By Guest Contributors Alan Williams and Sam Williams
Authors of The Values Economy, Alan and Sam Williams, explains what The Values Economy is and how it can make your organisation thrive.
“The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.” Justin Trudeau[i]
We are living in extraordinary times – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. As President Trudeau said when he spoke at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the pace of change will never be this slow again. This statement reads as somewhat of an understatement due to the events of the past twelve months, but the core message holds true. In the service sector, many traditional approaches are no longer relevant because the landscape of Brand Identity, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience is changing… all at the same time, all of the time, and at an accelerated rate again since early 2020.
THE THREE INFLUENCES ON THE NEW BUSINESS AGENDA
There are many influencers emerging on the new business agenda and we believe that three factors are combining to create a fundamental shift:
- The way people make decisions is changing: Previously, decisions were made on a rational, often financial basis whereas, increasingly, people (especially younger ones) are making decisions at a more emotional level, based on what is important to them and to express their opinion and identity.[ii]
- Authenticity: In our super-connected world, social media facilitates transparency and amplifies all stakeholder opinion in what some are calling the age of the naked organisation.[iii] Authenticity, from the tip to the root, has become the new Holy Grail of successful business.
- Organizations no longer ‘own’ their brands. This shift in power means that organizations are no longer what they say they are but are, instead, what others say they are.[iv] The role of customers and employees (past, current, and potential) as ambassadors for their organization has, in some ways, replaced the traditional marketing function.
These three factors creating a transformation from traditional, fixed, singular organizational ownership and push marketing, to a less rigid, more complex concept of brand co-ownership and pull marketing. We refer to this perfect storm as C3 (values-driven Choices, the Communication-led shift of power to stakeholder opinion and the transfer of Control of brands from the organization to shared ownership by stakeholders) which has created a new paradigm we call The Values Economy.[v]
HOW THE SERVICEBRAND [vi] APPROACH SUPPORTS THE VALUES ECONOMY
The Values Economy’s business landscape of choices made on the basis of values, instant and wide communication, and stakeholder influence on brands has major implicationsfor any service focused organization. Whereas previously it was possible for organizations to invest in marketing and PR to ‘tell a story’, now, and increasingly in the future, the publicly shared views of stakeholders hold greater sway. The tried and tested SERVICEBRAND approach can provide a means to sustained performance against this backdrop. First and foremost, it is a pragmatic operating tool, providing a framework for the day-to-day leadership of the organization. The term ‘SERVICEBRAND’ is an invented word. Perhaps the easiest way to describe the meaning is ‘an organization for which people delivering the service is a central element of the offer or proposition’.
In the business to consumer (B2C) sector, it is easy to think about a traditional SERVICEBRAND such as a five-star hotel or an airline. Other B2C examples include leisure, healthcare, logistics, financial, legal, and health services etc, where a service is provided by the employees of an organization and is paid for by the customer. Arguably, some brands which might previously have been considered ‘products’ in sectors such as technology, automotive, telephone and retail (household goods, clothing, food and drink) are becoming a SERVICEBRAND. This is because it is increasingly challenging for companies in these sectors to differentiate based on product benefits and features which are relatively easy to replicate, and quickly. The people delivering the customer experience therefore become a more important differentiator[vii] and one that is not so easy to copy.
Beyond the B2C sector, the SERVICEBRAND term is also relevant in the Business to Business (B2B) sector e.g., providers of services (legal, financial, property, technology, management consultancy, call centres etc) to corporate organisations. It is also relevant in the public sector e.g., healthcare, municipal services, education, transport services and social services. We even apply the SERVICEBRAND approach to functions in an organization e.g. People and Culture (HR), Finance, IT, Corporate Real Estate Services etc. which are providing a service to their internal clients.
A SIMPLE CONCEPT
“The height of sophistication is simplicity.” Clare Boothe Luce[viii]
At one level, the SERVICEBRAND approach could not be simpler: focus on delivering a great customer experience and align all facets of the ‘way things work around here’ with your organization’s purpose and values (the heart of the organization’s brand identity). It is an elegant way to distil all the various and complex aspects of an organization. The essence of the methodology is the alignment and co-ordinated execution of the three areas of Brand Identity, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience, supported by Systems & Processes and Measurement & Insight.
A structured framework enables any organization to assess its performance, explore opportunities to do things differently, assist business planning and use on an ongoing basis to maximise organizational alignment in ‘business as usual’. It can help to mobilise everybody representing the organization in an aligned way, rather than relying on the Chief Executive Officer or other leadership functions and it helps to prevent organization structures and in-company power dynamics adversely affecting the organization’s direction and performance. It is, in effect, a business excellence model, aligning activities to deliver measurable impact and create a culture of customer focussed high performance and continuous improvement.
[i] Justin Pierre James Trudeau PC MP (born 25 December 1971) is a Canadian politician who has served as the 23rd prime minister of Canada since 2015 and has been the leader of the Liberal Party since 2013.
[iii] https://qz.com/374973/culture-and-engagement-the-naked-organization/ accessed 24 October 2019
[v] https://www.worldvaluesday.com/values-economy-arrived/ accessed 29 April 2018
[vi] 31Practices® is a registered trademark owned by SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL Ltd
[vii] Heiko Gebauer, Anders Gustafsson and Lars Witell (2011) Competitive advantage through service differentiation by manufacturing companies, Journal of Business Research, (64), 12, 1270-1280. Copyright: Elsevier http://www.elsevier.com/
[viii] Ann Clare Boothe Luce (March 10, 1903 – October 9, 1987) was an American author, politician, U.S. Ambassador and public conservative figure and used this phrase in her novel “Stuffed Shirts” (1931)
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
ALAN WILLIAMS coaches progressive leaders of service sector organizations, internationally and in the UK, to deliver values-driven service for sustained performance. He is a published author and speaker whose projects have delivered measurable business results across a balanced scorecard and been recognized with industry awards.
SAM WILLIAMS works across the change management life cycle to deliver people-and technology-led business change. He is passionate about identifying the need for change, mapping out the path to benefit realization, and helping organizations to move from the outlined as-is state to an improved and more mature to-be state that improves efficiency and quality. His empathetic nature and strong social skills enable him to engage with a wide range of stakeholders to understand the unique nuances within organizations that influence their readiness for or resistance to change.
The exponential rate of change and disruption in the world mean that the traditional organization-structure led approach is no longer fit for purpose. In this book, The Values Economy, the authors explain how the three primary influencers of Choice, Communication and Control have created a new paradigm that they refer to as the ‘Values Economy’. Leaders of organizations can survive and thrive in this brave new world by implementing a tried and tested, detailed methodology which can be applied in any setting.
The core principle is alignment, with a specific focus on the areas of brand identity, employee engagement and customer experience. This helps to establish a sense of shared values with all stakeholders and equips the organization with the agility needed to deliver sustained performance in a dynamic business environment where disruption is the new normal. The authors’ combined Baby Boomer and Gen Z perspective provides a compelling, irresistible blend of sharp insight, operational know how and pragmatic hopefulness, bringing the theory to life with a range of case studies from different sectors, sizes and stages of maturity.