Trend Watch #1: The Economist “The World In 2008 (Business)”

What’s in store for customer experience in 2008? To help answer this question, I examined five sources of trends/predictions that provide an interesting and diverse set of views of 2008. I will interpret what these mean for customer experience in a series of Trend Watch posts.

In Trend Watch #1, I’m taking a closer look at the following article with 12 trends from The Economist: The World In 2008 (Business).” While you can see the full list at the bottom of this post, here are the five items that I think are most important for customer experience:

#1) Freeconomics: Online, there really is such a thing as a free lunch. Excerpt: “Because it is so cheap to offer digital services online, it doesn’t matter if 99% of your customers are using the free version of your services so long as 1% are paying for the “premium version.” After all, 1% of a big number can also be a big number.”

  • My take: What’s the online component of your offering? You need to answer that question in 2008. And given the “freeness” of the online world, you should think about classes of customers — the masses that get value for free and the cherished ones that pay for additional value. Take a look at an earlier post where I described “online infusion” as a key disruptive customer experience strategy.

#3) Lightening up: Leave the laptop behind. Excerpt: “As smart phones take over chores that trusty old laptops used to perform, road warriors are stuffing their overnight bags with other tools of the trade instead-and the trend will increase in 2008 as gadget prices fall.”

  • My take: Mobile computing is now officially “real.” It’s not yet mainstream, but there will be many niche opportunities for adding mobile components to your current offerings. Think about what can be done on the growing number of iPhones and target applications at repeat transactions (banking, travel, movies, etc.) especially for younger and affluent consumers. See my post about designing experiences for Gen Y.  

#6) Not enough people in China: A shortage of staff means employers will take more risks in 2008. Excerpt: “A new wave of investment will create lots of new jobs in 2008 as Chinese firms expand… Thanks to the one-child policy introduced in 1979, the number of workers in their late 20s will shrink further in 2008… China’s universities and many schools were closed for ten years during the Cultural Revolution. This means that most people in their late 50s and early 60s have had little or no formal education.”

  • My take: If you’re doing business in China — watch out. The shortage of employees and trained senior managers raises the risk for more problems like the lead found in children’s toys earlier this year. So make sure to establish clear emergency response processes like product recall plans. If you’re not doing business in China, that actually might become a marketing differentiator.

#9) The responsible company: Performing with purpose is the new challenge. Excerpt: “The tendency to manage for quarterly results will yield to a new mindset where short-term performance metrics are complemented by measures capturing the long-term health, vitality and thus sustainability of the enterprise.”

  • My take: This is good news; businesses need more purpose. That’s been a theme across several of my earlier posts like “Don’t Let Profits Replace Purpose,” “Firms Need Some Soul Searching,” and “Words Of Wisdom: Gandhi On Sustainability.” I think this will improve long-term productivity and competitiveness for US corporations. But it also means that organizations that don’t develop a stronger sense of purpose in 2008 will fall behind. Why? Because their organizations will not operate with the same degree of internal alignment as their competitors. And they’ll find it harder to recruit employees who will be looking to join organizations with a clear long-term purpose. 

#11) For the love of mankind: A big year for big giving. Excerpt: “On June 30th 2008, Bill Gates will leave his day job at the software giant he co-founded in 1975. The following morning he will begin to work full-time at his charitable organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation… As the foundation fights against disease, ignorance and poverty, his plan is to be giving away $3 billion a year by 2009… The business mantra for 2008 will be “doing well by doing good.”

  • My take: Philanthropy will become very cool in 2008. With the infusion of money and attention by Bill Gates, there will be a lot of highly visible activities — raising the public’s awareness for many causes. This will draw top-notch talent away from for-profits and into the world of non-profits. And, it will also open up opportunities for marketing corporate philanthropy. So make sure that there’s a philanthropy line item in your 2008 marketing plans. 

12 World Business Trends From The Economist

Here are all of the items listed in The Economist article:

  1. Freeconomics: Online, there really is such a thing as a free lunch
  2. Movers and shakers: European businessmen (and one woman) who will make the headlines
  3. Lightening up: Leave the laptop behind
  4. Buying and celling: Pay with a wave of your mobile phone
  5. Cash on call: Mobile payments in the developing world
  6. Not enough people in China: A shortage of staff means employers will take more risks in 2008
  7. Cheap but not so cheerful: The launch of the world’s lowest-priced car
  8. OPEC rules again: The oil cartel is riding high, at least for now
  9. The responsible company: Performing with purpose is the new challenge
  10. The good jargon guide: Has the perfect storm reached a tipping point? Does the black swan have a long tail?
  11. For the love of mankind: A big year for big giving
  12. Sustainable maths: Environmental reporting for companies needs teeth

The bottom line: Online, mobile, purpose, and philanthropy are “in,” but China may be “out.”

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

4 Responses to Trend Watch #1: The Economist “The World In 2008 (Business)”

  1. Charly says:

    Great information. Thanks for providing it.
    http://arvoreentreasures.com/blog/

  2. We agree with #9 & 11….

    “If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time but if you are coming because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” -Indigenous Saying

    The Exquisite Safaris philanthropic mission integrates a guided visit to a humanitarian outreach project into every private, luxury, epicurean experience we create. These personal introductions create authentic cross cultural friendships that generate trust, respect, and generous donations funding philanthropic travel projects worldwide.

  3. Pingback: Trend Watch 2008 Wrap-Up « Customer Experience Matters

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