s shoes. Try to understand the journey from the customer’s viewpoint. What do they currently need? What could make their lives easier? Anticipate what that customer is going to need next – and then figure out if there is a way to provide it.
Be thoughtful about what you should acquire. Before you consider acquiring new capabilities, decide exactly what you need. Are you acquiring people with unique skills and capabilities to enable your organization to do something different? Do you only need to acquire technology or IP? Do you need access to new markets? Or should you acquire an entire company to address customer needs or other strategic goals?
Think though the integration phase. Often, organizations underestimate the importance of how to integrate the organizational parts they’re building or acquiring while assembling a new organizational structure to provide new capabilities for customers.
Many years ago, I worked with an organization that had grown significantly by acquiring countless companies. We were addressing the challenges arising from the vast array of acquired products. Their sales force had become so complex that up to nine different salespeople from the same company might call on the same customer. They realized they were not creating an effective customer experience.
We began by asking, “How can we better integrate these pieces?” Fortunately, we found ways to accomplish that goal. Organizations should think proactively about future outcomes to avoid customers trying to make sense of a complex organization with countless products and touch points and unclear value proposition.
Identify customer needs and build capability to close the gaps
Customers’ needs are changing more rapidly than ever as organizations, customers, and markets become more complex and dynamic. Addressing client needs goes beyond simply making buy-or-build decisions. When we first consider what the customer truly needs, we can better determine how to close those gaps with additional products and services.